Tosa Nikki

The Tosa Nikki (Tosa Diary 土佐日記) is a poetic diary written anonymously by the tenth-century Japanese poet Ki no Tsurayuki.[1] The text details a 55-day journey in 935 returning to Kyoto from Tosa province, where Tsurayuki had been the provincial governor. The prose account of the journey is punctuated by Japanese poems, purported to have been composed on the spot by the characters.

Tosa Nikki faithfully copied by Fujiwara no Teika(1162-1241) (Museum of the Imperial Collections)


The Tosa Nikki is the first notable example of the Japanese diary as literature. Until its time, the word “diary” (nikki) denoted dry official records of government or family affairs, written by men in Chinese. By contrast, the Tosa Diary is written in the Japanese language, using phonetic kana characters. Literate men of the period wrote in both kana and Chinese, but women typically were not taught the latter, being restricted to kana literature. By framing the diary in the point of view of a fictitious female narrator, Tsurayuki could avoid employing Chinese characters or citing Chinese poems, focusing instead on the aesthetics of the Japanese language and its poetry.[2]

Travel poetryEdit

The Tosa Nikki is associated with travel poems (kiryoka) (such as those compiled in the Man'yōshū) as well as the utamakura and utanikki.[3] These texts constitute the Japanese travel journal, which - as a literary genre - is considered inseparable from poetry.[3] These follow the tradition of weaving of poems and the use of introductory narratives written in a logical structure.[4] Like other poems in the genre, the Tosa Nikki also explored the significance of landscape as well poems written about it.[4] Even the Tosa Nikki was also alluded to by other poems such as the maeku.[5]


  1. ^ Keene, Donald 1999. Seeds in the Heart: A History of Japanese Literature, Volume 1. New York: Columbia University Press, p.361-366
  2. ^ Matsumura, Seiichi et al, 1973. Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshū v. 9. Tokyo: Shogakukan, introductory essay.
  3. ^ a b Kerkham, Eleanor (2006). Matsuo Bash?’s Poetic Spaces: Exploring Haikai Intersections. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 62. ISBN 9781349533886.
  4. ^ a b Qiu, Peipei (2005). Basho and the Dao: The Zhuangzi and the Transformation of Haikai. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. pp. 75-76. ISBN 0824828453.
  5. ^ Jonsson, Herbert H. (2016). Reading Japanese Haikai Poetry: A Study in the Polyphony of Yosa Buson’s Linked Poems. Leiden: BRILL. p. 35. ISBN 9789004311183.

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