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On a Bare Branch: Bashō and the Haikai Profession

Steven D. Carter
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 117, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1997), pp. 57-69
DOI: 10.2307/605622
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/605622
Page Count: 13
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On a Bare Branch: Bashō and the Haikai Profession
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Abstract

Matsuo Bashō's decision to leave his burgeoning practice as a "marker" in Nihonbashi in the winter of 1680 and move across the river to take up a more solitary and frugal life in Fukagawa has always mystified scholars. Most see his act as evidence of a new "seriousness" of purpose, a desire to pursue spiritual rather than material goals. However, when viewed as a professional choice, Bashō's move was a precedented act with implications readily understandable to those in the world of haikai society. That he stopped working as a "marker" did not mean that he stopped practicing his profession. Indeed, it is argued here, his action was as an instance of what those in the highest ranks of a profession are always wont to do: to test their competence in a wider arena, and by so doing to claim a transcendent status for themselves and their occupations.

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