Yoshida Kenko (吉田兼好)

Kenko YOSHIDA (1283 - c. May 14, 1350) was a Japanese author and poet in the Kamakura period through the Northern and Southern Courts period (Japan). His real name was Kaneyoshi URABE (or URABE no Kaneyoshi). He is sometimes called Kenko-hoshi. Kenko-hoshi is used in textbooks that were approved by the Ministry of Education and Science. The Urabe familiy was later divided into Yoshida, Hirano, and so forth; since Kenko belonged to Yoshida lineage, he came to be called Kenko YOSHIDA. The year of his death is uncertain; there is a theory that he passed away in 1352.

The Urabe family had been in charge of bokusen (augury) since ancient times and many of the familiy members had served as officers of Jingikan (department of worship); Kenko's father was also a Shinto priest of Yoshida-jinja Shrine. Although Kaneyoshi served for Emperor Gouda as the Hokumen no Bushi (the Imperial Palace Guards) and was promoted to Jugoinoge-sahyoenosuke (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade, Deputy Chief of the Palace Guard of the Left), he entered the priesthood and changed his name to Kenko after the death of the Retired Emperor. It is known that Kenko visited Kamakura at least twice; he was very close to Sadaaki KANAZAWA, who was Gokenin (an immediate vassal of the Shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) when Kenko visited him, and subsequently became Shikken (a regent) of the Kamakura Shogunate. It is said that Kenko had a hermitage in the site of Jyogo-ji Temple, which is currently located in Kanazawa Ward, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Kenko was active as a poet in the Kamakura period to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). "Tsurezuregusa" (Essays in idleness), which describes various topics including natural features in prose, is regarded as one of the three major Japanese essays; it also gives information to understand the tendencies and customs of the society at that time. Eighteen of his waka (poems) are included in waka compilations such as "Shokusenzai Wakashu"(a collection of Japanese Poems of a Thousand Years, Continued) and "Shokugoshui Wakashu"(Later Collection of Gleanings of Japanese Poems, Continued) and he is regarded as one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Waka of the Nijo family.

Kenko was on friendly terms through literature with Sadayo (Ryoshun) IMAGAWA, who was the Kyushu Tandai (a local commissioner of the Kyushu Region) for Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

It is also said that Kenko became close to KO no Moronao, the steward of the Ashikaga clan in his later years; it is mentioned in "Taiheiki" (The Record of the Great Peace) that Kenko wrote a love letter on behalf of Moronao.

[Original Japanese]