A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees — Yoshida Kenkō

This small book is a selection of quotes from Essays in Idleness.

The writer begins the book with this statement:

What strange folly, to beguile the tedious hours like this all day before my ink stone, jotting down at random the idle thoughts that cross my mind …

We are then regaled with a selection of those random thoughts, and quite good thoughts some of them are too.

Although written approx 1330 in Japan, a lot of these thoughts are as relevant today in the wider world as they were back then.   Yes, admittedly, some might be a bit dated and endemic but there are some very timeless thoughts for the modern, wider world to enjoy as well.

There’s also a delightful curmudgeonliness to the thoughts, like you’re listening to your favourite grand parent having a rant about what’s bothering them this week.

I shall certainly get a copy of Essays in Idleness and have a full read of Yoshida Kenkō’s thoughts.

Kenkō’s Page

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The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

The Japanese do make the nicest tea i’ve ever tasted: organic ceremonial grade matcha is perfection.

I read this book years ago and seriously need to give it a re-read soon.

Okakura’s Page

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell

And onto David Mitchell’s fifth book…

It’s certainly a change from his other books, being based in Japan at the end of the 18 Century at the Dutch East India Company’s island/trading post, Dejima.

When the Shoguns closed Japan to westerners they left Dejima as the only doorway into Japan for Europe’s trade, and it was the Dutch who ran Dejima.

The book centres around actual historical events, but names and dates are changed to allow David to weave his tale.   And the tale takes us inside ancient Japanese nefarious occult beliefs and practices as we follow our protagonist and his love for a Japanese midwife who becomes entrapped within the cultists’ lair, all the while having to deal with the political machinations within the interplay between Dejima, Nagasaki and the Shogun in Edo.

Once more, a great piece of story telling from this incredible writer, and a also an incredibly interesting look inside the life and work of Dejima itself at a very interesting time in Japanese history.   Well worth a read after you’ve read David’s first four books, but do expect something rather different.

And i’m now embroiled in David’s 6th book, ‘The Bone Clocks’, which is more in style with his first four books and i’m enjoying immensely.   I’ll let you know what i think soon.

David’s Page

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Ikigai – Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

It looks interesting.

I’ve always found Japan and its history a fascinating subject for reading about. I’ve never been, if life ever throws the opportunity my way i’ll definitely go.

Héctor García’s Page Francesc Miralles’ Page

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The Zen Experience – Thomas Hoover

Been quite a while since i read this, but do remember it being a very interesting read on the history of Zen. It tells Zen’s full story through fascinating tales of its most influential masters of its various historical schools, all the way from its roots in India and into modern Japan.

If more people read about the history of the world’s religions instead of fighting over them the world would be a much nicer place.

Thomas’ Page

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The Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy — Miyamoto Musashi

Another book that’s sat on my Kindle for years unread, but having just finished David Kirk’s books it really felt like the right time to read this.

It’s hard to judge this book in any real contemporary terms because it simply has no place in the contemporary world.   It’s an anachronism from a time and place that is no more and will never be again.

It is aimed solely at the samurai warrior, but maybe there are those who are ultra competitive who do contact sports, and also military personnel, that could still gain a lot from reading it: which doesn’t apply to me.

It is, however, an incredible view into the mind of one of the greatest strategists (swordsmen) from Japanese history, and it really gives you the genuine thoughts and attitude of a Samurai in regards to fighting and killing with swords.   It’s probably the most amoral thing i’ve ever read, and in that aspect alone it’s quite wonderful because it is so genuine and fascinating.

Musashi’s Page

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