© Danny Allegretti
Departing the urban sprawl of Tokyo, we headed to the beautiful town of Nikko (which means “Sunlight”) with its ancient shrines and temples, vibrant red leaves, and mossy stone paths. Truly we were on the poet’s path, as Basho’s most famous anthology of poems is Oku No Hosomichi (in English The Narrow Road to the Deep North) and we were in search of a connection with nature.
Energized by the crisp fall weather and our ascent up into the mountains, the group was filled with excitement. The stunning and articulate architecture is complemented by nature and vice versa—the two blend so beautifully it’s almost as if they grew together as one. In a way, they did, as some of the Japanese cypress trees are over 600 years old. There is a strong impulse to simply stand quietly, listen to the sounds of the ancient forest, and take in the view.
As the light began to sink low through the trees we made our way up one of Japan’s most picturesque and famous roads, Iroha Zaka—winding, two-lane, one-way. Once we arrived at the peak we hopped on a gondola and were granted a final spectacular view overlooking the town of Nikko, the beautiful lake of Chuzenji, and waterfalls and river winding through the valleys.
It was absolutely blissful and the perfect ending to an extremely satisfying day, one that would have been fulfilling for Basho himself. During his journey, Basho arrived in Nikko in the spring and wrote the following; the last line, in Japanese, is a play on the word “Nikko”:
It is with awe
That I beheld
Fresh leaves, green leaves
Bright in the Sun.
Text and images by Danny Allegretti