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Discover a realm of travel writing undreamed of in the West - a richly literary tradition extending through a thousand years and more, whose individual works together weave a dense and beautiful brocade of repeated patterns and motifs, tones and textures. Here are asobi, the wandering performers who prefigured geisha; travelling monks who sleep on pillows of grass and listen to the autumnal insects; and a young girl who passionately longs to travel to the capital and read more stories. Taking in songs, dramas, tales, diaries and above all, poetry, this wonderful anthology roams over mountains and along perilous shores to show how profoundly travel inspired the Japanese imagination.
The Tale of Saigyo is a poetic biography of the late Heian poet Saigyo (1118-90), one of the most loved and respected poets in Japanese literary history. Its anonymous author followed the venerable poem-tale tradition by using 128 of Saigyo's finest and best-known poems and weaving around them facts and legends about the poet. The result is a biographical journey through his life. Saigyo moves from the life of a brilliant and favored young poet at the Heian imperial court, through a Buddhist awakening that leads him to cast off his worldly life and family ties and to transform himself into a wandering monk in search of salvation, through the vicissitudes of his long hard life on the road, to a final apotheosis as Buddhist saint in his famous death.While The Tale of Saigyo is on one level the story of the making of a Buddhist saint, it is also a biography of the trials and sorrows of an idealized poetic sensibility during a tempestuous time that saw the death of the Heian period, the Genpei Wars, and the beginning of the turbulent Kamakura period. The moving portrait of the wandering poet-monk that emerges through this tale crystallized the image of Saigyo and is felt in such later literary figures as Basho, who acknowledged Saigyo as his model and master.