So Who's Sei Shonagon and What's This Pillow Book?

For musings, lists, collections, observations and commentary, in the tradition of The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Conversations about Japan in general -- its culture, history, personalities, and current events -- are also welcome in this forum.
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So Who's Sei Shonagon and What's This Pillow Book?

Postby Okamisan » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:28 pm

A thousand years ago, the Imperial Court of Japan was the height of culture. Writing was a common pastime among the court ladies, and conversations were frequently conducted by means of poems.

A few books from that day have survived to this. One, The Tale of Genji, is a novel, perhaps the first book of its form written anywhere in the world.

Another is The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, a book that is one part diary, one part poetry collection, one part essay. In additions to comments about court life, it contains lists, musings, observations and commentary about nature, the seasons, and life itself -- many of which feel as real today as they must have done a thousand years ago.

Here are links to a few websites that talk about Sei Shonagon and The Pillow Book.

The Pillow Book -- Wikipedia
Sei Shonagon -- Wikipedia
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
Order The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon from

I should also note that the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon is not at all like what the Japanese refer to as "pillow books" today -- these are, well ... marital manuals, for lack of a more astute euphemism. ;)
If you've got eyes to rhythmatize / Bring your flat hat and your ax / 'Cause tonight at ten / We'll be working again / At the teahouse on the tracks
--Donald Fagen, "Teahouse on the Tracks," from the album Kamakiriad

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