Hojoki (An Account of My Hut) (方丈記)

"Hojoki," written by KAMO no Chomei, is a representative essay in the history of medieval Japanese literature.

Hojoki' was named after the event of KAMO no Chomei's building a iori (a hut) in one square jo on Mt. Hino. Tradition holds that it was written in 1212, the Kamakura era, but the original manuscript is thought not to exist. The oldest existent transcription is Daifukukojibon, which is often used as a master copy for the study of the work. It was the first excellent literary work written in Chinese characters and Katakana, or the Wakan Konkobun mixed writing style of Chinese characters and Hiragana. Additionally, it contains an essay on his view of life, explaining how people should live in troubled times. It was about 100 years later that "Tsurezuregusa" (Essays in Idleness) was written by Kenko YOSHIDA. Together with "The Pillow Book" written by Sei Shonagon, these works are called the three Japanese major lists, histories and satires. Also, it is considered to be a pioneering work of insei literature (literature of retirement).
(There is also a view that "Chiteiki," written by YOSHISHIGE no Yasutane, was a pioneering work.)

It is said to be the literature representing KAMO no Chomei's Mujokan (Buddhist concept of the impermanence of worldly things). In the opening of the work, he wrote about the transitory nature of fleeting things, and then the disasters that had occurred in his time or in the past, and his life in a thatched hut was described during the latter part. Moreover, at the end of the work he denied any attachment to life in a thatched hut because it would prevent people from achieving spiritual enlightenment.

The opening and the ending

The river never stops running, and the water is never the same as before. The bubbles are floating on the pool; some bubbles are disappearing and some are coming up; they will never be the same.'

It is the end of March 1212, and Renin the Monk is writing this down at the hut in Toyama.'


It is clear and elegant. Exclamatory expressions and couplets were frequently used. It is written in Wakan Konkobun.

Descriptions of disasters and famines

The first part of the book focuses on natural calamities such as the Fire of Angen in 1177, the relocation of the capital that took place shortly after the whirlwind in 1180, the famine that occurred between 1181 and 1182, and the big earthquake that hit the capital in 1185.

In the latter part of the book, he wrote an explanation or a writing that appeared to be an excuse as to why he had to bemoan his bad luck, which was not suitable for the life of aristocracy, but this part is considered a very important and interesting material from the perspective of present-day disaster prevention.

The Fire of Angen
Around 8 p.m., on April 28, 1177, a fire broke out through the careless handling of burning things in the inn of a dancer in the southeast of the capital (near the present JR Kyoto Station). Soon the fire spread to the northwest of the capital, and overnight Suzakumon, Daigokuden, the Daigakuryo Organization and Minbusho Department, etc., were reduced to ashes. 16 residences of the court nobles were burned down, and one-third of the houses of common people in the capital were destroyed by fire. Dozens of people were killed in the fire (hundreds of people, according to "Heike Monogatari (The Tales of the Heike)").

The tornado of Jisho
In April 1180, a big tornado (a "whirlwind," according to Chomei) occurred near the crossroads of Nakamikado-oji Street and Higashikyogoku-oji Street (near the present Matsukagecho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City and the Kyoto City Museum of Historical Materials).
PROBABLY autumn leaves
After the wind passed, there remained only crushed houses, beams, and pillars. The tornado passed the capital toward the south-southwest, but it seemed to disappear before reaching what is now Higashi Hongan-ji Temple.

The famine of Yowa
A famine took place during the years 1181 and 1182, and many farmers in various provinces abandoned their lands. The Imperial Court tried in vain to depend on various incantations and prayers, and in addition to the rise of prices, a plague killed many people. Ryugyohoin, in Ninna-ji Temple, mourned the countless people who died of starvation, and every time he encountered the dead he would write a letter of '阿' on their foreheads for Kechien (making a connection with Buddha for the repose of the spirit), and it is said that the number of the dead exceeded 42,300. However, it is assumed that this famine was not brought about naturally but was caused by a shortage of food that had occurred because, in addition to the transfer of the national capital to Fukuhara by the Taira clan, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and Yoshinaka KISO took up arms, and rice as render was not carried to the capital.

The earthquake of Genryaku
On July 9, 1185, a big earthquake hit the capital. Mountains collapsed, the sea became rough, lands were split, and rocks fell down to the bottoms of ravines. It is said that the aftershocks continued over three months.

[Original Japanese]