• Kumi Yamada Department of Liberal Arts, Kurume Institute of Technology, Kurume, Japan




Henry D. Thoreau, 19th Century American Literature, Edo Period, Japanese Wisdom, Simple Life


For millions of years, human beings have been part of nature. People have lived on this planet looking to the stars for direction, forecasting the weather, and watching seasonal changes. However, despite our recent efforts to develop technology that will help us live easier lives, we seem to be living more complicated lives than ever before. How can we return to living simple lives? This study examines the meaning of the concept “a simple life” by investigating some common beliefs our ancestors shared toward houses: Henry David Thoreau’s cabin, the Japanese writer Kamono Chomei’s “Hojo-An,” and an Edo period fisherman’s hut. Especially, the life record of the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) offers hints as to how we can live in nature. He observed natural phenomena and cared deeply about the environment, and in his writing, he urges us to identify and preserve the irreplaceable things in our lives. Analogously, Japanese people of the Edo Period devoted thought and effort to living simply. They lived in harmony with nature. This study describes several facets of society and commerce in the city of Edo (present day Tokyo). As a model of sustainability, Edo made great developments, such as the construction of an eco-friendly water system by employing “ancient wisdom.” Finally, when dealing with natural disasters, we shouldn’t forget our experiences: even the most basic systems of the past can help us prepare for the future. Sometimes the best answer is the simplest.


Asahi Shimbun Company. (2017, April 12). Tokushuu: Kumamoto Zishin [Web Photographs]. Retrieved from http://www.asahi.com/special/kumamoto-earthquake/1year-photos/

Asahi Shimbun Company. (2011). Higashi-Nihon daisinsai: Hodosyasinzenkiroku. Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Publications.

Awano, F. (Ed.). (2011). Edo no shomin no kashikoi kurashi jyutsu. Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsha.

Cousins, N. (1978, April 15). Editorial. Saturday Review.

Fujita, K. (Ed.). (1999). Nihon no kenchiku. Kyoto: Showa Do.

Ito, S. (2017). Hajimete no Sorou: Mori ni ikizuku message. Tokyo: NHK Syuppan.

Japan Thoreau Society. (Eds.). (2012). Sorou [Thoreau] to America-Seishin: Beibungaku no genryu wo motomete. Tokyo: Kinseido.

Kato, T. (Ed.). (2004). Edo wo shiru jiten. Tokyo: Tokyo Doo Shuppan.

Noguchi, T. (1997). Ansei Edo jishin: Saigai to seizi kenryoku. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobou.

Sugiura, H. (2003). Oedo de gozaru. Tokyo: Wani Books.

Takeuchi, M. (2003). Edo syomin no i syoku jyuu. Tokyo: Gakken.

Tibballs, G. (2005). Tsunami: The world’s most terrifying natural disaster. London: Carlton Books.

Thoreau, H. D. (1854). Walden. In J. L. Shanley (Ed.). (1971). The writings of Henry D. Thoreau. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.

Uchida, S. (2013). “Mizu”ga oshietekureru Tokyo no bitikei sanpo. Tokyo: Jitsugyono Nihonsha.

Yanagibashi, Y. (2005, October 17). Overview of Drinking Water Quality Management in Japan. Retrieved from http://www.nilim.go.jp/lab/bcg/siryou/tnn/tnn0264pdf/ks0264010.pdf

Zemeckis, R. (Director) & Cherylanne, M. (Producer). (2000). Cast Away [Motion Picture]. Los Angeles, CA: Twentieth Century Fox & Dreamworks.




How to Cite

Yamada, K. (2018). HENRY D. THOREAU’S HUT AND ANCIENT JAPANESE SUSTAINABLE WISDOM. PEOPLE: International Journal of Social Sciences, 4(2), 684–693. https://doi.org/10.20319/pijss.2018.42.684693