Matsuo Basho’s lost travel diary finds its way back to Kyoto

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At the end of 2021, an Osaka art dealer came across an unusual scroll.

It was old and ragged – its outer layer of protective green silk had begun to fray – but the most intriguing feature was a narrow strip of paper, slightly foxed and yellowed with age, which was stuck next to the hanging rod. Its eight Chinese characters were still clearly legible. Two of them in particular must have caught the dealer’s attention: 芭 (ba) and 蕉 (shou). When he unrolls the work, it reveals rows of shimmering calligraphy interspersed with paintings in a loose, almost naïve style. At that point, the dealer must have known what he was looking at, but he decided to get a second opinion anyway. He contacted Hideyuki Okada, curation manager at the Fukuda Art Museum in Kyoto, and Shinichi Fujita, professor emeritus at Kansai University. He invited the two to chat.

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