Yoshida Kenko


Yoshida Kenko 吉田兼好 Yoshida Kenkoo
Yoshida Kenkō

1283? – 1350?
弘安6年(1283年)頃か -文和元年/正平7年(1352年)

A Japanese author and Buddhist monk. His most famous work is "Tsurezuregusa" ("Essays in Idleness"), one of the most studied works of medieval Japanese literature. Kenko wrote during the Muromachi and Kamakura periods.

Kenkō was probably born in 1283, the son of an administration official. His original name was Urabe Kaneyoshi (卜部 兼好). He became an officer of guards at the Imperial palace.

Late in life he retired from public life, changed his name to Yoshida Kenkō, and became a Buddhist monk and hermit. The reasons for this are unknown, but it has been conjectured that either his unhappy love for the daughter of the prefect of Iga Province or his mourning over the death of Emperor Go-Uda caused his transformation.

Although he also wrote poetry and entered some poetry contests at the imperial court (his participation in 1335 and 1344 is documented), Kenkō's enduring fame is based on Tsurezuregusa, his collection of 243 short essays, published posthumously. Although traditional translated as "Essays in Idleness," a more accurate translation would be "Notes from Leisure Hours" or "Leisure Hour Notes." Themes of the essays include the beauty of nature, the transience of life, traditions, friendship, and other abstract concepts.
The work was written in the zuihitsu ("follow-the-brush") style, a type of stream-of-consciousness writing that allowed the writer's brush to skip from one topic to the next, led only by the direction of thoughts. Some are brief remarks of only a sentence or two; others recount a story over a few pages, often with discursive personal commentary added.

The Tsurezuregusa was already popular in the 15th century and was considered a classic from the 17th century onward.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


Ein japanischer Höfling, Dichter und buddhistischer Mönch.


"Nichts spendet größeren Trost, als alleine, still für sich, im Lampenschein vor einem Buch zu sitzen und auf diese Weise Freundschaft mit Menschen aus längst vergangenen Tagen zu schließen."

"Wie schmerzlich ist mir der Gedanke, dass all die Dinge, die man ständig um sich hat, einen unbekümmert überdauern, so als sei nichts geschehen."

"Die Jugend ist die Zeit, in der man sich selbst ruiniert... Das Alter übertrifft die Jugend zwar an Weisheit, die Jugend aber das Alter an Anmut."

© More in the German WIKIPEDIA !


Yoshida Kenkō - Quotes

Should we only be interested to view the cherry blossoms at their peak,
or the moon when it is full?

To yearn for the moon when it is raining, or to be closed up in ones room, failing to notice the passing of Spring, is far more moving. Treetops just before they break into blossom, or gardens strewn with fallen flowers are just as worthy of notice. There is much to see in them. Is it any less wonderful to say, in the preface to a poem, that it was written on viewing the cherry blossoms just after they had peaked, or that something had prevented one from seeing them altogether, than to say ‘on seeing the cherry blossoms’? Of course not. Flowers fall and the moon sets, these are the cyclic things of the world, but still there are brutish people who mutter that there is nothing left worth seeing, and fail to appreciate.

In all things, it is the beginnings and the endings that are the most interesting. Is the love between a man a woman to be understood only in terms of the times they are together? Feel the pain of a relationship that has ended, decry the futility of a brief encounter, spend a long night awake and alone, think fondly of a life beyond one, out of reach, beyond the clouds, remember a moment long ago shared in a thatched hut; that is LOVE.

- About Archery
A certain man who was learning archery faced the target with two arrows in his hand. But his instructor said, ' A beginner ought never to have a second arrow; for as long as he relies upon the other, he will be careless with his first one. At each shot he ought to think that he is bound to settle it with this particular shaft at any cost.' Doubtless he would not intentionally act foolishly before his instructor with one arrow, when he has but a couple. But, though he may not himself realize that he is being careless, his teacher knows it.
You should bear this advice in mind on every occasion. (In the same way) he who follows the path of learning thinks confidently in the evening that the morning is coming, and in the morning that the evening is coming, and that he will then have plenty of time to study more carefully ; less likely still is he to recognize the waste of a single moment. How hard indeed is it to do a thing at once-now, the instant that you think of it !”

- never to fade away
“If man were never to fade away ... but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us. The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.”

- A certain recluse
“A certain recluse, I know not who, once said that no bonds attached him to this life, and the only thing he would regret leaving was the sky.”

- Read more quotes here:
source : goodreads.com...


Kenkoo Ki 兼好忌 (けんこうき) Kenko Memorial Day

kigo for mid-spring

. WKD : Memorial Days - Spring .

Kenko ki Omuro no hana wa tsubomi kana

Kenko memorial day -
the cherry trees at Omuro
still just buds

. Aoki Getto 青木月斗 .
(1879 - 1949)

Omuro is a part of Kyoto, famous for the cherry blossoms.


Tsurezuregusa 徒然草 Essays in Idleness

The Timeless Wisdom of Kenko
Kenko wrote:
“They speak of the degenerate, final phase of the world, yet how splendid is the ancient atmosphere, uncontaminated by the world, that still prevails within the palace walls.”
As Kenko’s translator Donald Keene observed, there flows through the essays “the conviction that the world is steadily growing worse.” It is perversely comforting to reflect that people have been anticipating the end of the world for so many centuries. Such persistent pessimism almost gives one hope.
source : www.smithsonianmag.com


The wind blows, scattering the blossoms;
And the wind cares nothing;
But the blossoms of the heart,
no wind can touch.

. Blossoms of the heart .


If we lived forever,
if the dews of Adashino never vanished,
if the crematory smoke on Toribeyama never faded,
men would hardly feel the pity of things.

. Adashino and the Toribe Graveyard .

Memorial stones at the temple Shoen-Ji in Osaka


Temple Shooenji 正円寺 Shoen-Ji, Osaka


Japanese Reference

- 吉田兼好  -

Related words

***** Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets 

. sennin 仙人と伝説 Legends about Immortals .
and hermits

- #yoshidakenko #tsurezuregusa -


Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Haiku by Matsuo Basho :

aki no iro nukamiso tsubo mo nakari keri

not even a pot
in the colors of autumn
for fermented miso

Kenko did not have much possesions, some say only one pot to wash his hands and take his meal. He kept this possession on his daily walks praying for food.
Discussing this hokku

anonymous said...

Not related is

Yoshida Shoin 吉田松陰

"A Most Audacious Young Man" is an except from Profiles In Japanese History: The Bakumatsu,

by Hayato Tokugawa,

The essay is a brief biographical sketch of the life of one of Japan's greatest intellectuals and leading revolutionaries in the time of the Meiji Restoration, Yoshida Shoin. Although he died more than 150 years ago, Shoin's life, and much of what he wrote and taught, has great relevance for young people today.

Yoshida Shooin


Gabi Greve said...

Yoshida Shoin Yoshida (吉田松陰 Yoshida Shōin
(Torajiro [given name]), September 20, 1830 - November 21, 1859) was one of the most distinguished intellectuals in the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate. He devoted himself to nurturing many Ishin Shishi who in turn made major contributions to the Meiji Restoration.