By renouncing normal life and holing up in a hut in the woods, the ruminative Kamo no Chomei mastered the art of travelling without moving
Kamo no Chomei, born Kyoto in 1153 or 1155. Melancholy Japanese sage who explored inner space from a 10ft hut.
Claim to fame
The experience of lockdown has helped focus attention on that handful of explorers whose talents lay in the direction of small-scale journeys. Henry David Thoreau in Walden and Xavier de Maistre in A Journey Round My Room celebrated withdrawal, confinement and reflection instead of the expansive pleasures of vast landscapes and new horizons. You could call this genre “armchair exploration”, except one of its pioneers wouldn’t have known what an armchair was. Kamo no Chomei was a 12th-century Japanese poet and musician who suffered some kind of midlife crisis at the age of 50 and became a monk. Even monastic life was too gregarious for him and around his 60th birthday Chomei went to live alone in a tiny hut in the woods. The years he spent in this seclusion make Thoreau and de Maistre look like lightweights: de Maistre was only in lockdown for six weeks and Thoreau’s renunciation of the outside world famously involved getting his mum to do his laundry.