Around 1750, Buson returned to western Japan. He initially went to Kyoto, but shortly afterwards traveled to Tango province, where he spent three years building up his painting clientele. He returned to Kyoto for several years, working to establish himself as a painter. Many of his art patrons shared his interest in haikai, and several of them formed a group, Sankasha, to study poetic techniques that had fallen out of fashion. Buson subsequently spent several years in Sanuki, again in order to expand his painting client base, but when he returned he settled permanently in Kyoto.
Buson's years as a professional haikai poet began in 1770, when he succeeded to the leadership of the Yahantei school that had been dormant since his teacher Hajin's death. He then began to become much more active in the haikai community, taking a leadership role in the Back to Bashô Movement whose members sought to return haikai to the high ideals of Matsuo Bashô. Working in collaboration with poets such as Tan Taigi, Takai Kitô, Chora, and Kyôtai, Buson worked to create a new poetic style in which elements of classical elegance (ga) and references to contemporary life (zoku) were combined in ways that were both innovative and solidly within the traditions of Basho.
Buson's haikai was also informed by Chinese poetry. Buson's interest in Chinese literature is evident in his choice of language and imagery; it also influenced his attitude towards life and work. He is one of the best examples of the bunjin (literatus, from Chinese wenren): people with skill in poetry, painting, calligraphy, tea, and other accomplishments, who aspired to make their very lives works of art.
Buson died in 1783. Around 3000 of his hokku (5-7-5) survive, along with many linked verse sequences, prose works, haishi (see below) and paintings.