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Topics of Japanese history-Manyoshu, Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves

(by S. Miyauchi, Professional Engineer, Doctor of Engineering, JSME Fellow)

<万葉集, Manyoshu, Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves>

In the Nara era, many Wakas (和歌, fixed form improvised poetry) were sung all over Japan. Not only in Nara capital , but also the local government offices. At Hakone Pass when soldiers started more than 1000km long trips to bases in North Kyusyu against Tang Navy invasions, they prayed and sang looking back toward their hometowns and thinking their families.

Furthermore, Nakamaro Abe became a high-ranking official of Tang and became a friend with Wei Wang Wei, Li Bai and Du Fu who were high-ranking officials and famous poets. But he could not return to Japan because his ships boarding were wrecked twice. So he sang a symbolic song of the nostalgia looking back toward the ocean and thinking of the moon climbing over the mountain in Nara. Singing Waka, people worshiped nature where exist ten thousand Gods. And they sang joy and sorrow of the life.

In addition, Queen Nukata no Okimi (額田王) was loved by two kings, Tenchi and his younger brother Tenmu who played important part in Japanese history because they introduced political systems of Tang. Her soul was so free and talented. In front of King Tenchi and many courtiers, she sang that "You (Tenmu) are waving your hand, though a guard of hunting ground is looking". Of course, Tenmu returned a Waka impromptu.

This Japanese rich oral literature until 7C was written down by manyogana and put in Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves). This was handed down to coming ages as big cultural heritage. The manyogana is a syllabary based on Chinese characters. Japanese made this in the 8th century when they introduce Chinese culture. This will be the first big result of the flexibility of Japanese culture.

In addition, because the written language was established in 8C, Japanese is stable in not only grammar but also phonological transitions including abrasions and dialects of the spoken language. Manyoshu are loved to read and song by so many modern Japanese people. Also, Waka is the literature that Japanese who are sensitive to nature and people and the words (the soul of language) make use a characteristic of the agglutinative language (the high flexibility of the sentence structure and the rich nuance of the postpositions) to the maximum.

In addition, the political and cultural position of women were high since Queen Himiko (卑弥呼). The women' s literature such as The Tale of Genji (the world's first full-length novel) written by court lady Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部) and Torikaebaya Monogatari (modern subject about gender) were prospered by court ladies in Heian era (794-1192).












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