Yamaguchi Sodo (山口素堂)

Sodo YAMAGUCHI (June 1, 1642 to September 30, 1716) was a haiku poet and a flood control expert in the early Edo period. His real name is Nobuaki. His childhood name was Jugoro, and he was commonly called Kanbe or Ichiemon. His azana (Chinese courtesy name which was, historically, the name formerly given to adult Chinese men, used in place of their given name in formal situations; scholars and the literati of Japan adopted this custom of courtesy name) were Hu, Kosho.


It is said that his place of birth was Jokyoraiseki-son Village of Koma-gun County in Kai Province (present Hokuto-shi City, formerly Kita-Koma-gun County, Hakushu-machi Town)
However, according to "Kozan account of a trip" when he traveled around Kai Province in 1695, it was recorded differently that Kai Province was the birthplace of his deceased wife. He was born into a family which engaged in the sake brewing industry as a family business in Uo-machi Town of Kofu district, and he moved to Kofu at infancy.

At the age of 20, he transferred the family business of sake brewing industry to his younger brother, went out to Edo, and studied Sinology under Gaho HAYASHI, and even entered the government service temporarily. His haikai (seventeen-syllable verse) first appeared to be selected in "Ise-odori" which was published in 1668. In 1674, he exchanged poems with Kigin KITAMURA in Kyoto, and studied also Waka (Japanese poetry), tea ceremony, calligraphy, etc. In 1675, he sat with Matsuo Basho for the first time in Edo, retreated in Shinobazu-no-Ike Pond in Ueno, which was close to Basho's home in Shinsen, and Katsushoku Antaku, and exchanged with him mutually and intimately thereafter, not as a pupil but as a friend. In his last years, he compiled "Tokutoku no Kuawase" (glug-glug Poem Contest).

Legend says that, in 1695, he traveled around Kai Province, in 1696, he was requested by Masayoshi SAKURAI, governor of Kofu, to excavate Nigo-gawa River where he built a river bank called Yamaguchi-tei bank.

His style was commented to be very like Basho style haikai poetry whose knowledge in Chinese-style poems was deeply influenced by China's hermit literature (prose writing [on secular and non-secular subjects] in the Kamakura period [in medieval Japan]). His poem "Meniwa Aoba, Yama hototogisu, hatsugatsuo" (Green Leaves in Eyes, Little Cuckoo in Mountain, the Season's First Bonito), which was collected in "Edo Shindo" (New Road in Edo) in 1678, is well known.

[Original Japanese]