Essay on Tosa Nikki and Oku no Hoso Michi: Japanese Literature

Essay on Tosa Nikki and Oku no Hoso Michi: Japanese Literature

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With many forms of literary work, there is bound to be similarities among them. The Japanese in particular are no exception. For example, they honor past literary works by commissioning literary pieces in their name. To the Japanese, imitation is regarded as a form of flattery. In particular, it is no surprise that Matsuo Basho’s traveling diary, Oku no Hoso Michi, shows any resemblance to Ki no Tsurayuki’s Tosa Nikki.
Unlike any other works of its time, Tosa Nikki is a fictional travel diary written by Ki no Tsurayuki’s point of view as a woman. At the beginning of the diary, he clearly states he is a woman, as “diaries are things written by men.” However, through Tsurayuki’s notes, people were able to deduct his actual gender. This is somewhat groundbreaking in Japanese literature at the time as he is not only one of the first to do this, but one of the first great pieces to be written in kana prose, a writing system that was created by the Japanese based off of Chinese kanji. Between Tsurayuki and Basho’s time, about six centuries have passed. By then, kana has become more of a commodity in Japan. It is actually Basho who writes differently from others of his time.
As one of the first known literary diaries, Tosa Nikki retells of events day by day. It is easy for readers to follow along, as events are linear. Events in diaries such as Kagero Nikki and Murasakishikibu Nikki are not as easy to follow along as diaries evolved over time to be more of a personal collection of thoughts and memories than a literal recollection of events. Unlike Tsurayuki, Basho approaches Oku no Hoso Michi as a diary than a journal; however, his thoughts are easy to follow as he recalls dates and his location throughout the diary.
Coincidenta...


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...e very literal. There are no words for interpretation nor poems by Tsurayuki’s character herself. Oku no Hoso Michi is without a doubt an evolved version of the Tosa Nikki.
Tosa Nikki and Oku no Hoso Michi may be centuries apart in age, however, there are a number of similarities between these literary works. Matsuo Basho set out to see the beauty of Japan that he had read about and makes a plethora of references to other literates such as Saigyo. Although Basho makes little to no reference to Ki no Tsurayuki throughout his journey, I do not think it was necessary to do so. Imitation, by Japanese standards, is one of the finest ways to show appreciation.



Works Cited

Keene, Donald. Anthology of Japanese Literature, from the Earliest Era to the Mid- nineteenth Century. New York: Grove, 1955. Print
Class handouts from Laulima¬¬
Oku no Hoso Michi on Laulima

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