The pre-eminent example of Japanese ‘recluse literature’ and part of the ‘zuihitsu’ genre (personal essays and prose fragments, usually responding to the writer’s surroundings).
Its famous opening line runs: ‘The river’s flow never ends, its waters never stay the same; bubbles appear and vanish, floating among the pools, never resting: just so our world of men and their dwellings’. Chomei retreated to his grass hut after personal disappointments (non-promotion as a Shinto priest) and public disasters (natural and civil) in Kyoto. He describes enjoying simple pleasures in rural tranquillity, with the historical backdrop and his wryness providing edge and realism.
Related recommendation: Thoreau’s ‘Walking’ (1862)
Themes: Exile and/or Identity, Independent Thinking, Nature or Architecture/ Material Environment, How to Live
Genres: Autobiographical, Lyrical or Poetic, Spiritual or Philosophical Meditation