the body of written works produced by Japanese authors in Japanese or, in its earliest beginnings, in the Chinese classical language, since Japan at that time had no written language. Since the two countries did not speak the same language, this made for great difficulty in writing: the Chinese characters were used by early writers in the Japanese language for their phonetic value rather than their meanings, which resulted in complications that makes comprehension by modern readers extremely difficult. The earliest extant Japanese literature dates from the 7th century. Although it is one of the richest and most rewarding literatures in the world, it often has been restricted by style. This is exemplified in such poetic forms as the tanka (short poem) and such devices as the makura-kotoba (pillow word) that resulted in poetry honed so fine as to be beyond reach of the populace, thus restricting the literature to court circles or scholars. Throughout its existence, however, there has never been a dark age when no literature was produced, and when literature did begin to acquire a popular base, appreciation of the classics of court poetry became widespread. The great literary monument of the Nara period (AD 710784) is also the first great milestone of Japanese literature: the Man'yoshu (after 759; Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), a magnificent anthology of poetry. This contained about 4,500 works, including many tanka and 260 choka (long poems) that frequently ended with one or more hanka (envoys). A good number of the works were composed outside the court, by common people who had little access to literature. The Kojiki (712; Records of Ancient Matters) and Nihon-gi, or Nihon shoki (720; Chronicles of Japan), which are the earliest collections of myths in Japan, were also compiled during this time. Mythological themes can be found throughout Japanese literature, but these two collections have been the most influential and remain the subject of much study and debate. While in other cultures mythology developed into literature (most notably in Greece), in Japan the primary purpose of the myths was political. The Kojiki and Nihon-gi were written to give greater authority to the power of the ruling class by tracing back the genealogy of the imperial family to the beginning of the world. During the Heian period (7941185) the first lengthy work of fiction in Japanese literatureand perhaps in the worldUtsubo monogatari (c. 970983; The Tale of the Hollow Tree), was written, but it was crude and uneven in comparison to a somewhat later novel of the period, Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji). Completed by Murasaki Shikibu by about 1010, The Tale of Genji is considered by many to be the finest work in all Japanese literature and perhaps the first important novel written in any language. It embodies the best of the feminine sensitivities that are characteristic of early Japanese literature, deriving from the fact that much of the early poetry was written by ladies of the court. So profound was the influence of the adventures of Prince Genji that derivative works continued to be written for centuries. The supreme accomplishment in the tanka poetry tradition came about 1205, during the Kamakura period (11921333), when Fujiwara Sadaie completed the anthology the Shin kokinshu (The New Kokinshu). By that time the samurai had come to power and established military discipline. Although there were far fewer women writers of distinction, the vigour of the court poets remained undiminishedthe Shin kokinshu exemplified the best poetry of several centuries. Another literary genre of the period was the war story. The Heike monogatari (c. 1220; The Tale of the Heike), the greatest of these works, employed imported Chinese words in order to convey contrasting sounds lacking in Japanese. It is considered to be the foremost classic of the Japanese style. For nearly 250 years in the Tokugawa period (16031867) Japan was virtually isolated from the rest of the world by government decree. While this resulted in a flowering of indigenous forms of literature, it also stultified Japan's literary energies by depriving the Japanese of any of the revitalizing influences of foreign writings. Perhaps the most important development was the emergence of the haiku, an exceedingly brief form of poetry that has continued to be popular. The origin of the haikucomposed of 17 syllables arranged in lines of five, seven, and five syllablesis in the first verse of renga (linked-verse) poetry, which had been popular since the Muromachi period (13381573). Serious haiku poetry was at first opposed by such groups as the Danrin school, which held that rapid and impromptu composition had far more meaning than the polishing of one perfect sequence. Ihara Saikaku, one of the leaders of this latter movement, once composed the extraordinary total of 23,500 verses in a day and a night. The persistence of Matsuo Busho and his disciples, however, established haiku as an accepted poetic form. When Commodore Matthew Perry's fleet opened Japan to the Western world, there was at first little effect on Japanese literature. The writers of gesaku fiction, the playful composition that was typical of the closing years of the Tokugawa period, had brought Japanese literature to its lowest ebb, but it had also brought reading within the reach of a wide population that now became susceptible to influences of foreign translations. These introduced the use of ordinary speech in both poetry and prose, a rarity in Japanese writing. Gradually, Western influences began to infiltrate, bringing entirely new forms as well as methods of self-expression. During the Meiji period (18681912) and in the early 20th century, the novel became the dominant form of prose literature. The end of World War II and the democratization of the country resulted in a new wave of powerful poetry, drama, fiction, and the I novel (shishosetsu), the autobiographic form best exemplified by the writings of Shiga Naoya. Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Kawabata Yasunari (who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968), Abe Kobo, and Oe Kenzaburo produced powerful novels that were translated and were received well in the West. Mishima Yukio, however, was the first Japanese writer to become internationally known and praised; he paved the way for others who have helped give Japanese literature a wider international audience. the body of written works produced by Japanese authors in Japanese or, in its earliest beginnings, at a time when Japan had no written language, in the Chinese classical language. Both in quantity and quality, Japanese literature ranks as one of the major literatures of the world, comparable in age, richness, and volume to English literature, though its course of development has been quite dissimilar. The surviving works comprise a literary tradition extending from the 7th century AD to the present; during all of this time there was never a dark age devoid of literary production. Not only do poetry, the novel, and the drama have long histories in Japan, but some literary genres not so highly esteemed in other countriesincluding diaries, travel accounts, and books of random thoughtsare also prominent. A considerable body of writing by Japanese in the Chinese classical language, of much greater bulk and importance than comparable Latin writings by Englishmen, testifies to the Japanese literary indebtedness to China. Even the writings entirely in Japanese present an extraordinary variety of styles, which cannot be explained merely in terms of the natural evolution of the language. Some styles were patently influenced by the importance of Chinese vocabulary and syntax; but others developed in response to the internal requirements of the various genres, whether the terseness of haiku (a poem in 17 syllables) or the bombast of the dramatic recitation. Additional reading General works Shuichi Kato, A History of Japanese Literature, 3 vol. (197983; originally published in Japanese, 2 vol., 197580), considers Japanese literature as a key to Japanese intellectual history. Jin'ichi Konishi, A History of Japanese Literature, trans. from the Japanese, ed. by Earl Miner (1984 ), gives special attention to relations among the literatures of other countries of Asia. Donald Keene (ed.), Anthology of Japanese Literature to the Nineteenth Century, rev. ed. (1978), offers selections from earliest times, with introductions. A good but brief discussion of Japanese myths is E. Dale Saunders, Japanese Mythology, in Samuel N. Kramer (ed.), Mythologies of the Ancient World (1961). Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite (trans.), The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (1964), gives examples in every form. Robert H. Brower and Earl Miner, Japanese Court Poetry (1961), is an excellent study extending from the earliest period to the 14th century. Burton Watson (trans.), Japanese Literature in Chinese, 2 vol. (197576), provides an excellent selection of poetry and some examples in prose, and his work with Hiroaki Sato (eds. and trans.), From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry (1981), contains poetry of every period. Earl Miner (ed.), Japanese Poetic Diaries (1969, reprinted 1976), contains examples from the Heian period to the 19th century. Early and Nara periods Kojiki (1968), and This Wine of Peace, This Wine of Laughter: A Complete Anthology of Japan's Earliest Songs (1968), are both translations by Donald L. Philippi. The Manyoshu: One Thousand Poems Selected and Translated from the Japanese (1940, reissued 1965), contains an excellent selection from this great anthology; and Ian Hideo Levy, The Ten Thousand Leaves (1981 ), is the first volume of a complete translation. Heian period Ivan Morris, The World of the Shining Prince (1964, reissued 1979), provides the social and historical background for the Heian literary masterpieces. Kyoko Motomochi Nakamura (trans.), Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition: The Nihon Ryoiki of the Monk Kyokai (1973), also contains Buddhist tales from Indian and Chinese sources. Kokinshu is a complete translation by Laurel Rasplica Rodd and Mary Catherine Henkenius (1984). The Gossamer Years, trans. by Edward Seidensticker (1964, reprinted 1973); Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, trans. by Edward Seidensticker (1976, reprinted 1981), and another translation by Arthur Waley (192633); and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, 2 vol. (1967), and As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams (1971), both trans. by Ivan Morris, are all poetic renderings of these classics. The Izumi Shikibu Diary, trans. by Edwin A. Cranston (1969); Murasaki Shikibu, Her Diary and Poetic Memoirs, trans. by Richard Bowring (1982); Tales of Ise, trans. by Helen C. McCullough (1968); and Tales of Yamato, trans. by Mildred M. Tahara (1980), are more literal versions with scholarly introductions. Helen C. McCullough (trans.), Okagami, the Great Mirror (1980), and, with William H. McCullough (trans.), A Tale of Flowering Fortunes: Annals of Japanese Aristocratic Life in the Heian Period (1980), are histories written with an admixture of poetry and fiction. Thomas H. Rohlich (trans.), A Tale of Eleventh Century Japan: Hamamatsu Chunagon Monogatari, is an example of later Heian fiction. Marian Ury (trans.), Tales of Times Now Past (1979), includes 62 stories from the Konjaku monogatari. William R. LaFleur (trans.), Mirror for the Moon (1978), is a collection of free but poetic translations of waka by Saigyo. Middle Ages William R. LaFleur, The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan (1983), provides a general background for the literature of the period. The Tale of the Heike, trans. by Hiroshi Kitagawa and Bruce T. Tsuchida (1975), is a rendering of the classic account of the warfare between the Taira and Minamoto clans. The Taiheiki (1959, reprinted 1976), and Yoshitsune (1966), both trans. by Helen C. McCullough, are accurate versions of war tales in rather old-fashioned language. Donald Keene (trans. and ed.), Essays in Idleness (1967), and Twenty Plays of the No Theatre (1970), are readable though fairly literal; Arthur Waley (trans.), The No Plays of Japan (1922, reissued 1979), gives freer versions of the plays. D.E. Mills (trans.), A Collection of Tales from Uji (1970), is a readable and scholarly study. Karen Brazell (trans.), The Confessions of Lady Nijo (1973), is a diary of exceptional interest. Earl Miner, Japanese Linked Poetry (1979), is a study of renga and haikai poetry with translations. Tokugawa period Donald Keene, World Within Walls (1976, reprinted 1978), is a history of the literature of the period. The several excellent translations of works by Ihara Saikaku include Five Women Who Loved Love, trans. by W. Theodore De Bary (1956, reprinted 1973); The Japanese Family Storehouse, trans. by G.W. Sargent (1959, reprinted 1969); The Life of an Amorous Woman, and Other Writings, trans. by Ivan Morris (1963, reissued 1969); and Worldly Mental Calculations, trans. by Ben Befu (1976). Howard Hibbett, The Floating World in Japanese Fiction (1959, reissued 1975), is a critical study with translations. Makoto Ueda, Matsuo Basho (1970, reissued 1982), contains biographical and critical material on the great haiku poet. Nobuyuki Yuasa (trans.), The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and Other Travel Sketches (1966), contains all of Basho's travel accounts. Earl Miner and Hiroko Odagiri (trans.), The Monkey's Straw Raincoat and Other Poetry of the Basho School (1981), gives examples of the linked verse. Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Major Plays (1961); and Takeda Izumo, Miyoshi Shoraku, and Namiki Senryu, Chushingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (1971), both trans. by Donald Keene; Takeda Izumo et al., Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy, trans. by Stanleigh H. Jones, Jr. (1985); and Mokuami Kawatake, Love of Izayoi and Seishin, trans. by Frank T. Motofuji (1966), are representative plays of the Tokugawa period. Ueda Akinari, Ugetsu Monogatari: Tales of Moonlight and Rain, trans. by Leon Zolbrod (1974), is a collection of stories of the supernatural. Ryokan (1977), and Grass Hill (1983), both trans. by Burton Watson, contain poems by monks. Modern period Donald Keene, Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era, 2 vol. (1984), is a history since 1868. Makoto Ueda, Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature (1976), and Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature (1983), are valuable studies. Masao Miyoshi, Accomplices of Silence: The Modern Japanese Novel (1974, reprinted 1982), is an absorbing study. J. Thomas Rimer, Modern Japanese Fiction and Its Tradition: An Introduction (1978), traces the native elements in modern literature. Donald Keene (ed.), Modern Japanese Literature (1956); Ivan Morris (ed.), Modern Japanese Stories (1961, reissued 1970); Yukio Mishima and Geoffrey Bownas (eds.), New Writing in Japan (1972); and Howard Hibbett (ed.), Contemporary Japanese Literature (1977), are anthologies of modern writing in different genres. Takamichi Ninomiya and D.J. Enright (eds.), The Poetry of Living Japan (1957, reprinted 1979); Ichira Kono and Rikutaro Fukuda (eds. and trans.), An Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry (1957, reprinted 1971); Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumi (eds. and trans.), The Burning Heart: Women Poets of Japan (1977); and Modern Japanese Poetry, trans. by James Kirkup, ed. by A.R. Davis (1978), are representative collections. Janine Beichman, Masoka Shiki (1982); and Masaoka Shiki, Peonies Kana: Haiku by the Upasaka Shiki, trans. and ed. by Harold J. Isaacson (1972), are devoted to the Meiji poet. Amy Vladeck Heinrich, Fragments of Rainbows (1983), is a study of life and poetry of Saito Mokichi. Richard Bowring, Mori Ogai and the Modernization of Japanese Culture (1979); and J. Thomas Rimer, Mori Ogai (1975), are studies of this important writer. Edwin McClellan, Two Japanese Novelists (1969, reissued 1971), discusses major works by Natsume Soseki and Shimazaki Toson. Edward Seidensticker, Kafu the Scribbler (1965), is a biography of Nagai Kafu with translations from his writings. Dennis Keene, Yokomitsu Riichi, Modernist (1980), is a study of the chief figure in the Shinkankaku movement. Modern Japanese Drama, ed. and trans. by Ted T. Takaya (1979), contains plays by five outstanding modern dramatists. Donald Keene History Literature during the Tokugawa period (16031867) The restoration of peace and the unification of Japan were achieved in the early 17th century, and for approximately 250 years the Japanese enjoyed almost uninterrupted peace. During the first half of the Tokugawa period, the cities of Kyoto and Osaka dominated cultural activity; but from about 1770 Edo (the modern Tokyo) became paramount. From the mid-1630s to the early 1850s Japan was closed, by government decree, to contact with the outside world. Initially, this isolation encouraged the development of indigenous forms of literature; but, eventually, in the virtual absence of fertilizing influence from abroad, it resulted in provincial writing. The adoption of printing in the early 17th century made a popular literature possible. The Japanese had known the art of printing since at least the 8th century, but they had reserved it exclusively for reproducing Buddhist writings. The Japanese classics existed only in manuscript form. It is possible that the demand for copies of literary works was so small that it could be satisfied with manuscripts, costly though they were; or perhaps aesthetic considerations made the Japanese prefer manuscripts in beautiful calligraphy, sometimes embellished with illustrations. Whatever the case, not until 1591 was a nonreligious work printed. About the same time, Portuguese missionaries in Nagasaki were printing books in the Roman alphabet. In 1593, in the wake of the Japanese invasion of Korea, a printing press with movable type was sent as a present to the emperor Go-Yozei. Printing soon developed into the hobby or extravagance of the rich, and many examples of Japanese literature began to appear in small editions. Commercial publication began in 1609; by the 1620s even works of slight literary value were being printed for a public eager for new books. Early Tokugawa period (1603c. 1770) Poetry underwent many changes during the early part of the Tokugawa period. At first the court poets jealously maintained their monopoly over the tanka, but gradually other men, many of them kokugakusha (scholars of national learning), changed the course of tanka composition by attempting to restore to the form the simple strength of Man'yoshu poetry. The early 18th-century poet Kamo Mabuchi was the best of the neo-Man'yoshu school, but his tanka rarely rise above mere competence in the ancient language. The chief development in poetry during the Tokugawa shogunate was the emergence of the haiku as an important genre. This exceedingly brief form (17 syllables arranged in lines of five, seven, and five syllables) had originated in the hokku, or opening verse of a renga sequence, which had to contain in its three lines mention of the season, the time of day, the dominant features of the landscape, etc., making it almost an independent poem. The hokku became known as the haiku late in the 19th century, when it was entirely divested of its original function of opening a sequence of verse; but today even the 17th-century hokku are usually called haiku. As early as the 16th century haikai renga, or comic renga, had been composed by way of diversion after an evening of serious renga composition, reverting to the original social, rather than literary, purpose of making linked verse. As so often happened in Japan, however, a new art, born as a reaction to the stultifying practices of an older art, was discovered, codified, and made respectable by practitioners of the older art, generally at the cost of its freshness and vitality. Matsunaga Teitoku, a conventional 17th-century poet of tanka and renga who revered the old traditions, became almost in spite of himself the mentor of the new movement in comic verse, largely as the result of pressure from his eager disciples. Teitoku brought dignity to the comic renga and made it a demanding medium, rather than the quip of a moment. His haikai were distinguishable from serious renga not by their comic conception but by the presence of a haigona word of Chinese or recent origins that was normally not tolerated in classical verse. Inevitably, a reaction arose against Teitoku's formalism. The poets of the Danrin school, headed by Nishiyama Soin and Ihara Saikaku, insisted that it was pointless to waste months if not years perfecting a sequence of 100 verses. Their ideal was rapid and impromptu composition; and their verses, generally colloquial in diction, were intended to amuse for a moment rather than to last for all time. Saikaku especially excelled at one-man composition of extended sequences; in 1684 he composed the incredible total of 23,500 verses in a single day and night, too fast for the scribes to do more than tally. The haiku was perfected into a form capable of conveying poetry of the highest quality by Matsuo Basho. After passing through an apprenticeship in both Teitoku and Danrin schools, Basho founded a school of his own, insisting that a haiku must contain both a perception of some eternal truth and an element of contemporaneity, combining the characteristic features of the two earlier schools. Despite their brief compass, Basho's haiku often suggest, by means of the few essential elements he presents, the whole world from which they have been extracted; the reader must participate in the creation of the poem. Bash o's best known works are travel accounts interspersed with his verses; of these, Oku no hosomichi (1694; The Narrow Road Through the Deep North) is perhaps the most popular and revered work of Tokugawa literature. The general name for the prose composed between 1600 and 1682 is kana-zoshi, or kana books, the name originally having been used to distinguish popular writings in the Japanese syllabary from more learned works in Chinese. The genre embraced not only fiction but also works of a near historical nature, pious tracts, books of practical information, guidebooks, evaluations of courtesans and actors, and miscellaneous essays. Only one writer of any distinction is associated with the kana-zoshiAsai Ryoi, a samurai who became the first popular and professional writer in Japanese history. Thanks to the development of relatively cheap methods of printing and a marked increase in the reading public, Ryoi was able to make a living as a writer. Although some of his works are Buddhist, he wrote in a simple style, mainly in kana. His most famous novel, Ukiyo monogatari (c. 1661; Tales of the Floating World), is primitive both in technique and in plot; but under his mask of frivolity Ryoi attempted to treat the hardships of a society where the officially proclaimed Confucian philosophy concealed the gross inequalities in the lots of different men. The first important novelist of the new era was Ihara Saikaku. Some Japanese critics rank him second only to Murasaki Shikibu in all Japanese literature, and his works have been edited with the care accorded only to great classics. Such attention would surely have surprised Saikaku, whose fiction was dashed off almost as rapidly as his legendary performances of comic renga, with little concern for the judgments of posterity. Saikaku's first novel, Koshoku ichidai otoko (1682; The Life of an Amorous Man), changed the course of Japanese fiction. The title itself had strong erotic overtones, and the plot describes the adventures of one man, from his precocious essays at lovemaking as a child of seven to his decision at the age of 60 to sail to an island populated only by women. The licensed quarters of prostitution established in various Japanese cities by the Tokugawa government (despite its professions of Confucian morality), in order to help control unruly samurai by dissipating their energies, became a centre of the new culture. Expertise in the customs of the brothels was judged the mark of the man of the world. The old term ukiyo, which had formerly meant the sad world of Buddhist stories, now came to designate its homonym, the floating world of pleasure; this was the chosen world of Saikaku's hero, Yonosuke, who became the emblematic figure of the era. Saikaku's masterpiece, Koshoku gonin onna (1686; Five Women Who Loved Love), described the loves of women of the merchant class, rather than prostitutes; this was the first time that women of this class were given such attention. In other works he described, sometimes with humour but sometimes with bitterness, the struggles of merchants to make fortunes. His combination of a glittering style and warm sympathy for the characters lifted his tales from the borders of pornography to high art. Saikaku was a central figure in the renaissance of literature of the late 17th century. The name Genroku (an era name designating the period 16881703) is often used of the characteristic artistic products: the Ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world); the ukiyo-zoshi, (tales of the floating world); the Kabuki and joruri, or puppet theatres; and haiku poetry. Unlike its antecedents, this culture prized modernity above conformity to the ancient traditions; to be abreast of the floating world was to be up-to-date, sharing in the latest fashions and slang, delighting in the moment rather than in the eternal truths of No plays of medieval poetry. Another, darker side to Genroku culture is depicted in Saikaku's late works, with their descriptions of the desperate expedients to which men turned in order to pay their bills. Saikaku seldom showed much sympathy for the prostitutes he described; but the chief dramatist of the time, Chikamatsu Monzaemon, wrote his best plays about unhappy women, driven by poverty into their lives as prostitutes, whose only release from the sordid world in which they were condemned to dwell came when they joined their lovers in double suicides. In the world of merchants treated by Chikamatsu, a lack of money, rather than the cosmic griefs of the No plays, drove men to death with the prostitutes they loved but could not afford to buy. Chikamatsu wrote most of his plays for the puppet theatre, which, in the 18th century, enjoyed even greater popularity than Kabuki. His plays fell into two main categories: those based, however loosely, on historical facts or legends, and those dealing with contemporary life. The domestic plays are rated much higher critically because they avoid the bombast and fantastic displays of heroism that mark the historical dramas; but the latter, adapted for the Kabuki theatre, are superb acting vehicles. The mainstays of the puppet theatre were written not by Chikamatsu but by his successors; his plays, despite their literary superiority, failed to satisfy the audiences' craving for displays of puppet techniques and for extreme representations of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and other virtues of the society. The most popular puppet play (later adapted also for the Kabuki actors) was Chushingura (1748; The Treasury of Loyal Retainers; Eng. trans., Chushingura) by Takeda Izumo and his collaborators; the same men were responsible for half a dozen other perennial favourites of the Japanese stage. The last great 18th-century writer of puppet plays, Chikamatsu Hanji, was a master of highly dramatic, if implausible, plots. History Origins The first writing of literature in Japanese was occasioned by influence from China. The Japanese were still comparatively primitive and without writing when, in the first four centuries AD, knowledge of Chinese civilization gradually reached them. They rapidly assimilated much of this civilization, and the Japanese scribes adopted Chinese characters as a system of writing, although an alphabet (if one had been available to them) would have been infinitely better suited to the Japanese language. The characters, first devised to represent Chinese monosyllables, could be used only with great ingenuity to represent the agglutinative forms of the Japanese language. The ultimate results were chaotic, giving rise to one of the most complicated systems of writing ever invented. The use of Chinese characters enormously influenced modes of expression and led to an association between literary composition and calligraphy lasting many centuries. Early writings The earliest Japanese texts were written in Chinese because no system of transcribing the sounds and grammatical forms of Japanese had been invented. The oldest known inscription, on a sword that dates from about AD 440, already showed some modification of normal Chinese usage in order to transcribe Japanese names and expressions. The most accurate way of writing Japanese words was by using Chinese characters not for their meanings but for their phonetic values, giving each character a pronunciation approximating that used by the Chinese themselves. In the oldest extant works, the Kojiki (712; Records of Ancient Matters) and Nihon shoki, or Nihon-gi (720; Chronicles of Japan), more than 120 songs, some perhaps dating back to the 5th century AD, are given in phonetic transcription, doubtless because the Japanese attached great importance to the sounds themselves. In these two works, both officially commissioned histories of Japan, many sections are written entirely in Chinese; but parts of the Kojiki were composed in a complicated mixture of language that made use of the Chinese characters sometimes for their meaning and sometimes for their sound. History Classical literature: Heian period (7941185) The foundation of the city of Heian-kyo (later known as Kyoto) as the capital of Japan marked the beginning of a period of great literary brilliance. The earliest writings of the period, however, were almost all in Chinese because of the continued desire to emulate the culture of the continent. Three Imperially sponsored anthologies of Chinese poetry appeared between 814 and 827, and it seemed for a time that writing in Japanese would be relegated to an extremely minor position. The most distinguished writer of Chinese verse, the 9th-century poet Sugawara Michizane, gave a final lustre to this period of Chinese learning by his erudition and poetic gifts; but his refusal to go to China when offered the post of ambassador, on the grounds that China no longer had anything to teach Japan, marked a turning point in the response to Chinese influence. Poetry The invention of the kana phonetic syllabary, traditionally attributed to the 9th-century Shingon priest and Sanskrit scholar Kukai, enormously facilitated writing in Japanese. Private collections of poetry in kana began to be compiled about 880; and in 905 the Kokinshu (Collection from Ancient and Modern Times), the first major work of kana literature, was compiled by the poet Ki Tsurayuki and others. This anthology contains 1,111 poems divided into 20 books arranged by topics, including six books of seasonal poems, five books of love poems, and single books devoted to such subjects as travel, mourning, and congratulations. The two prefaces are clearly indebted to the theories of poetry described by the compilers of such Chinese anthologies as the Shih Ching and Wen hsan, but the preferences they express would be shared by most tanka poets for the next 1,000 years. The preface by Tsurayuki, the oldest work of sustained prose in kana, enumerated the circumstances that move men to write poetry; he believed that melancholy, whether aroused by a change in the seasons or by a glimpse of white hairs reflected in a mirror, provided a more congenial mood for writing poetry than the harsher emotions treated in the Man'yoshu. The best tanka in the Kokinshu captivate the reader by their perceptivity and tonal beauty, but these flawlessly turned miniatures obviously lack the variety of the Man'yoshu. Skill in composing tanka became an asset in gaining preference at court; it was also essential to a lover, whose messages to his mistress (who presumably could not read Chinese, still the language employed by men in official documents) often consisted of poems describing his own emotions or begging her favours. In this period the tanka almost completely ousted the choka because the shorter poems were more suited to the lover's billet-doux or to competitions on prescribed themes. For the poets of the Kokinshu and the later court anthologies, originality was less desirable than perfection of language and tone. The critics, far from praising novelty of effects, condemned deviations from the standard poetic diction (established by the Kokinshu) of some 2,000 words and insisted on absolute adherence to the poetic conventions. Although these restrictions saved Japanese poetry from lapses into bad taste or vulgarity, they froze it for centuries in prescribed modes of expression. Only a skilled critic can distinguish a tanka of the 10th century from one of the 18th century. The Kokinshu set the precedent for later court anthologies, and a knowledge of its contents was indispensable to all poets as a guide and source of literary allusions. Love poetry occupies a prominent place in the Kokin-shu, but the joys of love are seldom celebrated; instead, the poets wrote in the melancholy vein prescribed in the preface, describing the uncertainties before a meeting with the beloved, the pain of parting, or the sad realization that an affair had ended. The invariable perfection of diction, unmarred by any indecorous cry from the heart, may sometimes make one doubt the poet's sincerity. This is not true of the great Kokinshu poets of the 9th centuryOno Komachi, Lady Ise, Ariwara Narihira, and Tsurayuki himselfbut even Buddhist priests, who presumably had renounced carnal love, wrote love poetry at the court competitions; and it is hard to detect any difference between such poems and those of sincere lovers. The preface of the Kokinshu lists judgments on the principal poets of the collection. This criticism is unsatisfying to a modern reader because it is so terse and unanalytical; but it nevertheless marks a beginning of Japanese poetic criticism, an art that developed impressively during the course of the Heian period. History Modern literature Even after the arrival of Commodore Perry's fleet in 1853 and the gradual opening of the country to the West and its influence, there was little noticeable effect on Japanese literature. The long closure of the country and the general sameness of Tokugawa society for decades at a time seems to have atrophied the imaginations of the gesaku writers. Even the presence of curiously garbed foreigners, which should have provoked some sort of reaction from authors searching for new materials, at first produced little effect. The gesaku writers were oblivious to the changes in Japanese society, and they continued to grind out minor variants on the same hackneyed themes of the preceding 200 years. It was only after the removal in 1868 of the capital to Edo (renamed Tokyo) and the declaration of the emperor Meiji that he would seek knowledge from the entire world that the gesaku writers realized their days of influence were numbered. They soon fell under attack from their old enemies, the Confucian denouncers of immoral books, and also from advocates of the new Western learning. Although the gesaku writers responded with satirical pieces and traditional Japanese fiction deriding the new learning, they were helpless to resist the changes transforming the entire society. Introduction of Western literature Translations from European languages of nonliterary works began to appear soon after the Meiji Restoration. The most famous example was the translation (1870) of Samuel Smiles's Self-Help; it became a kind of bible for ambitious young Japanese eager to emulate Western examples of success. The first important translation of a European novel was Ernest Maltravers, by the British novelist Lord Bulwer-Lytton, which appeared in 1879 under the title Karyu shunwa (A Spring Tale of Blossoms and Willows). The early translations were inaccurate, and the translators unceremoniously deleted any passages they could not understand readily or which they feared might be unintelligible to Japanese readers. They also felt obliged to reassure readers that, despite the foreign names of the characters, the emotions they felt were exactly the same as those of a Japanese. It did not take long, however, for the translators to discover that European literature possessed qualities unknown in the Japanese writings of the past. The literary scholar Tsubouchi Shoyo was led by his readings in European fiction and criticism to reject didacticism as a legitimate purpose of fiction; he insisted instead on its artistic values. His critical essay Shosetsu shinzui (1885; The Essence of the Novel) greatly influenced the writing of subsequent fiction not only because of its emphasis on realism as opposed to didacticism but because Tsubouchi, a member of the samurai class, expressed the conviction that novels, hitherto despised by the intellectuals as mere entertainments for women and children, were worthy of even a scholar's attention. Ukigumo (188789; Floating Cloud; Eng. trans., Japan's First Modern Novel), by Futabatei Shimei, was the first modern Japanese novel. The author was familiar with Russian literature and contemporary Western literary criticism. Futabatei wrote Ukigumo in the colloquial, apparently because his readings in Russian literature had convinced him that only the colloquial could suitably be used when describing the writer's own society. Despite Futabatei's success with this experiment, most Japanese writers continued to employ the literary language until the end of the century. This was due, no doubt, to their reluctance to give up the rich heritage of traditional expression in favour of the unadorned modern tongue.
Meaning of JAPANESE LITERATURE in English
Britannica English vocabulary. Английский словарь Британика. 2012