Tosa Nikki as an Instruction Manual Essay

Tosa Nikki as an Instruction Manual Essay

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The Tosa nikki, or The Tosa Diary as it is referred to in English, was the first diary of literary value. The Tosa nikki was composed in kana by Ki no Tsurayuki, who was a government official and well respected poet. During the Heian period, the proper convention was for men to compose their works in Chinese, as this practice was considered more masculine and elegant. Kana was used mainly by women, so it was considered more feminine, and was less valued than Chinese. Ki no Tsurayuki wrote under the guise of a woman when composing the Tosa nikki in order to avoid criticism for writing in kana, although it was still obvious that he had written it due to the masculinity of the jokes that appeared throughout the diary.
The Tosa nikki outlined the return journey of the ex-governor of Tosa back to the capital (Kyoto). Ki no Tsurayuki wrote from the point-of-view of one of the women in the return party. During their journey, they traveled easterly by ship along the coast. The party was not familiar enough with the geography of the area to sail directly to Kyoto, and all they were sure of was that Kyoto was to the east, so they stayed within sight of the shore so as to not get lost. Another reason for staying close to the shore was so that they could wait out bad weather on shore and set sail again when conditions improved. They met with much bad weather during their journey.
Perhaps the most important function of the Tosa nikki was its role as an instruction manual of sorts. Of course, the diary was not formatted like any contemporary instruction manual that we would use in our time; the instructions were tucked away in constant examples that occurred throughout the writing. These examples showed people how to behave in ...


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...frailty of people and the ease in which they could die prematurely, people were truly fascinated by the concept of longevity. They observed the pine trees in awe, because the trees existed for so long, and the people wondered what it might be like to be like a pine tree and not have to worry about grievous farewells. This fascination goes hand in hand with their reflection on the brevity of life.
The Tosa nikki served as a great example on how to compose poetry about farewells, longing, grieving, the pathos of things, life, and longevity. The diary also painted a picture of how elegance was so important, and that this quality should be maintained under any and all circumstances—even the possibility of imminent death. This collection of examples can be viewed as an instruction manual and demonstrates the level of sophistication that courtiers should achieve.


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