In Praise of Solitude

Two Japanese Classics on Reclusion

Chiteiki by Yoshishige no Yasutane, and Hōjōki by Kamo no Chōmei

池亭記・方丈記 英和対訳

Early Japanese literature is replete with protagonists who exchange urbane comforts and lofty status for lives of solitude, well removed from the drama and dross of the city. This book presents two classic works of Japanese recluse writing from the 10th and 13th centuries. The first, Chiteiki (982), is the memoir of Yoshishige no Yasutane, a mid-level civil servant, deeply disillusioned by the urban decay of the imperial capital. Intent upon simulating the eremitic life, he builds a walled residence in the city’s south. Inside, he indulges romantic notions about a life apart, lost in the pleasures of literature and religious devotion. The second work, Hōjōki (c. 1213), is Kamo no Chōmei’s personal account of a life-long journey toward increasingly remote modes of living. This masterpiece of Japanese renunciate writing exemplifies a medieval Japanese ethos colored by a pervasive mindfulness about the evanescence of existence. Although both works are unmistakably inspired by a Buddhist worldview from a different place and time, their messages are universal.

These all-new translations of Chiteiki and Hōjōki are accompanied by the primary Japanese source texts, detailed scholarly annotations, and original maps and illustrations.

Translated and annotated by Matthew Stavros

Illustrations by Reginald Jackson

“Yasutane and Chōmei offer a manifesto for rethinking the way we live. Written two centuries apart, they engage in a lively dialogue about everlasting questions—from the pleasures of literature and friendship to urban design and disaster preparedness. A must-read for anyone living in a post-industrial city. The new translations by Matthew Stavros capture marvellously the tone and flow of the original texts. Reginald Jackson’s powerful illustrations conjure up the beauty and violence of a world of sophistication engulfed in disaster and decay.”

—Ariel Stilerman, Stanford University.

Publisher ‏: Vicus Lusorum

Publication date: January 21, 2022 (1st edition)

Companion Materials

Samples and review copies

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