TokuhonYomihon (読本)

Tokuhon are textbooks for language learning and/or introductory books intended for the wide public. Tokuhon is the name of a learning program and the textbooks in the field of foreign language education, like grammar or conversation,, intended for the understanding of sentences, as well as for the cultivation of such skill.

Yomihon is a type of gesaku (light literary work) written in the late Edo period. It is detailed in this section.

Yomihon is denki shosetsu (a tale of fantastic) which was popular in the late Edo period. Although it became popular after the Kansei Reforms and its popularity reached the peak during the Bunka and Bunsei eras, it declined around the end of the Edo period.

Although Yomihon included frontispieces and illustrations, it was called Yomihon (reading books) because its emphasis was on the text itself. Yomihon books were considered fiction even when the subject was based on historical events as they were fundamentally story-books with themes on good-versus-evil. Despite its entertaining tendency, Yomihon texts often included words of Chinese origin, and as such, it is considered literature of higher quality in comparison to Kokkeibon (comical and humorous stories) and Kusazoshi (illustrated books). They were more expensive than other storybooks in comparison. As there was a good publishing system such as an advanced printing technology and the system of payments for manuscripts, Yomihon gained many readers. However, the number of copies printed was not so high as that of Kusazoshi which had more of populist approach and were more affordable. In cities such as Edo and Osaka, writers such as Akinari UEDA, Bakin KYOKUTEI and Kyoden SANTO became famous for their Yomihon stories.

Its first form was influenced by Hakuwa shosetsu, which was a type of Chinese literature. Unlike classics, Hakuwa shosetsu was written in contemporary Chinese of that time, and it was brought into Japan as textbooks for interpreters of Chinese called Totsuji. In the course of time, some people started to read these novels not only for the practical purpose but for pleasure, and some also started to translate them and write stories under their influence. People such as Kanzan OKAJIMA, who taught Chinese to Sorai OGYU and others, Hakku Okada, Teisho TSUGA and Issai SAWADA popularized the novels written in Chinese popular terms by way of publishing books on them and giving lectures, and thus they prepared the ground for the birth of Yomihon.

For this reason, early Yomihon books were written by intellectual elites who had the knowledge in the classics. Some Hakuwa shosetsu were adapted, and further in the late 18th century, early Yomihon became popular as the representative works such as "Ugetsu monogatari" (Tale of Rain and Moon), which was not a mere adaptation, were written.

Even in the Meiji period, the works of Bakin were highly appreciated, and until the early modern literature was established by Shoyo TSUBOUCHI and Shimei FUTABATEI, Japanese literature had been highly influenced by gesaku such as Yomihon.

Representative Works of Yomihon
"Ugetsumonogatari" by Akinari UEDA
"Nanso satomi hakkenden" by Bakin KYOKUTEI
"Shigeshige yawa" by Teisho TSUGA
"Hanabusa zoshi" by Teisho TSUGA
"Honcho suikoden" by Ayatari TAKEBE

[Original Japanese]