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Travels with a Writing Brush edited by Meredith McKinney review – the joy of Japanese travel writing

Spanning more than 1,000 years, this is a remarkable work filled with wonderful vignettes of Japanese life and sensibility

In this delightful anthology, McKinney traces the evolution of travel writing in Japan through diaries, stories, drama and poetry. She reveals how a distinctive poetics of travel emerged across more than a thousand years of literary history, very different from that of the west.

She begins with the Manyōshū, Japan’s first extant work of literature, which includes an austerely beautiful example of classical poetry by an eighth-century Buddhist monk, Sami Mansei: “To what shall I compare / this world? / It is like a boat at daybreak / rowing away and gone / leaving no trace.”

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