Shiogama 塩竈市 is a city located in in north central Miyagi prefecture, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east. The word shiogama means “salt furnance”,  and it refers to a local Shinto ritual involving making salt from the sea. Matsuo Bashō left Shiogama for Matsushima by boat during his travels as written in his travelogue,  The Narrow Road to Oku.

The present day Shiogama was part of ancient Mustu Province, and settled by Emishi people since the Jomon period. During the time that Bashō traveled to Shiogama in Edo period, it was under the control of Date clan of the endai Domain, under the Tokugawa shogunate.

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Map of Shiogama

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Texts mentioned Shiogama in Oku no Hosomichi, as seen the the following passage.

“At Shiogama Beach, a bell sounded evening. The summer rain-sky cleared to reveal a pale moon high over Magaki Island. I remembered the ” fishing boats pulling together” in a Kokinshu Poem, and understood it clearly for the first time.

Along the Michinoku
everyplace is wonderful,
but in Shiogama
fishing boats pulling together
are most amazing of all”

In this portion, Basho states that fishing boats pulling together is an amazing view of Shiogama, and he also mentions that the phrase, “fishing boats pulling together” appeared in a Kokinshū poem. It actually refers to an anonymous poem in the Kokinshū. I found another translated version of the poem.

“everyplace is alluring,
but at Shiogama
there is such sadness
as rowboats are pulled to shore”

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Present day view of Shiogama Bay

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Works Cited

“Aboard the.” Life to Reset. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. Retrieved from https://lifetoreset.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/aboard-the-basho-cruise-shiogama-matsushima-bay-japan/

“Basho’s Journey.” Google Books. Web. 08 Mar. 2016. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=VkU5NwaDsRMC
Matsuo, Bashō, and Sam Hamill. Narrow Road to the Interior. Boston: Shambhala, 1991. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 08 Mar. 2016. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiogama

 

Contributor: Mengsha Xiong
(Edited by Elle Marsh)

 

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