Trying to add a sixth finger to his hand

“Crossing the so-called forty-eight rapids of the Kurobe River and countless other streams, I came to the village of Nago, where I inquired after the famous wisteria vines of Tako, for I wanted to see them in their early autumn colors though their flowering season was spring. The villager answered me, however, that they were beyond the mountain in the distance about five miles away along the coastline, completely isolated from human abode, so that not a single fishermen’s hut was likely to be found to give me a night’s lodging. Terrified by these words, I walked straight to the province of Kaga.”


“I went to see the famous pine of Shiogoshi. The entire beauty of this places, I thought, was best expressed in the following poem by Saigyo.

“Inviting the wind to carry
Salt waves of the sea,
The pine tree of Shiogoshi
Trickles all night long
Shiny drops of moonlight.

“Should anyone dare to write another poem on this pine tree, it would be like trying to add a sixth finger to his hand.”


From Basho, Narrow Road to the Deep North.