Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness) (徒然草)

Tsurezuregusa is an essay which was written by Kenko YOSHIDA, or Kaneyoshi URABE (real name). It is valued as one of the Japan Three Majors Lists, Histories and Satires, along with "Makura no soshi" (the Pillow Book) by Sei Shonagon and "Hojoki" (An Account of My Hut) by KAMO no Chomei.


The view that it was compiled between August of 1330 and September of 1331in the Kamakura period is dominant, but there are many different opinions, any of which are not accepted widely. It should have been written by Kenko, who was in the middle years of his life, but some people claim that it includes the writings written when he was young. The collection contains both Japanese writing in which mainly kana (Japanese syllabary characters) were used and the mixed writing of Japanese and Chinese.

It consists of 244 sections including the preface. In the preface, he wrote that 'he is going to write essays just to kill his time,' but in fact, he pursued a meaningful life through his contemplation, miscellaneous thoughts, and anecdotes. The work covers a wide range of topics, reflecting Kenko's various aspects as a poet, a classical scholar, and a calligrapher. It is said to be hermit-literature.

Because Kenko YOSHIDA set up his residence at Narabigaoka hill, where Ninna-ji Temple is also located, the work contains a lot of stories concerning the Ninna-ji Temple.

Nobody had paid attention to the work for a hundred years after it was written, but a monk called Shotetsu found it in the mid-Muromachi period. During the Edo period, it became popular with the townspeople, having a great influence on Edo culture; Bansai KATO wrote "Tsurezuregusa sho" (a commentary on Tsurezuregusa) in 1661 and Kigin KITAMURA wrote a commentary called "Tsurezuregusa mondan sho" in 1667. Therefore most of the manuscripts were created during the Edo period, and the ones transcribed during the Muromachi period were few.

Sadayo (Ryoshun) IMAGAWA, Kyushu Tandai (local commissioner) of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) was on friendly terms with Meishomaru, a disciple of Kenko YOSHIDA, so it is natural for him to have been involved in the compilation of the work after the death of Kenko.


Tsurezurenaru mama ni higurashi suzuri ni mukaite kokoro ni utsuriyuku yoshinashikoto wo sokohakatonaku kakitsukure ba ayashiu koso monoguru hoshikere.

With time on my hands, I am spending a whole day before the inkstone (holding a writing brush), jotting down random thoughts that come across my mind, which makes me feel strange and demented.

[Original Japanese]