Simplicity is that which contains what is necessary without anything superfluous. Authenticity is that which is true to its essence. There is considerable overlap between the three with regard to taste in general. In the fourteenth century, the Japanese writer Yoshida Kenko wrote on the necessity of avoiding superficialities in a straightforward, though rather nostalgic fashion. “People of old never strove to give special names to temples and all the other things that get named these days, but referred to them quite simply as what they were. Nowadays, it seems, people rack their brains to come up with something that makes them look clever. This is terribly irritating. It is also ridiculous to go searching for unusual characters with which to write people’s names. It is the sure mark of a shallow and ignorant person to be drawn to odd curiosities and delight in unusual explanations.”
Kenko’s nostalgia for a vanishing past and contempt for superficialities we might associate with fast fashion in the twenty-first century shaped his perspective on the dynamic times in which he lived. Perhaps his nostalgia for a time previous has constrained Kenko’s perspective, it has only done so to a limited extent. There is much wisdom in many of the passages Kenko wrote. It is indeed a real achievement to be able to see beauty in the everyday and commonplace. A couple centuries after Kenko, tea master Sen no Rikyu established the quintessential Japanese tea ceremony with a similar principle in mind. Simple, natural materials are all that are necessary. For Rikyu, part of the reason for simplicity was in reaction to the lords’ tendency to use such ceremonies to show off their elaborate foreign and expensive utensils.
Necessity and pragmatism bring about a greater sense of authenticity and even originality than the attraction to curiosities and elaborate names. Reading between the lines of Kenko’s magnum opus requires a great deal of interpretation (especially considering that this is an English translation of Kenko’s original Japanese). I am often conflicted reading Kenko. When one encounters any writer, one has to take biases into consideration while seeking out the gems. Kenko’s writing clearly has great gems. I see in the text a great conflict between the biases of a man entering old age and genuine, timeless observations (or nostalgia vs. human nature). Joshua Fields Millburn of ‘The Minimalists’ wrote an essay about the dangers of nostalgia and concluded that what one gets with nostalgia is only half-truths. Yoshida Kenko is one of the most significant writers from Japan’s medieval period, however his attachment to a rose-colored version of the past limited his vision significantly. Despite this, his Essays in Idleness is very much worth reading and contains brilliant insights which reveal Kenko to be one of the most important Japanese intellectuals between Kamo no Chomei (c.1155–1216) and Sen no Rikyu (1522–1591).
 Yoshida Kenko, Essays in Idleness and Hojoki. (2013). p.78.
 The passages in Kenko’s Essays in Idleness were originally written on scraps of paper and spread about his dwelling. Only after his death were the scraps gathered together into a single text.
 He often took material from peasant environments.