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Souvenirs for the Capital


Strand, Kendra (2017). Souvenirs for the Capital. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 71(2):453-475.

Abstract

Around 1350, a wandering lay priest called Sōkyū (dates unknown) left his home of Tsukushi in northern Kyushu, and embarked upon a journey through what is now the Tōhoku region of Japan. The “East Country”, as Sōkyū and his peers in the Imperial Palace call it, was considered a remote and wild land. It nonetheless held a romantic appeal for certain place names that had long been famous in the poetic canon. These famous place names, or utamakura, provide the basic structure for Souvenirs, and it soon becomes clear that one great motivation for Sōkyū’s journey is to view the landscapes of those celebrated places, and to better understand the origins and history of their names. The journal begins by introducing a man who “turned away from the mundane world”, and then shifts immediately to Sōkyū’s first-person perspective. The journey is here within the realm of formal Buddhist practice. Sōkyū’s determination to “follow into the past the tracks left under trees and over rocks” is founded upon the view that wandering supports ascetic practice and facilitates a purposeful rejection of the comforts of the material world. In the translation that follows, each utamakura is rendered into English, followed by its full Japanese name, only when that name’s meaning is highly relevant to Sōkyū’s poetry. Names of provinces, temples, and shrines, as well as utamakura sites mentioned in passing, are left in the Japanese, with an indication of the type of geographical feature they represent.

Abstract

Around 1350, a wandering lay priest called Sōkyū (dates unknown) left his home of Tsukushi in northern Kyushu, and embarked upon a journey through what is now the Tōhoku region of Japan. The “East Country”, as Sōkyū and his peers in the Imperial Palace call it, was considered a remote and wild land. It nonetheless held a romantic appeal for certain place names that had long been famous in the poetic canon. These famous place names, or utamakura, provide the basic structure for Souvenirs, and it soon becomes clear that one great motivation for Sōkyū’s journey is to view the landscapes of those celebrated places, and to better understand the origins and history of their names. The journal begins by introducing a man who “turned away from the mundane world”, and then shifts immediately to Sōkyū’s first-person perspective. The journey is here within the realm of formal Buddhist practice. Sōkyū’s determination to “follow into the past the tracks left under trees and over rocks” is founded upon the view that wandering supports ascetic practice and facilitates a purposeful rejection of the comforts of the material world. In the translation that follows, each utamakura is rendered into English, followed by its full Japanese name, only when that name’s meaning is highly relevant to Sōkyū’s poetry. Names of provinces, temples, and shrines, as well as utamakura sites mentioned in passing, are left in the Japanese, with an indication of the type of geographical feature they represent.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 71 (2017) > 2
Dewey Decimal Classification:Unspecified
Language:English
Date:27 January 2017
Deposited On:13 Jan 2020 11:18
Last Modified:28 Jul 2020 14:15
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0004-4717
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2017-0023

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