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For whom was the Kojiki made? —Getting to know the formation of the Kojiki

Exploring the Kojiki

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Prof. Masahiro Taniguchi

Updated on Aug 24 2018

 Japan’s oldest book, the Kojiki. It dramatically illustrates the history of Japan from the beginning of the world, the appearance of the deities, to the Imperial succession. Behind each impressive episode, there exist numerous “mysteries” that are yet to be solved even today. By exploring each, we will think about the origin of Japanese beliefs and culture.

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Statue of Okuni-Nushi-no-Mikoto of the Izumo-shrine ~ He was given the responsibility from the world of the deities to build Japan.

 

 The creation and formation of the Kojiki

 The Kojiki is the oldest extant book in Japan. It consists of a foreword and three volumes, writing about the beginning of the world, the appearance of the deities, and the emperors’ successions to the throne.

In the foreword, the creation and formation of the Kojiki is written. According to it, the composition of the Kojiki began with the Emperor Tenmu (reigned 673-686) and was finished by Oo-no-Yasumaro (? -723) during the reign of Emperor Genmei (reigned 707-715) about 30 years later.

 

Differences between the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki

 For what reasons was the Kojiki made? Let’s compare it with the history book the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), which was created at around the same time.

 The Nihon Shoki was written during a movement to create an authentic history of Japan, following the Chinese style. Therefore, it is written in chronogical order and in the Chinese writing style, intended to be read in China as well. It is recorded that reading sessions of the work were held in the Imperial Court from the year following its creation, which suggests that it had been read by officials in the central government for study purposes.

 

For whom was the Kojiki made?

  How about the Kojiki? The Kojiki, on the other hand, was written for domestic readers in a modified Chinese style so as to record archaic Japanese words. As for its contents, it is the same as the Nihon Shoki in writing about the world of the deities and the events during each emperor’s reign. However, the deities and the people depicted in the Kojiki are described more vividly, and each episode is recounted dramatically. Therefore, there is a view that it was made for the entertainment of the empress, or for the princes’ education. It is said that the reason it does not appear to have been read widely after its completion is that it was a private record for the Imperial Court. On the other hand, based on its devotion to the writing of family lineages, it is believed that it was made to specify the relationship between the emperor and the many clans, and thus establish a national system with the emperor at the top.

  In any case, compared with the Nihon Shoki, which is considered the official history, there are many mysteries surrounding the Kojiki, such as the reasons for its creation and characteristic features. On the other hand, this is what fascinates people, which no doubt explains why it was handed down from one generation to the next.

-Kokugakuin University has been selected “as a place for the promotion of the study of the Kojiki” by the private university branding project of the Ministry of Education in 2016.-

 

 

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published in The Japan News on 20/8/2018

 

Masahiro TANIGUCHI

Research

Japanese literature of ancient times (Kojiki, Nihon-shoki, Man'yōshū, topography)

Papers

Tatenui County and Mount Kannabi in Izumonokuni-fudo-ki : Reading What the Genius Says(Reading)(2009//)

The Songs Prophetic of Treason : The Episode of the Takehaniyasu Rebellion(<Special Issue>Rumors in Ancient Literature)(2007//)

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