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Tosa Nikki As An Instruction Manual

1236 words - 5 pages

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 certain situations and how to compose poetry about several themes that recurred throughout the diary. One recurring theme that Ki no Tsurayuki placed emphasis on was farewells. His descriptions of behavior during these partings served as examples that readers were expected to emulate.
Before parting ways, parties were held for the departing group. During these parties, everyone would drink and be merry. It was normal for gifts to be exchanged between both parties, and sometimes even the servants would receive presents. The exchange of poems was the highlight of these events. These poems were supposedly composed on the spot in their drunken stupors, but they were still very elegant and captured the emotions surrounding the farewell. There were also some farewell poems that were composed after separation, but these were more a reflection on the pathos of things, like when the governor wonders if the other party will ever know that he grieved about their separation.
As the diary was composed as a later recollection and not composed as the events were occurring, it is possible that Ki no Tsurayuki embellished the story to make everything seem more elegant. If his goal was to have the diary serve as an example of...

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