The fame that Yosa Buson (1716-1783) enjoyed as a painter and haiku poet in his own lifetime quickly eroded in the years following his death. And while his poetic reputation was restored as early as the 19th century, it was only in the years following World War II that his paintings once again became acclaimed.

As early as 1801, the aspiring Sinophile Nakabayashi Chikuto had expressed misgivings about Buson’s works, noting that “What is wrong is his earthy haikai (humorous Japanese verse).” While Buson had worked in a Chinese-style of literati painting that celebrated worldly detachment and was intolerant of the mundane, he had introduced humor to the almost exclusive Chinese subject matter he portrayed. Thus what Chikuto had deduced was the essential friction between what was appropriately high or low in Japan versus China.

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