“Journey Along the Sea Road”

28.5 April 29, 2020

“Journey Along the Sea Road” was written in the thirteenth century by an unknown Buddhist monk. In these journals, published in A Public Space No. 26, a nameless traveler charts a course along the Tōkiadō—the great road linking Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo)—and launches a new genre along the way: the literary travel journal. An account of nature and movement, “Journey Along the Sea Road” imparts a sense of calm through the traveler's vision of the world: "A glittering frost lay on my sleeves, but when I brushed it off I saw it was moonlight."

Meredith McKinney's translations include Essays in Idleness with Hōjōki by Yoshida Kenkō and Kamo no Chōmei, The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (both Penguin), White-Haired Melody by Furui Yoshikichi (University of Michigan), and Travels With a Writing Brush, a collection of classical Japanese travel writing. She lives in New South Wales.

*****

Seeing Mount Fuji, I found it was indeed all that I had merely heard tell of back in the capital. It hung huge against the sky, dwarfing the mountains around. Its peak is the haunt of birds; animal tracks wind about its feet. Human footsteps peter out in the face of this mountain soaring there alone. A hood of snow lay white over its summit. A long belt of soft cloud swathed its thighs. It seemed a very ladder to heaven, it was so high.

Read on.

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