While in Japan we visited Basho’s (1644-1694) grave in the gardens of Gichuji Temple outside of Kyoto. Basho is the most famous japanese haiku poet, who acquired many followers in his lifetime. The site of his grave was on JB’s life list of places to visit. This spring while in Japan, we were able to make this trek. Gichuji Temple was an amazing place– a small, humble temple in an exquisite garden. While there we learned that Basho’s name which means banana tree in japanese, came from some followers who planted a banana tree for Basho outside of his hut. The site became known as Basho-an or Banana plant cottage and eventually the name stuck to Basho himself, “Mr. Banana Tree.” There was a banana plant growing at the entrance to Gichuji Temple (see image to the left) in commemoration of Basho.
So, for Father’s Day we got a banana tree for JB. It was a complicated feat getting it home. It’s over 5 feet tall with wide leaves. It was gently wrapped by the garden man and we carefully negotiated our way home with it sitting in the front seat of the car, its leaves resting diagonally into the back.
Once home, our next test, of course, was figuring out where it should go. We agreed on the sitting space in the bedroom, after an abortive attempt to have it live in the back landing. It took some heaving to get it up the stairs.
We still have to correct the lights. Banana trees like a lot of it, at least 12 hours a day, and we still need to get a big pot for it (hard to see in the photo at the top of this post but it’s still in a black plastic bag). We have a photo of JB and I on either side of Basho’s grave that we thought we would hang on the wall behind the banana tree, but we still need to get a frame for it.
Clearly we have transformed our bedroom and sitting space into a kind of island retreat. Not bad for Chicago, eh? There is something quite, oh I don’t know, maybe Galapagos-ish coming up the back stairs with those big banana leaves over your head. Instead of simply climbing the stairs, I feel as if I’m crossing a channel, or feel the need to get some snorkeling gear. And we have Basho to thank for this.
Basho’s most famous poem is his frog haiku:
old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
-translated by William J. Higginson
So for JB’s Father’s Day, here’s a little Basho haiku for him:
JB jumps in
euphoric exultant sounds