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139 MAN’YŌSHŪ KOGI KOGAKU1 Kamochi Masazumi | 1858 [This is the title of one section of Chapter 3 of Man’yōshū kogi sōron, which is the introductory part of Kamochi’s seminal work, Man’yōshū kogi. This work was published in 1891, roughly thirty-­three years after his death in 1858. Masazumi follows the tradition of Mabuchi, seeing poetry as more than just an emotional or scholary endeavor: it was the portal through which the people of Japan could gain access to the ancient Way. His title “Kogaku” means “Ancient Studies.”] A person once asked something like the following, “In the sixteenth year of Emperor Ōjin, Wani was sent from Paekche to our court and introduced kanji. From the time people began to learn how to read, [these literate ] people gradually mixed in foreign customs with those of our own country. Some two hundred fifty years later Buddhism was introduced from Paekche, and then Shōtoku Taishi and Soga no Umako held discussions together, and after they had obtained a deep faith in the religion, Buddhism gradually began to spread. Coming down to the reigns of Emperors Kōtoku and Tenchi, the entire society had become adorned with foreign customs, and even the organization of the government began to use foreign systems in all cases. Poets of the Fujiwara and Nara periods had become more skilled in composing poetry than they had in the past, and famous poets began to appear, but we hear almost nothing about people who remained true to the imperial way of the kami, able to avoid the influence of Confucianism or Buddhism. “On the surface people adorned their words with Confucian ideology, but in the background they were actually clothed in Buddhist theology; this state became increasingly frequent. We see these events in our ancient histories, where nothing is hidden. Because of this, would it be proper to claim that poets in the Fujiwara and Nara eras became more adept at poetic composition because they had studied foreign teachings for several centuries? 1. I have taken the current translation from leaves 83–89. 140 Views on Poetry “It is natural that poets would yearn to compose poetry in imitation of the poetic style of the Fujiwara and Nara eras. This period was the pinnacle of foreign learning, and as these poets came from that time frame, they would have been educated in the customs of that time, so it likely was difficult for them to divorce themselves from this foreign heart. If these people were able to make a clean break from the heart of Confucianism and Buddhism and endeavor to elucidate the legitimacy of the Way of the imperial kami, then poets of this time naturally would have yearned for and studied the older style of poetry before the advent of foreign teachings. However, in relation to poetry, until the period under consideration poets generally called their poetry ‘the old style,’ and in many cases they were apt to claim their poetry was built around the ideal of the Way of the imperial kami.” In response to why this is, I answered that I have thoroughly read and digested Man’yōshū and I always state that I want to elucidate the Way of the imperial kami first, and second I want people to yearn for the elegance in the kotodama of the ancient words.2 Let me explain in detail why I think this is outstanding. Although it is reasonable that Japanese should revere and admire the Way of the imperial kami as supreme, remembering to do this day and night, even people by the time of the Nara era had lost sight of the distinctiveness of our country compared to foreign lands, and they even called foreign lands in general “great China.” This was not done to be fawning of the Chinese, but was a natural result of people drowning in foreign ways unawares. Because of this, during the Nara era the hearts and actions of people generally were stained with a foreign influence. In the present aside from this idea that everything is in imitation of foreign things, aside from the style of poetry, there is also the theory that in those days [the Nara era] people did not yearn much to adhere to the Way of the imperial kami; however , that is the conclusion of those who view these things, and if we care2 . Kotodama 言霊 is literally the spirit within words or utterances. The Encyclopedia of...


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