Facts of Japan - Poetry

It was during the Tang Dynasty, the poets from Japan encountered the poems from Chinese. It really took the Japanese poets many years to form and cultivate Japanese poetry with its own style. It is to be noted that much of the Japanese poetry were written in Chinese language at those times.

Only during the middle of 19th century new or native forms of Japanese poetry came into effect. They were Tanka, Haiku and Shi.

Kojiki is clearly the oldest creation in Japanese Literature. It was Japanese recorded mythology and history. Nihoshoki, Japan’s oldest history depiction contains quite a number of poetic pieces.The first poem of these two books was about Kami, the God named Susanoo.

Susanoo fighting the dragon in the picture of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Susanoo fighting the dragon in the picture of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

The twenty volumes Monyoshu is the first poetic anthology. This anthology might have been completed during the early part of Heian Period. Most of the Monyoshu works had a fixed form. That was called Tanka and Choka. Monyoshu consists of a romantic song about some unknown girl that the poet met and a ritual son in praise of the land. Today it is mostly used in court rituals.

Kakinomoto Hitomaro was such a great poet in that period. He is surely one of the amazing poets in Japanese Literature.

During the 6th century, when the Chinese literature and influence was on a high, many poets tried to recite poems in the court of Emperor Temmu. Kaifusu, the earlier anthology of poetry, was the collection of all these works.

During the Nara period, the Chinese influence was at its peak. The Monyoshu included the poems of some women, aristocrats and even common people. The noblemen wrote peoms when they were travelling.They wrote about the beauty of land and emotions. One poet wrote about two poor men talking about their poverty as well. Most of these poems had a rustic or rural flavor.

During the early Heian period, Kanchi poems were written in Chinese and were most considered the popular style of poems by the aristocrats.The popular styles in Kanchi used 5 or 7 syllables in just 4 or 8 lines with strict rules for rhyme.

Haiku is the picture-sketch, which is recording the current state of some slice of the world in the fullest possible way.
Haiku is the picture-sketch, which is recording the current state of some slice of the world in the fullest possible way.

Kokinwakashu was complied in the middle of Heian period. About 1,000 waka were anthologized by five waka poets. In the 21 collections of Japanese poetry, Nijuichidaishu, Kokinwakashu was the first. Even in Haiku tradition, the primacy of the poems about the seasons that which was pioneered by Kokin Wakashu exists.

In ancient times, it was purely a custom to exchange Waka in place of letters in the form of prose. And Waka is a short poem in Japanese. Generally, exchanging Waka was a custom in aristocratic families as well as between lovers. In memory of this custom, 5 out of the 20 volumes of Kokin Wakashu, was gathered for love. And many Waka contests, Uta-ai, were also conducted during the Heian period. The style favored at that time was Roei.

Imayo, a new form in poetry appeared during the 12th century. It consists of just four lines with 8 – 5 syllables. After the Shin Kokin Wakashu, compiled during Kamakura period, 14 Waka anthologies were also compiled.

During the Edo period, a new style called Renku was developed. At the same time another style called Senryu also came into effect.

When Japan opened its doors to the Western countries, a new wave of poems started to emerge, which really had no particular form but they had no boundaries. Two forms called New form poetry and Free style poetry developed at that time.

The modern ear is simply a renovation of the earlier ones like Waka and Haiku. Poets began expressing themselves through magazines, retained some good forms from the traditions and included bold forms of present world and brought out a new style to the Japanese poetry.

Kokinwakashu -inside (21.1 x 15.5 cm). National treasure, Tokyo National Museum.
Kokinwakashu -inside (21.1 x 15.5 cm). National treasure, Tokyo National Museum.
Scroll to the XII-th Kokinwakashu book, contains 49 waka poems from series "Love". Calligraphy Ono no Michikaze (fragment 1).
Scroll to the XII-th Kokinwakashu book, contains 49 waka poems from series "Love". Calligraphy Ono no Michikaze (fragment 1).
Scroll to the XII-th Kokinwakashu book, contains 49 waka poems from series "Love". Calligraphy Ono no Michikaze (fragment 2).
Scroll to the XII-th Kokinwakashu book, contains 49 waka poems from series "Love". Calligraphy Ono no Michikaze (fragment 2).
Scroll to the XII-th Kokinwakashu book, contains 49 waka poems from series "Love". Calligraphy Ono no Michikaze (fragment 3).
Scroll to the XII-th Kokinwakashu book, contains 49 waka poems from series "Love". Calligraphy Ono no Michikaze (fragment 3).
Scroll to the XII-th Kokinwakashu book, contains 49 waka poems from series "Love". Calligraphy Ono no Michikaze (fragment 4).
Scroll to the XII-th Kokinwakashu book, contains 49 waka poems from series "Love". Calligraphy Ono no Michikaze (fragment 4).

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Comments 3 comments

MicahI profile image

MicahI 5 years ago from Central Florida

I'm not much into poetry, but I found your hub very interesting! ;)


loonyBG profile image

loonyBG 5 years ago Author

domo arigato MicahI :D


Ruiizu 5 years ago

yeah its really nice,i love reading poetry but your hub is more interesting...kawaii...

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