Historical Texts Mentioned in this Site

Baikamujinzō 梅花無尽蔵

A seven volume collection of poetry compiled by the Zen Monk Banri Shūku and publshed in 1502. 

Bōkai-Maidan 望海毎談

Author unknown, completed sometime between the beginning of the Genbun Period (1736-1741) and the end of the Meiwa Period (1764-1771), Written in a mixture of kanji and kana, it is a collection of biographies and anecdotes about historical characters, ancient and recent, and concerns itself mostly with Edo and the surrounding areas. It is included in the Enseki-Jisshū anthology.


Azuma Kagami  吾妻鏡

An extremely detailed account of the Kamakura Period from 1180 to 1260. It was compiled sometime around 1300 on the orders of the Hōjō Regency, and consisted of 52 chapters but the 45th has been lost. It is also known as the  Hōjō-bon (北条本) because it was originally in the possession of the  Hōjō family in Odawara.


Butsuzōzui (Illustrated Compendium of Buddhist Images) 仏像図彙

A 5-volume collection of over 800 Buddhist iconographic sketches first publshed in 1690. There were a large number of errors in the original edition and a revision, edited by Tosa Hidenobu (土佐秀信),  was published in 1792. The Butsuzōzui is an example of the Edo Period trend to drop either Jurōjin or Fukurokuju from the Shichifukujin and replace them with another god. In this case Kichijoten replaces Fukurokuju.


Edo Meisho Zue (Illustrated Guide to Edo) 江戸名所図会

Compiled by Saitō Gesshin (斎藤月岑). A seven volume work containing twenty books  and first published in 1834 it is essentially an illustrated guide of famous sights in pre-Meiji Edo.


Edozu Shōtaizen (Collection of Fair Views of Edo)  江戸図正大全

Compiled by 温清軒 (Onseiken). A one volume atlas of Edo. Published in 1695, republished in 1931.

Engi Shiki (Procedures of the Engi Era) 延喜式


""Shiki" are aggregations of detailed enforcement regulations of Ryō, one of the ancient codes. In Encho 5 (927) "Engishiki" (50 volumes) was compiled from Heian era's "Kōninshiki" and "Jōganshiki." Amongst other Shiki, only Engishiki has been bequeathed in almost complete form today." (Nishimuta, Japanese bibliography 14). Note that compilation actually started in 905 and was not completed until 967.


Inclusion in the Engi Shiki is the true seal of antiquity for any shrine in Japan. Its 50-volumes are a compendium of the laws and regulations of Japan at the time of the Engi Era (901-923). There is an English translation by Felicia Bock of books 6-10 and these deal with shrine governance in all its aspects, particularly Shinto’s position in the Imperial structure, and books 9-10 are listings by regions of the 2,681 shrines designated as receiving some kind of imperial designation as of 927 when the work was completed. A total of 3,121 kami were enshrined therein.


Enseki-Jisshū   燕石十種

Edited by Iwamoto Kattoshi (岩本活東子): A six-volume anthology of essays written over the entire Edo Period dealing with a wide range of social and political issues in Edo and and published in the Bunkyū Period (1861-1864) .


Fudoki  風土記


Fudoki, literally meaning wind and earth record, were cultural and geographic records of the provinces around Japan, the compilation of which was ordered by the Empress Genmei in 713. At leat 54 were compiled; some are no longer extant and some exist only in fragmentary form.

Hitachi-kuni-fudoki 常陸国風土記. Compilation started in the early Nara Period in 713 and it was completed in 721. Hitachi-kuni referred to what is now the bulk of Ibaraki-ken. 

Yamashiro-kuni-fudoki 山城国風土記


Fūzokugahō (lit. Illustrated News Magazine of Manners and Customs) 風俗画報

Usually described as Japan’s first graphics magazine, the first issue was published in 1889, the last in 1916. The publisher was Tōyōdō in Tōkyō’s Nihonbashi area. During the 27 years of its existence a total of 518 issues, including special issues, mainly pictorial guides to famous places, were published.  


Keichō-Edo-ezu  (Keichō Illustrated Guide to Edo) 慶長江戸絵図

Published in 1608, three years after Tokugawa Ieyasu took up residence in Edo. It includes an accurately scaled map of Edo Castle and the surrouding area.

Kogoshūi (Gleanings from Ancient Stories) 古語拾遺

Written by Imbe no Hironari, probably in 807. An English translation is available at sacred-texts.com. Hironari's purpose in writing the Kogoshūi was to uphold the position and privileges of his own Imbe clan against what he saw as the depredations of the Nakatomi (later Fujiwara) clan. In early historical Japan the Imbe and Nakatomi clans were probably the most prestigious clans in Japan after the Imperial clan itself, a status deriving from the central role the claimed ancestors of the two clans, Futodama no Mikoto for the Imbe, Ama no Koyane no Mikoto for the Nakatomi, played in coaxing the Sun Goddess Amaterasu out of the Rock-cave of Heaven in one of the most important episodes in the Kiki. Hironari traces the ancestries further back: - “The Imbe family is lineally descended from Takami-Musubi-no-Kami through Futotama-no-Mikoto and Ame-no-Tomi-no-Mikoto, while the Nakatomi family is descended from Kamumi-Musubi-no-Kami through Ame-no-Koyane-no-Mikoto and Ame-no-Taneko-no-Mikoto.”


Kojiki (Record of Ancient Things) 古事記

Completed in 712. First translated into English by Basil H. Chamberlain and published in 1883. Online version here. There is also a more recent translation (1968) by the American academic Donald L. Phillipi. We know that the compilation of the Kojiki was ordered by Emperor Temmu (reigned 673-686).

The Kojiki predates the Nihon Shoki by some eight years but is not considered one of the Six National Histories  (see below). Like the Nihon Shoki the Kojiki begins with Japan's founding myths and moves down the centuries to become history. Both books were compiled on imperial orders with the express purpose of strengthening the Yamato dynasty's spiritual and political hold on the imperial lineage, and this latter was an article of faith for the Japanese military and right wing parties in the first half of the 20th Century.

Man'yōshū "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves"  万葉集, l

Japan's oldest poetry collection, compiled sometime in the second half of the eight century during the Nara Period. 


Rikkokushi (Six National Histories) 六国史

These are the six earliest history books written in Japan, although the Nihon Shoki  begins with the founding myths. In chronological order they are:

1) Nihon Shoki/Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697) 日本書紀

Completed in 720. The most well-known English translation is that by William G. Aston, first published in 1896. Online version here. The origin of the Nihon Shoki is not as clear as that of the Kojiki but Aston does say “In 714, or two years after the completion of the Kojiki the Empress Gemmei gave orders for the preparation of a national history. We hear nothing more of this project, which may or may not have served to provide materials for the Nihongi (another name for the Nihon Shoki)." The Nihon Shoki dates Jimmu's ascension to B.C. 667, but it is not until AD. 461 that it provides an account which can be confirmed against reliable historical sources. Its last account is in AD. 695.

2) Shoku Nihongi (Chronicle of Japan Continued) 続日本紀

Completed in 797, covers the years 697-791. Translations of parts of it by J. B. Snellen can be found in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan for 1934 and 1937.  There is a more recent, 2015-2016, translation by Ross Bender in three volumes covering the years 749-770.

3) Nihon Kōki (Later Chronicle of Japan) 日本後紀

Completed in 840, covers the years 792-833.

4) Shoku Nihon Kōki (Later Chronicle of Japan, Continued) 続日本後紀

Completed in  869, covers the years 833 through 850.

5) Nihon Montoku Tennō Jitsuroku (Veritable Record of Emperor Montoku of Japan) 日本文徳天皇実録

Completed in 879, covers the years 850-858. Edited by Fujiwara Mototsune 

6) Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku (Veritable Record of Three Generations of Emperors of Japan) 日本三代実録

Completed in 901, covers the years 858-887.


Ruijū Kokushi (類聚国史)

completed in 892. Commissioned by Emperor Uda and compiled by Sugawara no Michizane. . Categorizes the events listed in the Six National Histories by both category and date. 

Sagamikuni-fukosu-kōekichō 相模国 封戸租 交易帳: Essentially a list published in 935 of ownership of rice fields in and tax obligations for Sagami Province.


Shinpen-Kamakura-shi 新編鎌倉志: A 12 volume topographical survey   of the Kamakura/Enoshima/Kanazawa region published in 1685 at the bequest of Tokugawa Mitsukuni, the second ruler of the Mito Domain.

Shinpen-Musashi-Fudo-Kiko  新編武蔵風土記稿

A detailed 266 volume topographical survey   of the Musashi region published between 1809 and 1830. Musashi is the old name  for the area covering most of what is now Tōkyō, Kanagawa and Saitama. "Shin-pen" means new edition and was prefixed to the name of the work to distinguish it from the earlier Fudoki described above.


© Rod Lucas 2016-2020

All text and photos by Lucas unless otherwise stated