Best 10 famous Matsuo Basho’s haiku poems in English and Japanese

Matsuo Basho's famous haiku poems

Portrait of Matsuo Basho from “Hokusai Manga”, by Katsushika Hokusai


Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) made about 1000 haiku poems through the lifetime, traveling around Japan. His writing “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” is the most famous haiku collection in Japan.

Among the haiku poems, I would like to introduce you the 10 famous examples of his “Sabi” works including “old pond and frog”, “cicada” and his death poem .

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The haiku poems are shown in original Japanese 5-7-7 syllables, and translated to English three lines style to realize the meaning.


The Narrow Road to Deep North


草の戸も 住替る代ぞ ひなの家

Kusa no to mo/ Sumikawaru yo zo/ Hina no ie


A owner of the old thatched hut

Is also changed to another

It’s the Doll’s Festival.

*Basho gave his house another before going on a journey. Apparently it seems that the new residents were a family with girls.


行春や 鳥啼き魚の 目は泪

Yuku haru ya/ Tori naki uwo no/ Me wa namida

Spring is passing.

The birds cry, and the fishes’ eyes are 

With tears.

*”Spring is passing” often means an eternal parting. The birds and the fishes mean Basho and his friends.


夏草や 兵どもが 夢の跡

Natsu kusa ya/ Tsuwamono domo ga/ Yume no ato

The summer grasses.

All that remains

Of warriors’ dreams.

*Hiraizumi prospered as the independent country from Japan centered on Kyoto. However in the late Heian Period, the Kamakura government destroyed it.


五月雨の 降のこしてや 光堂

Samidare no/ Furinokosite ya/ Hikari-do


The early summer rain

Fall and fall yet

Leave untouched Hikari-do Hall.

*Hikari-do: Konjikido. One of the hall of Chusonji, in Hiraizumi.

Golden Hall of Chusonji Temple


閑けさや 岩にしみいる 蝉の声

Shizukesa ya/ Iwa ni shimiiru/ Semi no koe

Oh, tranquility!

Penetrating the very rock,

A cicada’s voice.

Translated by Helen Craig Mccullough

*The haiku poem at Risshakuji Temple, Yamagata Prefecture.

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五月雨を あつめてはやし 最上川

Samidare wo/ Atsumete Hayashi/ Mogamigawa

The rains of summer join together.

How swift it is

Mogami River.

Other Basho’s famous haiku poems


古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音

Furuike ya/ Kawazu tobikomu/ Mizu no oto

The old pond

A frog leaps in.

Sound of the water.

*What is the meaning of this frog and pond haiku poem?



物いへば 唇寒し 秋の風

Mono ie ba/ Kuchibiru samushi/ Aki no kaze


When you say something,

The lip feel cold.

The Autumn wind.

*The haiku poem expresses about that people told a bad mouth about someone. It is a  rare poetry with self-discipline by Basho.


粽結ふ 片手にはさむ 額髪

Chimaki yu/ Katate ni hasamu/ Hitai gami


While rolling the Chimaki dumpling,

The other hand hold,

Her bangs. 

*Chimaki: A rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves. Eating at Boys’ Festival

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旅に病んで 夢は枯野を かけ廻る

Tabi ni yande/ Yume wa kareno wo/ Kake meguru


Sicking on journey,

My dream run about

A desolate field.

*The last haiku poems of Matsuo Basho. As in the preface of Oku-no Homichi, it is a farewell poem of him who was obsessed by a journey.

Read other haiku poems about death by famous poets?

More Basho’s haiku poems


Other famous Japanese poets

Other traditional Japanese poetry “Tanka”

2 thoughts on “Best 10 famous Matsuo Basho’s haiku poems in English and Japanese”

  1. The haiku poems are shown in original Japanese 5-7-7 syllables, and translated to English three lines style to realize the meaning.

    your mistake
    5-7-5 haiku

    1. Thank you for leaving a comment!

      As you look into, the number of the syllables of the haiku poem is seventeen not nighnteen, because that was originally the upper part (上の句, kami-no ku) of tanka poems (5-7-5-7-7). In more detail, the haiku was the first upper part of “haikai” funny linked poem (starting from 5-7-5-7-7).

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