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What does basho means? Basho is a place.

The Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters). Completed in the year 712, The Kojiki is the oldest existing record of Japanese history, and is a text that is vital to any discussion of ancient Japanese history. Even if it were merely a historical record, the value of The Kojiki is unquestionable, as it also is a collection of a large amount of Japanese mythology. The Kojiki begins during the period known as Kamiyo (The Age of the Gods), starting with the Japanese creation myth. Other myths include: Izanagi and Izanamis creation of the islands of Japan and the myriad deities that populated the heavens and this world, Izanagis journey to Yomi-no-kuni (the Underworld) in an attempt to bring back Izanami after her death, Susano-os battle against the eight-headed eight-tailed serpent Yamata-no-Orochi, the adventures of Okuninushi as he rose to become the deity charged with turning the land of Japan into a true nation, and the descent of Ninigi (grandson of the sun deity Amaterasu), who came from the heavens to rule Japan. These myths share similarities with mythology from around the world, particularly well-known tales from Greek mythology, and this provides an added layer of interest to them. The exploits of the gods included in The Kojiki lead to a record of the lineage of the Imperial Family up to Empress Suiko (593 628 AD), and events that happened during each emperors reign. In doing this, The Kojiki traces a path from mythology into historical record, and while it is difficult to say at which point the stories pass from myth and legend into historical fact, this blend of stories gives the reader many different windows into Japanese history and culture.

Fudoki is a general title given to a set of documents compiled in the Nara period according to a specific form and compositiona gazetteer composed of publicly reported documents. The title was likely modeled after the titles Chinese works like Zhou chu feng tu ji or Ji zhou feng tu ji, but the title fudoki does not appear in any work until Iken fji (914) by Miyoshi Kiyotsura in the Heian period. Originally it had been believed, according to the first page of the extant manuscript of Hitachi fudoki, that these gazetteers were official surveys (which is addressed later), and had no specific title. Also, like their predecessors in China, the majority of Japanese Fudoki have been lost, and what is known about these comes from a few

surviving manuscripts, and scattered quotes in poetic treatises and commentaries from the medieval era. Of the five surviving Fudoki, only Izumo fudoki is a complete manuscript, because the other four, Harima, Hitachi, Bungo, and Hizen survive down to the present in incomplete, abbreviated, or disorganized manuscripts. Furthermore, the only manuscript that dates from the Heian period is the Sanjnishike manuscript of Harima fudoki.

Nihon shoki, also called Nihon-gi, (Japanese: Chronicles of Japan), text that, together with the Kojiki, comprises the oldest official history of Japan, covering the period from its mythical origins to


The Nihon shoki, written in Chinese, reflects the influence of Chinese civilization on Japan. It was compiled in 720 by order of the imperial court to give the newly Sinicized court a history that could be compared with the annals of the Chinese. It was the first of six officially compiled chronicles that were continued to 887 by imperial command. The Nihon shoki consists of 30 chapters. The first part deals with many myths and legends of ancient Japan and is an important source for Shint thought. The later chapters, for the period from about the 5th century on, are historically more accurate and contain records of several of the politically powerful clans as well as of the imperial family. Among the events described are the introduction of Buddhism and the Taika reforms of the 7th century.


Concentrated efforts by the imperial court to record and document its history produced the first works of Japanese literature during the Nara period. Works such as Kojiki ( ) and Nihonshoki () were political in nature, used to record and therefore justify and establish the supremacy of the rule of the emperors within Japan itself and to China and Korea.

With the spread of written language, Japanese poetry, known in Japanese as waka, started to be written. Over time, personal collections were referenced to establish the first large collection of Japanese poetry known as Man'yoshu () sometime after 759. Chinese characters were used to express sounds of Japanese until Kana was invented. The Chinese characters used to express the sounds of Japanese are known as man'ygana.

Man'ysh ( man'ysh?, "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves") is the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry, compiled sometime after 759 AD during the Nara period. The anthology is one of the most revered of Japan's poetic compilations. The compiler, or the last in a series of compilers, is believed to be tomo no Yakamochi. The collection contains poems ranging from AD 347 (poems #85-89) through 759 (#4516), the bulk of them representing the period after 600. The precise significance of the title is not known with certainty.

The collection is divided into twenty parts or books; this number was followed in most later collections. The collection contains 265 chka (long poems), 4,207 tanka(short poems), one tanrenga (short connecting poem), one bussokusekika (poems on the Buddha's footprints at Yakushi-ji in Nara), four kanshi (Chinese poems), and 22 Chinese prose passages. Unlike later collections, such as the Kokin Wakash,there is no preface.


The addition of two phonetic syllabaries ( katakana and hiragana ) during the Heian era (7941185) opened the classic age, in which Japanese literature reached its first peak of development. Classical Chinese still predominated in intellectual literary circles and official court communications, yet literature in the native language, the only written medium permitted to educated women, gained increasing prestige. In his travel journal Tosa Nikki Tosa diary (936), the poet Ki no Tsurayuki assumed a female persona in order to write in Japanese.

Much Heian literature of note was written by aristocratic women, foremost among whom was Murasaki Shikibu (Lady Murasaki). Her Genji monogatari, Tale of Genji (early 11th cent.) is ranked with the world's greatest novels. Sei Shonagon, another contemporary court lady, wrote Makura no soshi [the pillow book], a compilation of miscellaneous notes and reflections that provides an excellent portrait of Heian aristocratic life, with its emphasis on elegancealways an important element of the Japanese aesthetic. Ki no Tsurayuki was the leading spirit in the compilation of the Kokinwakashu [collection of ancient and modern verse], the first imperial anthology of Japanese poetry. This collection, which established the model for 21 subsequent imperial anthologies, contained some 1,100 poems organized by topic, written in the tanka form of 31 syllables. The Japanese have always esteemed poetry as the highest of literary arts, and poets regarded inclusion in a poetry anthology as a supreme honor.


Otogi-zoshi, short prose fiction popular among a range of social classes, anticipated the broadening social base of literature that developed with the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603, when almost total cultural and physical isolation from other countries created economic conditions that led to a thriving culture of the bourgeoisie. Early Edo prose literature encompassed a diverse range of subjects: didactic tracts, travel guides, essays, satires, and picaresque fiction. Ihara Saikaku was the foremost master of this last form; his novel Koshoku ichidai onna [the life of an amorous woman] is an ironic look at a world of pleasure and eroticism. The literary tastes of the bourgeoisie also contributed to the development of the kabuki and puppet ( joruri ; also known as bunraku ) theaters. Plays by dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon (16531724), originally written for the puppet theater but adapted into kabuki performance as well, are important in world literature as the first mature tragedies written about the common man. Matsuo Basho, regarded as the greatest of haiku poets, brought the developing haiku, a 17-syllable poem, into full flower. Yosa Buson (171681) and Kobayashi Issa (17631828) were also important haiku poets. Later Edo fiction,

called gesaku, was mostly comic or satirical in nature, although it also included long Confucian didactic tales.

Patricia S. Lorica CED-02-401P Mr. Rico Bien Oxales Professor