Reading and Writing


Utagawa Hiroshige, The Priest Yoshida Kenkō, c. 1845

by Yoshida Kenkō

To while away the idle hours, seated the livelong day before the ink slab, by jotting down without order or purpose whatever trifling thoughts pass through my mind, truly this is a queer and crazy thing to do!

It is desirable to have a knowledge of true literature, of composition and versifying, of wind and string instruments; and it is well, moreover, to be learned in precedent and court ceremonies, so as to be a model for others. One should write not unskillfully in the running hand, be able to sing in a pleasing voice and keep good time to music; and, lastly, a man should not refuse a little wine when it is pressed upon him.

To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations—such is a pleasure beyond compare.


About the Author

Kenkō (兼好, 1283–1350) was a Japanese court official, Buddhist monk, poet and essayist. ‘Reading and Writing’ comes from his Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness) via Quotidiana.

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