The Tenri Central Library in Japan’s historic Nara prefecture has just announced the rediscovery of 212 lost haiku by the 18th-century haiku master Yosa Buson (1716-84). As reported in the Japanese media, these were found in a compilation, the “Yahantei Buson Kushu,” lost in the 1930s and only found in a bookstore four years ago. The volume contains correction marks thought to be by Buson himself.
Tenri Central Library is putting the haiku on display in an exhibition due to start shortly (see the poster above). Buson is regarded as one of the three great haiku masters of Japan’s early modern Edo period (1603-1868), along with Matsuo Basho and Kobayashi Issa. He was also a celebrated artist, specializing in the nanga school of Chinese-style ink painting, though he also produced screen paintings and illustrations of Basho’s work on fans and other media. Around 2,900 of his haiku were recorded hitherto, and the rediscovered volume thus expands his oeuvre by just under 10 percent. The volume, divided into sections by season, was thought to have been put together around the end of the 18th century by Buson’s disciples.
Buson was regarded as the greatest master of haiku since Basho, and the one who restored the form to the artistic heights his predecessor had achieved. Japan hasn’t seen such a literary event in quite some time, and this is worth celebrating by every lover of haiku worldwide. It’s also an object lesson in good library work.