“Appropriateness” and “standards” has always been a subjective topic through history. What in one era may be considered a fatal flaw may be considered the norm a few centuries later; sewing a scarlet “A” on the chest of every unmarried woman with child in America would have political and human rights groups up in arms. With literature, one only needs to look at the list of “Banned Books Throughout History” to see how attitudes shift over the years towards literature. Because of this often gradual shift, a pieces of literature that fall under the same genre may be drastically different from each other, such as Matsuo Bashō’s Oku no Hosomichi and Ki no Tsurayuki’s Tosa Nikki. While both fall under the “kiko” category of writing, the different times they were written in leads to a distinct style and theme separate from one another.
The way the respective journeys start are vastly different, not just due to the different time periods and purpose of both journeys, but the way the authors record them. In Oku no Hosomichi, Bashō notes that he is overcome by a seemingly god-given wanderlust, “the gods seemed to have possessed my soul and turned it inside out…so that it was impossible for me to stay idle at home (Bashō, n.d.).” He eagerly describes his preparations for the trip, from fixing his trousers to applying a strengthening salve on his legs. He comments on the things he packed and even notes the first steps he takes away from home. In Tosa Nikki however, the preparations are totally glossed over and instead the beginning of the kiko focuses on the parties and drunken festivities. It is hard to imagine that in light of a party as large as an ex-governor’s there would be so little preparation—even the elegant courtiers who would have had little do with the preparations no doubt had their own packing to do, and one can imagine the estate in a flurry and full of the scurrying of little servant children.
Time periods of course played a large role in these discrepancies. During the Heian period the aesthetic ideal of “miyabi” at times heavily restricted writings, not allowing such things as death, sickness, or other worldly vulgarities to be mentioned. By the Tokugawa period when Oku no Hosomichi was written, such themes were much more common and acceptable.
The time periods had a great effect on the authors themselves, which in turn had a great effect on the journals. In the Heian period Buddhism was still primarily a religion for the upper class and “did not spread widely among commoners (Handout 8, n.d.).” By the Tokugawa period that had all changed and Buddhism and Shinto were integral parts to Japanese life; their themes having already showed up in numerous literary pieces such as Nō theatre, the earlier Ujishuu, and Kamo no Chōmei’s An Account of My Hut. In Tosa Nikki religion is not the main theme. The most it makes mention of religion is when the travelling group has brushes with danger: “As we passed the whirlpool men and...