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Travels with a Writing Brush: Classical Japanese Travel Writing from the Manyoshu to Basho

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4.19  ·  Rating details ·  52 ratings  ·  12 reviews
A rich, exquisite and original anthology that illuminates Japanese travel writing over a thousand years

'Oh journey upon journey, my life is a brief moment, and I cannot hope that we will meet again'

Roaming over mountains and along perilous shores, this anthology illuminates over a thousand years of Japanese travel writing. It takes in songs, diaries, tales and poetry, and
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Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 7th 2019 by Penguin Classics
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Brandon Dalo
4.5 Rating


When I first read Matsuo Basho’s famous “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” I was intrigued by his often mentioning of the “poets of old.” He would quote the poems these ancient travelers created at famous sites across Japan in their own travels. I was interested in learning more about them but a cursory search online showed very little in terms of their full texts being easily accessible. And then recently, I noticed that this new book, “Travels with a Writing Brush” had been put tog
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Ciaran
Apr 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Very pleasant, and fascinating to see how the links and allusions build up over a thousand years. And I'm glad to have picked up the concept of an utamakura, a place which poets want to see and write about because famous poems have been written about it. Although sometimes the actual visit was optional! Some of the depth of the writing depends on recognising utamakura and allusions to poems about them so you are depending on the translator for helpful footnotes: there are many! ...more
Books on Asia
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan
An comprehensive introduction to the Japanese poetry styles employed by some of Japan's greatest travel poets, poet-priests, and wanderers starting with the Manyōshū. McKinney offers introductions to famous works and tells why they are significant and gives numerous excerpts for each piece. An excellent introduction to Japanese poetry of the kikō travel diary genre that encompasses many of the concepts such as utamakura, michiyuki, monogatari, etc. You'll only find famous works in here such as H ...more
Andrew Fahey
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book does very well both as an anthology of Japanese poetic accounts of life on the road as well as being a great introduction to the development of Japanese poetry traditions more generally and how this tradition has responded to and been influenced by the changing political times.

Starting with the Manyōshyu (the first book of Japanese prose) and ending with the penultimate kikō style travel writer Bashō, the book chronologically traces the development of characteristic Japanese poetic st
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Inês Dias
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"teru tsuki no
nagaruru mireba

ama no gawa
izuru minato wa
umi ni zarikeru

Watching the shining moon
go floating down the sky
I know
the river of the Milky Way
must flow to the sea
as our own rivers do"

Tosa Diary (Tosa nikki), Ki no Tsurayuki
...more
Julia Reding
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Travels with a Writing Brush extends the study of Japanese poetry beyond the form of haiku. As a teacher of English, this was an interesting read. As it does not fall within the traditional cannon, both the poetic forms and the historical context deepen scholarship of multicultural literature.
As a reader, the texture, tone, and imagery inspired deep comparisons to similar historic moments. This poetry offers a snapshot of a different royal court, yet the themes of banishment from the presence o
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Revanth Ukkalam
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
How much we miss out on when we do not read all the world. The poetry in this anthology is not exactly travel-writing in that rather than space it captures consciousness: how does traveling feel? And reading the verses in these pages feels like visiting a site hidden behind mist. There is tranquility in the very way words follow another. The poets do not say much but say just enough for us to beg them to say more and certainly enought to "feel them."

Look at this excellent paragraph for instance:
...more
Heather Jones
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Penguin Classics for giving me a free digital galley of this book in exchange for feedback.

This is a collection of travel writing from long-ago Japanese authors, which is a very different thing than a collection of travel writing by European authors.

The emphasis here isn't on adventures, anecdotes, interesting people, or exciting experiences. Instead, the emphasis for these writers is on images, poignant emotions, and opportunities to create a new poem or allude to an old, familiar
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Oliver
Apr 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-lit
An excellent survey of Japanese travel literature. I found if I tried to read it all in one go, it got a little dry. So I put it down for awhile then came back to it. This worked pretty well as the writing felt fresh again upon each return.
As someone who is fascinated by haiku, it was fantastic to trace the roots of this poetic form through history.
shinminmetroskyline
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting compilation that shows the evolution of travel writing in Japan from the 10th century to the 17th century. A great way to sample both prose and poetic Japanese travel stories, and to gain a a glimpse of life for the upper echelons in Old Japan.
Andy
Jun 27, 2021 rated it liked it
I have read most of this beforehand but it was nice to see all these short extracts put together into one anthology.
Neil
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-walking
A must read for anyone who: a) is interested in Japanese history and b) considers the act of walking more than just A->B.
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