The Walking Poets: Wordsworth and Bashō

Colin Fox 2011Colin Fox has been part of the Japan Forum for almost as long as he has been the Group Marketing Manager at English Lakes. Japan has been our number one international market and this strong relationship is set to continue for many years to come. Japanese guests visit the Lake District for its rich cultural history and timeless landscape. Colin writes below about a new exhibition which combines both English and Japanese culture across the centuries.

At the end of June I was invited to go along to the official opening of the newest exhibition, Wordsworth and Bashō: Walking Poets, at Dove Cottage in Grasmere. I suspect that I was invited in my capacity as Chairman of the Japan Forum or as a self-confessed Japanophile. I was certainly interested to see this collection of cross cultural works of visual and written word. The opening ceremony speeches included David Warren, current Chair of the Japan Society and ex British ambassador in Tokyo, who talked about the importance of a great relationship between Britain and Japan and the synergies between the two countries.

The Walking Poets: Wordsworth and Bashō
The Walking Poets : Wordsworth and Bashō

Words Across the Centuries

The poet in residence, Zaffar Kunial, also inspired listeners with his rendition of a poem ‘Placeholder’ that perfectly outlined with his pre poem explanation of the legacy of exchanging words across the centuries. This was a taste of the underlying themes of the exhibition with the similarities of these two famous poets and the justification of their work on display being intersected by some interesting pieces from more contemporary contributors.

Wordsworth and Bashō manuscripts side by side
Wordsworth and Bashō manuscripts side by side

Matsuo Bashō is as famous in Japan as William Wordsworth is here in the Lake District and of course the whole of Britain. However, Bashō had died 80 years before Wordsworth was even born and the exhibition highlights the similarity between the two. Both used the natural world to express their ideas, each finding inspiration in nature and who both found walking itself part of the creative process. These walking poets from opposite sides of the world merge into the here and now with the beauty of word and illustration that depicts nature and its timelessness whether on parchment or iPad.

Matsuo Bashō Illustration
Matsuo Bashō Illustration

The exhibition runs until 2nd November and costs £7.75 for an adult and £4.50 for a child (Family tickets available). The ticket includes full admission to Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum. From 30th – 31st August, 10 am – 4 pm, there is also a weekend of Japanese culture which is free for all the family. As well as celebrating the exhibition, there will be the opportunity to learn some of the language, try writing Japanese poetry called haiku, origami and calligraphy.


  • Written by: Colin Fox, Group Marketing Manager, English Lakes

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