Two of Japanese most famous poets and authors of their time, Ki no Tsurayuki and Matsuo Bashou, are still important today for those same achievements. Both men wrote two well-known travel journals, and although they are labeled with the same title as “travel journal”, the two are very different. Ki no Tsurayuki wrote “Tosa Nikki,” around 936 in the Heian Period, and Matsuo Bashou, or simply Bashou, wrote “Oku no Hosomichi,” in 1689 in the Edo Period. The Heian Period seems more traditional whereas the Edo Period is the opening of modernization in Japan. With just this note, the differences in both journals would seem to be a bit more obvious. Some are indeed straight forward, but there are some differences that are either difficult to point out, or hard to put into words, especially for a novice such as myself.
The introduction of the “Tosa Nikki,” contains two sentences, “Diaries are things written by men, I am told. Nevertheless I am writing one to see what a woman can do.” This already tells the readers that they will be reading something written in the style of a diary, and that it’s being told from a woman’s point of view. The author, Ki no Tsurayuki, is indeed a man, and by his telling it from another point of view, especially one of another gender, seems to make it more of a fictional diary. But because the story was written to tell of the trip the writer took alongside the governor, who was Ki no Tsurayuki himself, it could still be true, with a few slight twists to make it more interesting. And after his very short introduction, he continues the story as what one would consider a typical diary, giving the date, represented as days and moons, and entries of various sizes.
Bashou’s “Oku no Hosomichi,” his whole journal seems to be just a narrative told in the first-person perspective. The introduction is a whole paragraph that hints that he would be traveling, makes allusions to the “Tosa Nikki”, which makes it more obvious that he will travel and write a diary, and has bits of Buddhist themes, such as the constant circle of life and rebirth, and it should be as such considering his chosen profession and life as a monk. He takes this journey to visit the places that are considered significant in poetic prose, the places that the monk Saigyou had once travelled to. His journal, although very detailed, was not written on the specified days. Rather, he had most likely jotted notes down and then after the journey was over, filled it in with a very poetic narrative, along with his own poems.
Bashou’s poems went along with the places and the structure was based off of what he had learned when attending both the Danrin and Teimon schools. His poems were created because of both the place and the specific experience he had whilst travelling. These poems are more easily understandable and much more amusing. They were funny, and at times, considerably crude. He pokes fun at things, and it is quite different from the “Tosa Nikki,” where...