Matsuo Bashō is known as one of the greatest haiku poets of all time, along with Kobayashi Issa and Yosa Buson. Born in 1644, Bashō wrote nearly a thousand haikus during his lifetime including a few poetic travelogues based on his pilgrimage across Japan. His most famous verse—”old pond / frogs jumped in / sound of water”—is considered the epitome of haiku poetry, which reflects on the sentimental transience found in simple forms of nature.
From 1680 to 1682, Bashō lived in the modern-day Fukagawa area of Tokyo where he is believed to have penned the “frog” poem, until his house was lost in the Great Fire of Tenna. Today, the neighborhood attracts a modest number of haiku-loving visitors with a local history museum, a handful of monuments, and the humbly-restored site of the poet’s dwelling, now named Bashō Heritage Garden.
Located up a small hill, the Heritage Garden is nothing but a humbly-restored historic landmark with a nice view of the Sumida River. There isn’t much to see apart from that, except for a life-size statue of Bashō seated on a zabuton cushion, taking inspiration from the portrait of him drawn by one of his patrons, Sugiyama Sanpū.
The effigy has one unusual thing about it: it moves.
That said, it’s not quite a work of advanced animatronics, and it hardly even shows its movement to the public eye. Every day after the closing of the Heritage Garden, from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. the next day, the statue lights up and takes a 45-degree turn in the direction overlooking the river, so that those aboard the ferries can get a good look at it. It’s hard to see it from anywhere else, and few have actually gotten to watch it shift, causing rumors about it to spread like an urban legend.