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An English translation of one of Matsuo Basho's haiku in Hiraizumi

Japanese poetry includes various styles, such as haiku (o) and tanka (Z), and is one of the most widely known forms of Japanese literature. The first compilation of Japanese poems, the Manyoshu, dates back to the Nara Period in the 8th century. It contains about 4500 poems written by royalty and commoners alike.

Poetry remained a popular activity over the centuries, such as during the Heian Period (9th to 12th centuries), when composing and reciting poetry at garden parties was a pastime with scholars and the nobility. In the Edo Period, the celebrated poet Matsuo Basho popularized haiku. Later, the Meiji Period poet Masaoka Shiki introduced modern forms of haiku and tanka.

The following are a few popular poetry-related sites which travelers can visit across Japan:

Iga Ueno

Iga Ueno is the birthplace of the celebrated poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). Basho traveled to many parts of Japan, leaving behind a legacy of great literary works, especially in the form of haiku. The Basho Memorial Museum in Iga Ueno exhibits scrolls of his poems and maps showing the routes he took on his travels. Tourists to the city can also visit the poet's birth house and one of his former retreats.


The Complex of Manyo Culture (Manyo Bunkakan) in Asuka is a large museum dedicated to the famous Manyoshu poem anthology. There are two main exhibition halls displaying a selection of modern paintings that take Manyoshu as their theme, and an interactive area with period models of people and buildings, a theater, and displays depicting life as described in the Manyoshu poems.
Page last updated: November 23, 2014