Embankment (dote)


Embankment, dike, levee (dote, teiboo )

***** Location: Japan, worldwide
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Humanity


A dam or an elevation to protect the land behind it from flooding, found along rivers and the sea.
There are many words in Japanese and other languages to describe this.

harukaze ya dote nagoo-shite ie tooshi

spring breeze -
the river bank so long and
my home so far

This haiku by Buson sparked a discussion on this subject.


dam, teiboo 堤防
embankment, dote 土手
... tsutsumi,tei 堤


Worldwide use


Each of my haiku about spring and river is a haiku about... the flood.
I like to look at this every year as thousands of the other citizens do.
I think there should be pointed out that this haiku by Buson is not about usual "river bank", but about "embankment".
The city is prepared to the spring flood, anti-flood embankment is high and long, so maybe some ferries and small bridges are out of use. But the most important thing is that carefull looking at the embankment makes my house more distant, more distant in time.

dote : common meaning: embankment.
"River bank", "dike", etc. are not the common part.
This "embankment" may be not only an anti-flood wall along the river, but a place for walking close to the river, as well.
Both meanings of "embankment" give the same - loosing time for looking at the rising river.

Grzegorz Sionkowski



In the original, the word 'dote' can mean either riverbank or levee.
(Although 'levee' is an American word, it is well-known now since the recent floods in New Orleans, and is more specific than 'embankment' which can refer to any artificially raised area such alongside a motorway).

spring breeze -
the levee goes on and on
home so far away

Norman Darlington


In American English, embankments are usually smaller than levees.
They don't automatically bring to mind water, either, they're usually built on land for tasks such as traffic control or landscaping or erosion control. The 'levee' is the earthen embankment used for controlling waters, and they often have roads or walkways on top of them.

For earthen embankments built along a river in a populated area where the embankment is low and used as a sidewalk, the term is 'riverwalk'. The visitor perceives the walkway as being the important part and doesn't realize that the riverbank has been built up and reinforced as part of a flood control effort. Riverwalks are usually only 1 - 3 meters above the water, sometimes less. When an embankment is built along a bay, sea, or lake, it is called a 'quay' (pronounced 'kee'.)

When I was young, we used to use the word 'dike' for what are now called levees; I think it has been thirty or more years since I have heard it used this way. This is probably because the word 'dike' is now used as an insult for lesbian women; people have switched to using 'levee' to avoid giving offense.
Further, because everything associated with New Orleans has a chic cachet, saying 'levee' is much cooler.

M. Kei

Things found on the way


harukaze ya dote nagoo-shite ie tooshi

spring breeze -
the river bank so long and
my home so far

Yosa Buson

Read more about the translation of this haiku.
Forum: Translating Haiku


church bells resonate
along the embankment
pink yawn of city cat

Jean Rasey

Road to the Yoshiwara

Coming to you along the Nihon Embankment
Suddenly the road was darkened
By a flock of wild geese
Crossing the moon.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)


Stone embankment,
plane trees lush and leaning
down towards the Tiber

Florence Vilen, Sweden. Haiku Harvest, 2001

Related words



1 comment:

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

dote no matsu hana ya ko bukaki tono-zukuri

on the embankment
pines and cherry trees - like a forest
this stately mansion
Tr. Gabi Greve

Written in spring of 1690 元禄3年春
At the estate of Kooboku 橋木 Koboku, a wealthy samurai from Iga, Ueno who lived in an estate surrounded by trees to imitate the mountains of Iga.
This is a greeting hokku for Koboku at a haikai meeting.