Travels with a Writing Brush: Classical Japanese Travel Writing from the Manyoshu to Basho

2021 - Shortlisted


Travels with a Writing Brush is a fascinating anthology of travel writing that traces Japanese pilgrimage over 1000 years, from Japan’s first extant work of literature, ‘Manyoshu’ (AD 759), to Matsuo Basho’s 17th century travel essays and haiku. These extracts from stories, diaries, drama and poetry include famed works, like Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book, alongside lesser-known works and writers. Together they provide lively and evocative vignettes of Japanese life and sensibility. 

Through this remarkable work of translation and scholarship, Meredith McKinney offers contemporary readers a wide panorama of what travel entailed and how travel writing evolved in Japan, as well as the peculiar poetic cosmovision of the writer-travellers. As McKinney explains it, ‘The way they wrote about travel is so unlike how people in the West write now, that it is quite a journey just to travel into their perspective.’ This meticulously annotated work of translation is an inspired invitation to travel in this way.