Kamo Chomei (1155-July 24, 1216, Kyoto
) was one of the greatest figures of late Heian era
He is best known as a classic example of the man of deep sensibilities turned recluse and as the author of Hojo-ki (Writings From The Ten Foot Square Hut), a description of his life in self-exile. Although written in prose, this text is poetic in phrasing and intent. The presence of a place to dwell occurs again and again: The ruined buildings of a Kyoto devastated first by fire, then severe storms, then earthquake. The dwellings of court nobles dismantled and shipped down river to the new captial (Settsu, near what is no Kobe) by imperial decree where the new imperial palace is iself a kind of rough cabin. And then the simplicity of his tiny hermitage, where he tends to daily matters and knows that there is no safe place.
The second son of Kamo-no-Nagatsu, a Shinto priest of Kyoto with court responsibilities, Chomei was given a thorough artistic training. His poetic gifts brought him grudging recognition from the court and, eventually, a court-appointed office. Shortly after his position was established, Chomei took Buddhist ordination in 1204 and turned his back on the intricate rituals of the court and the social world. He lived first for four or five years in the hills of Ohara and then built his tiny hermit's hut in the Hino foothills southeast of the capital and completed his Hojo-ki.
But Chomei did, in fact, keep in touch with the court and the poetic world after his retirement. In 1205, to his great delight, 10 of his poems were included in the first draft of the Shin kokin-shu, the eighth imperial anthology of court poetry. About 1208/09 he began work on his Mumyo sho ("Nameless Notes"), an extremely valuable collection of critical comments, anecdotes, and poetic lore. In 1214 or 1215 he is believed to have completed his Hosshin shu ("Examples of Religious Vocation"). His other works include a selection of his own poems (probably compiled in 1181) and the Ise-ki ("Record of a Journey to Ise"), no longer extant. Chomei's poetry is representative of the best of an age that produced many poets of the first rank.