Japanese Language & Literature and their influences.

It is believed that Japanese language is related to Korean, eastern Siberian and Manchurian and possibly distantly Mongolian or Turkish language. However, native phonetic writing system was developed from Chinese characteristics during 6th century with the transmission of Buddhism, which has provided the initial impetus for contacts between Korea, China and Japan. Japanese recognized facets of Chinese culture that could profitably incorporated into their own, a system for converting ideas and sounds in writing, historiography, complex theories of govt. and most important for the arts, advanced technology, new building techniques, methods of casting and new technique and medium for painting. At first, the Japanese wrote in Classical Chinese or in a mixture of Chinese used both ideographically, phonetically, and otherwise to create Japanese meanings. Kojiki written in mixed style in 712 AD is the living example. Over a time, a writing system was constructed. Chinese characters kanji were used to write either words borrowed from Chinese, or Japanese words with the same or similar meanings. Chinese characters were also used to write grammatical elements and were simplified and eventually became two syllabic scripts: hiragana and katakana.

Modern writing system is complex one in which Chinese characters (several thousand Kanji) are used in conjunction with two separate phonetic scripts Hiragana and Katakana with 46 characters each, developed in Japan during 9th century. Its texts can be written in western style in horizontal rows, or in the traditional Japanese style in vertical columns from right to left. Both the styles of writings exist side by side. Creation of Kana is a major contribution towards the development of a national literary tradition including vernacular prose literature.

The contemporary Japanese literature draws its strength from a wide variety of sources, from the classic influence of ancient China, from the diversity of western thought and from enduring qualities of its own traditions. The two oldest literary works surviving are the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), which were compiled under the sponsorship of the government for the purpose of authenticity of the legitimacy of its polity. The Fudoki (Records of wind and Earth) compiled by provincial officials in the beginning of 713, describing, history, geography, products and folklores of various provinces. The first major collection of native poetry was Man Yoshu, (collection of 10 thousand leaves), contains 4500 poems by numerous authors in every walk of life and has a great influence even today. The Kokin Wakashu was the first collection of native poetry commissioned by the emperor.

Heian Period is the beginning of a aristocratic culture that thrived in the early eleventh century. The introduction of Kana, derived from the Chinese culture also led to the development of a prose literature in the vernacular. Court ladies played the pivotal role in developing literature. Taketori Monogatari (Tale of bamboo cutter) was the first novel wrote by Sei Shonagon followed by Genji Monogatari (Tale if Genji) in 1010,A.D.,a novel in 54 vols. , describing the love and anguish of noblemen and their ladies written by Murasaki Shikubu, a lady-in-waiting for empress Akiko. Makura no Soshi ,(the pillow book ) a brilliant collection of satire in the form of essays was written during the beginning of 11th century. The court ladies also wrote many diaries and stories during this period. The appearance of Kanjaku Monogatri (Tales of the time that is now past) around 1120 added new dimensions to Japanese literature. This collection of more than 1000 buddhist and secular tales from India, China and Japan is particularly notable for its rich description of the lives of the nobility and common man in Japan during that time. Kokinshu, collection of poems ancient and modern was compiled as a first anthology of poems.

The chief development in poetry during medieval period was linked verse. Arising from the court traditions of waka, renga (linked verse) was cultivated by the warrior class and the courtiers became a good pastime of feudal class and court ladies. Tanka , a classic verse of 31 syllable poem remained viable poetic form and is still appreciated by modern poets. In the later half of the 12th century warriors of the Taira Clan (Heike) seized political power at the imperial court, virtually forming a new aristocracy. Heiki Monogatri written in 1219, is a colorful description of its varied characters and battle scenes, depicts the rise and fall of the Taira with focus on the war with Minamoto clan (Genji) It is a grand epic deeply rooted in Buddhist ethics and filled with sorrow for the people who perished. Taiheiki and no of historical romances of samurai, warrior class was written during the 150 yrs of rein of Samurais.In medieval times there was a great influence of Buddhism on literature. Major development of poetry and prose literature, arising from court traditions and war tales. The Shin Kokin Wakashu- an anthology of poetry commissioned by retired emperor Go-Taba, was dedicated to the pursuit of a subtle, profound beauty far removed from the mundane reality of civil strife. This period also produced like Hojki (An Account of my Hut), which reflects uncertainity of existence. The profound thoughts and logic of Shobogenzo in 1237 on spirtualk salvation, is one of the first text in Japanese, marked a major development in Zen thoughts. The Taiheiki (Chronicle of the Great Peace) depicting 50 yrs 1318-67 when two rival imperial courts struggled for power, is a valuable historic record.

The social revolution in the 14-century led to the appearance of the works influenced by Buddhist Institutions. Noh play perfected by Kanami and his son Zeami with a highly styled performances accompanied by singing and instrumental music, which was written about dead heroes of the past, was introduced in this period. Fushi Kaden is brilliant essay on democratic art. The formation of a stable central govt. during Edo period led to the market economy and literary works became the commodity of markets giving rise to publishing industry. Humorous fictions about the contemporary society were huge commercial success In 17 the century. Composing renga- a successive linked verse usually for the poetry contest between more than one person, became a favorite pastime which gave birth to Haikai known as Haiku. It emerged as a new form of satirical verse but later refining to highly sophisticated form of serious poetry. Basho, the father of modern Haiku perfected it in a new condensed form of 17 syllable (5-7-5), an embodiment of elegant simplicity and tranquility. Manashiguri is the finest example of his poetry. In the Genroku Era, artisans and merchant became the main supporters of literature. Ihara Saikaku, portrayed the life of Osaka merchant. Chikamatsu Monzaemon wrote Joruri for puppet shows( Banraku ) which came into being in the mid of 17th century and Kabuki plays. Ueda Akinari produced a collection of gothic stories Ugetsu Monoatari (Tale of Moonlight and Rain), became a huge success of the time.

During Meiji period Unification of written and spoken language was advocated. Futabatei Shimei wrote Ukigumo (Drafting Clouds) in 1887 won acclaim of new form of novel. Western literature swept into Japan during 19th century, which has enriched the Japanese literature, by the different currents of western thought i.e. liberalism, idealism and romanticism. Translation of foreign poems during this period had a great influence on poetry. Many Japanese writers i.e., Mori Ogai and NatSume Sozeki who studied in western countries, turned their hand to western style novels. Naturalism as advocated, Emile Zola dominated Japan literary world for the first decade of 20th century. Large no of western literary works were translated into Japanese and many Japanese works have also been introduced and translated abroad, especially classics like tale of Genji. Kawabatta was the first Japanese, who won noble prize in 1968. His works Yukiguni and Senbazuru and Koto were translated into many languages. Many other writers Tanizaki Junichiro, Mishima Yukio, Abe Koboand Inove Yusushi have been translated in many languages. Post-War writers Murakami Ryu won the Akutagawa Prize. Despite of the impact of western literature; traditional Japanese literature was also flourished side by side. Tanka and Haiku columns in the newspaper are popular even today. Man, Japanese comics covering every possible topic from recipes to travel guides and from science fiction to history and for all the interest, age and gender groups are a huge commercial success in Japan and outside Japan. Manga is the Japanese word for comics

Manga developed from a mixture of ukiyo-e and Western styles of drawing, and took its current form shortly after World War II .A small amount of the total manga output of Japan is adapted into anime, which is usually created afterwards after a market interest has been established. Often times the stories are modified to appeal to a more mainstream market or to fit broadcast necessities.

The word first came into common usage after the publication of the 19th century, Hokusai Manga, containing assorted drawings from the sketchbook of the famous ukiyo-e artist Hokusai .Manga developed from a mixture of ukiyo and Western art movements.

Japanese cartoons (Anime) i.e., sailor Moon and Pokeman have gained worldwide popularity. Today wide variety of books covering many field like fiction, nonfiction, comics, critical essays, mystery books as well as pure literary books are published in Japan. Mystery books and comics are very popular in Japan. Large no of weeklies for adults and children are also been published. Total no. Of new titles published were 53,890 in 1994.



photo by:


Guwashi999

Leave a Reply