Kiko Writing: Oku no Hosomichi and Tosa Nikki

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In 936, Ki no Tsurayuki completed the Tosa Nikki, a work of prose written from a female attendant’s perspective that detailed his return to the capital from the Tosa Province. Although Tosa Nikki is the first “diary” of literary value that contributed to the development of nikki bungaku, the tradition of intimate diary-writing that became prominent among woman, Tsurayuki’s work is actually more of a journal (kikō) modeled after Chinese court diaries. In 1694, over 700 years later, this practice of record-keeping during one’s travels was still being perpetuated by another celebrated writer, Matsuo Bashō, in his Oku no Hosomichi, in which he recalls his epic journey into Japan’s deep North. Coming from two separate periods, these journals contain vast differences that reflect the changes of the times.

One thing that seems to have remained constant in Japanese literature even over the span of centuries is the presence of poetry. Both works employ the use of many poems throughout, Tosa Nikki recording the poems written or recited spontaneously by other travelers (but usually not her own) and Oku no Hosomichi containing poems written by Bashō himself and his disciples whenever struck with a beautiful scene in nature or encountering some memorable moment. However, the nature of the poems included is quite different.

Tosa Nikki uses traditional waka, although as much of it comes from common-folk, sailors, and even children, which is rather uncommon in the courtly Heian period. Bashō however, includes a newer type of poetry that he was famous for—haiku. Haiku comes from the first 5-7-5 lines of haikai no renga, a crude and comical variation of linked verse poetry. Naturally, coming from these roots, some of the haiku Bashō wrote in O...

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...path continues as one makes choices about what he or she will do with their life. The path does not necessarily need to lead to higher morality or enlightenment, because the experiences one encounters while following their own michi are more valuable and could bring out those things on their own.

Two different journeys, two very unique men who traveled them and carried with them their own perspectives and principles on life. This makes for two different but equally inspiring kikō that people are still reading hundreds of years later.

Works Cited

Sargent, G. W. (Tr.) (1955). Tosa diary. In D. Keene (Ed.), Anthology of Japanese literature

from the earliest era to the mid-nineteenth century. New York: Grove Press, Inc.

Yuasa, Nobuyuki. (Tr.) (1966) Matsuo Bashō: The narrow road to the deep north and other travel

Sketches. London: Penguin Group.
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