Oku no Hosomichi and Tosa Nikki, Reflection of Their Time Period

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Tosa Nikki is a diary likely written by Ki no Tsurayuki in the year 936 during the Heian period. Oku no Hosomichi is a diary written by Matsuo Bashō during the late 17th century. These two diaries have many similarities and differences that stem from the different time periods they were written in, as well as the difference in styles of the authors. The poetry in the two diaries have vast differences yet they reflect the time period very well.

Tosa Nikki has many aspects that distinguish it from other Japanese diaries. First of all, Tosa Nikki has specific dates, without years because they don’t matter, that show it was being kept as a log. This breaks up the journal and in some sense, gives it the feel of reading a government record. The day to day logging in the journal in some areas seems more of a chore than a yearning to write. For example, one excerpt reads, “Tenth day: Today we remain at this harbor of Naha.” Because that is the extent of what is written, it gives me the feeling that part of writing the journal was an obligation.

Aside from the day to day logging, the style of Tosa Nikki was very Heian. The poetry throughout this journal is written very eloquently, sticking to the style of the time period. The transitions between the journal logs and the poetry are so perfect that it almost certainly is fabricated. For a journal that began very meticulously, dramatic descriptions of the travels later on led it to read more like a fantastical story. This was most apparent to me during the description of the rough seas on the fifth day.

After tossing paper symbols into the ocean to calm the wind and waves, the wind only grew stronger. However, after tossing in the master’s mirror, the God Sumiyoshi was pl...

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...in. When spring comes to the ruined castle, the grass is green again.” I think the similarity in describing the passing of time this way shows how certain elements of language and styles are timeless.

The two diaries are similar and different in various ways ranging from the particular influence of the time period, the difference in personal styles, and to the differences in poetic prose. They were both travel journals written over 700 years apart from one another. The poetry in both journals reflected the poetry which was popular at the time the journals were written. I personally feel that Oku no Hosomichi is a much more enjoyable read because I can completely relate to many of the feelings that Bashō is trying to convey in the beginning of the journal.

Works Cited

Keene, D. (1955). Anthology of Japanese Literature . New York: Grove Press.

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