Sample Essay

The Japanese medieval period (c.1200-1600) followed the coming of age of Japanese literature during the earlier Heian era (794-1185), which had been marked by the declining influence of Chinese literature.  However, it was essentially during the medieval period that Japanese literature began to increasingly assume a Buddhist orientation with a distinct Japanese character.

The subsequent Edo period (1603-1868), marked by the establishment of Tokugawa shogunate, resulted in Japan’s complete isolation from the outside world – further diminishing the mainland’s literary influence.  Interestingly, this period marks the beginning of Japan’s modern history, and is known to have significantly altered the country’s literary outlook Matsuo Kinsaku (1644 – 1694) was born at the beginning of the Edo period, and assumed the literary title of Bashō after a plantain tree (bashō) growing near his hut, where he carried out most of his teaching duties.  As one of the most famous and influential poets of the Edo era, he is credited with rejuvenating the dying art of haiku, in turn giving it its modern form and character.  Besides haiku, Bashō also wrote masterful Japanese prose in haibun (poetic prose) and kiko (travelogue) style.

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