Thursday, 19 June 2014

Hut Lust

You know when you're researching a blog article and then you run across something entirely unrelated thanks to Google's arcane search algorithms, but it's so awesome you stop writing about that other thing and write about this one instead?

I love that.

Some time ago I wrote a post about suitable shelters for forest practice. Now I find that some scholarship into that subject has already been done, thanks to interest in Kamo no Chômei. Buddhist hermit of indeterminate lineage, Chômei is most famous for his essay Hôjôki (方丈記), or The Ten Foot Square Hut. And you'll never guess what that essay is about.

To this day there's a certain amount of fascination with his accommodations among fans. Very few of whom, interestingly, are in the English-speaking world. That the most complete and succinct source I could find was Japanese is perhaps not so surprising, but even the runners-up were German and Hungarian. (One wonders if their appreciation of Chômei might be insight into their cultures.)

Anyway, having perused these blueprints in three languages, I'm prepared to certify them. Chômei's hut looks entirely serviceable, without being excessive, and a fitting counterpart to the similar cribs of Ryokan, Issa, and Thoreau.

Perhaps the man himself put it best:
But in this little impermanent hut of mine all is calm and there is nothing to fear. It may be small, but there is room to sleep at night, and to sit down in the day-time, so that for one person there is no inconvenience. […] If one knows himself and knows what the world is he will merely wish for quiet and be pleased when he has nothing to grieve about, wanting nothing and caring for nobody.

UPDATE, 21 June 2014: A reader directed me to this excellent video tour of Kamo no Chômei's hut. Check it out!

(Photo of Kamo no Chômei's hut by Professor Brian Hoffert, North Central College; diagrams by アトリエかわしろ一級建築士事務所 and Carpe Diem Teaház.)
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