Oku no Hosomichi and Tosa Nikki, An Example of Nikki Bungaku

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Written six hundred and fifty years apart from each other, Matsuo Basho’s Oku no Hosomichi and Ki no Tsurayuki’s Tosa Nikki are both examples of nikki bungaku or “diary literature.” Both of these travel diaries reflect the ideas and values of their respective time periods.

Tosa Nikki or the Tosa Diary was written in AD 936 by Ki no Tsurayuki. Told from a woman’s point of view, it chronicles the journey from Tosa on the island of Shikoku to the capital of Kyoto in Honshu. Previous to this, men wrote diaries chronicling their political duties and the entries were written in classical Chinese characters. Disguising himself as a woman, Tsurayuki broke tradition and wrote Tosa Nikki in kana and wrote about the daily happenings of the journey back to the capital. This was the first of its kinda. Tosa Nikki influenced the future of the nikki genre as, later on, ladies of the court would write about daily happenings of court life or gossip about the other women.

Written by Matsuo Basho in 1686, Oku no Hosomichi chronicles Basho’s journey from Edo through the Tohoku region. Despite being descended from a low-ranking samurai family, Basho became a wandering monk, writing several anthologies of haikai poetry. The aim of his journey seems to be to be able to visit the places that authors of old referenced as utamakura in their poetry and prose.

There are several main differences between Tosa Nikki and Oku no Hosomichi. Unlike Tosa Nikki, which was told from a woman’s perspective, Oku no Hosomichi is told from Basho’s, a man’s, point of view. Secondly, Tsurayuki was a court official while Basho was a travelling monk. Both authors travelled in a northward direction, but Tsurayuki went by boat while Basho went on his journ...

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...that tell the tale of a traveler’s journey. In addition, they utilize one form of literature to try to bring recognition to the other form. Interestingly, Tsurayuki used poetry to elevate nikki and Basho used nikki to elevate poetry.

Works Cited

Keene, Donald, ed. “Tosa Diary.” Anthology of Japanese Literature. Grove Press. New York. 1955.

Matsuo, Basho. Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Mohr, Michel. Religion 204 lecture. 24 February, 2011.

“Biography of Matsuo Basho.” Matsuo Basho. Accessed 19 April 2011.

“Hina Matsuri.” Explore Japan. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. . Accessed 19 April 2011.

“Tosa Nikki.” . Accessed 19 April 2011.

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