Travels with a Writing Brush: Book Review

Travels with a Writing Brush: Classical Japanese Travel Writing from the Manyōshū to Bashō. Selected and Translated by Meredith McKinney. Published by Penguin Random House UK (2019).

Travels with a Writing Brush is a stunning introduction to Japanese travel writing. Spanning roughly 1000 years of history, it provides illuminating examples that illustrate how the genre changed and developed over time. The forms of travel writing included are diverse with examples from diaries, drama, poetry and more. Each section starts with a short analysis by McKinney of what is to come and these were the highlight for me. McKinney’s style of writing is simple, elegant and incredibly informative, her analysis allowing the reader to appreciate and enjoy the works even more. Explaining fascinating concepts such as utamakura or famous places in literature/history which later travellers would then visit and reference in their own writings leading to a collection of people’s experiences and reaction to the same place across time. Overall, Travels with a Writing Brush is an academic but accessible book that allows the reader an insight into a very distinctive style of writing.

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