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Japanese Literature

What did "Writing" mean to people in the medieval period in Japan?

Associate Professor

Takafumi NAKANO, Ph.D.

Department of Japanese Literature


Why

In Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), the author, Kenko Yoshida, wrote "I write because there is 'nothing better to do' and I have 'no intention to show this to anyone.'" But, in an era of no emails or SNS, could "Writing" be really an act of killing time? I wonder if it meant more than just pastime. I enjoy writing very much. The reason I started researching this theme is because I wanted to know what "writing" means to me.

How

I looked into various texts from the medieval ages of Japan to analyze the purposes of those writings, their composition styles, and influences from the previous era or periphery fields such as Chinese literature, Buddhist literature, and paintings.

Findings

For people in the medieval period who didn't have a way to contact someone far away such as phone or email, "Writing" was the way to connect with people who were not in front of them, not just physically but also timewise. Written texts will survive after the writer's death. People in the medieval period believed in this timelessness of writing, a possibility of connection to unknown people. I am currently compiling the results of my research. The book will be published in 2018.


Associate Professor

Takafumi NAKANO, Ph.D.

Department of Japanese Literature

My areas of expertise are medieval Japanese literature; specifically, essay literature and narrative literature such as Tsurezuregusa and Uji Shūi Monogatari. My main theme is “What does ‘Writing Activity’ mean to people?”