The Tsurezuregusa was already popular in the fifteenth century, and was considered a classic from the seventeenth century onward.
It is part of the curriculum in modern Japanese high schools, as well as internationally in some International Baccalaureate Diploma Program schools.
The work was written in the zuihitsu ("follow-the-brush") style, a type of stream-of-consciousness writing that allowed the writer's brush to skip from one topic to the next, led only by the direction of thoughts.
Some are brief remarks of only a sentence or two; others recount a story over a few pages, often with discursive personal commentary added.
She lived in Japan for twenty years and is currently a visitng fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra.
'[Essays in Idleness is] a most delightful book, and one that has served as a model of Japanese style and taste since the 17th century.
In 1336, the year that Kenko accomplished the 234 passages of Tsurezuregusa, Ashikaga Takauji founded the Muromachi shogunate and became the first shogun.
In his youth, Kenko became an officer of guards at the Imperial palace.
Late in life he retired from public life, changed his name to Yoshida Kenkō, and became a Buddhist monk and hermit.
The reasons for this are unknown, but it has been conjectured that his transformation was caused by either his unhappy love for the daughter of the prefect of Iga Province, or his mourning over the death of Emperor Go-Uda.