Dai Nihonshi (大日本史)

Dai Nihonshi is a Japanese history book. TOKUGAWA Mitsukuni, head of the Mito Tokugawa family, one of the three branches of the Tokugawa clan, started to compile it during the Edo period as an enterprise of the Mito Domain and it was completed during the Meiji period. It covers the reigns of one hundred emperors, from the Emperor Jinmu to Go-Komatsu (exactly to 1392 when the Nanboku-cho period finished). The history book is written about events and consists of the 397 volumes with 226 books, and the first seventy three volumes are honki (about the emperors), next 170 volumes are retsuden (retsuden describes empresses, prince and princesses and courts chronologically while it is sometimes classified as gyakushinden or koshiden) and the last 154 volumes are shi and hyo (five catalogues).

Dai Nihonshi' was named by TOKUGAWA Tsunaeda, the domain head, in 1715 after the death of Mitsukuni and it was called 'Honcho shiki' or 'Kokushi (Washi)' by contemporary people. It is written in splendid kanbun form and has historical authenticity to some extent because the sources of articles are definite.


According to various biographical materials such as "Giko kojitsu," Mitsukuni in his youth who was educated as an heir of the Mito Tokugawa family committed some acts of delinquency, but came to regret what he had done and study hard after he read the chapter Hakuiden of "Shiki" and was moved by Hakui and Syukusei, and then aspired to compile history. Mitsukuni moved to a villa in Komagome because a mansion in Koishikawa was burned down by Great fire of Meireki in 1657 and he set up a department to compile the history there. The department was set up in a teahouse and he hired staff, and then placed a library in the temporary house. History in Japan such as the six histories including "Nihon shoki" were commonly compiled chronologically and because there was no history like "Shiki" written along events, compiling staff had objections. The fact that the government was compiling history, but lost the materials because of the Great fire of Meireki and the death of HAYASHI Razan is considered to have motivated Mitsukuni to compile it.

Then, Mitsukuni succeeded to the family after his father, TOKUGAWA Yorifusa, died and became busy with official duties, so that he stayed away from the enterprise, but the government ordered HAYASHI Gaho to compile a chronicle of Japan, "Honchotsukan" and Mitsukuni asked HAYASHI Gaho about compiling policy and legitimacy, in person.
He began in earnest with the compiling enterprise in 1672 and moved the library from Komagome to a mansion in Koishikawa and named it 'Shokokan.'
He increased the number of staff and dispatched them to distant places to collect historical materials, especially materials about the Nancho court. Mitsukuni also invited SHU Shunsui, a surviving retainer from the Ming Dynasty, who had exiled himself in Japan, and Mitsukuni learned the meaning of historical orthodoxy from him. SHU Shunsui indicated the idea of loyalty of KUSUNOKI Masashige, a military commander of the Nancho court during the Nanbokucho period (it was 'an important matter of Japan' whether one should side with the Nancho or with the Hokucho as for a historiography in Japan). As Mitsukuni was influenced by "Jinnoshotoki" by KITABATAKE Chikafusa, he was furious that he found the description that the Yamato race (Japanese) 'are the descendants of Taihaku in Go (China)' in a draft of "Honchotsukan" HAYASHI Razan and his son were writing.

Honki from the Emperor Jinmu to Go-Daigo was written in June, 1676 and the book was completed as "Shinsenkiden," the 104 volumes, between 1681 and 1683 but Mitsukuni felt it was necessity to cover the reign of the Emperor Go-Kameyama and he was dissatisfied with its insufficient contents, so he reformed the compiling organization, created a post for president in Shokokan, built a new building, increased the number of staff and expanded its work to compiling collections of poems. Mitsukuni who secluded himself in Nishiyamaso in 1690 encouraged the staff to complete honki by stopping other enterprises than the Japanese history and 'Hyakuohonki' was completed in 1697.

Tsunaeda, the family head, chose "Dai Nihonshi" by staff in Edo over "Kochoshinshi" by those in Mito as the title in 1715 and offered the book in front of the grave of Mitsukuni on the anniversary of Mitsukuni's death during the year. The revised book, the Kyoho edition, was offered to the government in 1720.
The enterprise became inactive when ASAKA Tanpaku who had lead it since Mitsukuni, died in 1737

During the late Edo period, TACHIHARA Suiken, the president of Shokokan, promoted revising the book to publish it on the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Mitsukuni in 1799. A conflict took place between TACHIHARA and a staff, FUJITA Yukoku over whether the name of Japan should be added to the title or whether criticism of historical events, to the last, and the conflict developed to become rivalry between the Mito and the Edo groups (disturbed Shokokan). TOKUGAWA Kuniyuki, the grandson of the tenth family head, TOKUGAWA Yoshiatsu, completed it in 1906 and its completion took 250 years (Honki and retsuden were almost completed while Mitsukuni was alive and they published it several times since the end of the Edo period.).

Drafts are kept in the Tokugawa museum of Koshokan.

"Dai nihonshi" has three characteristics below.

It excludes Empress Jingu.

It includes Emperor Kobun.

It supports the Yoshino court's legitimacy.

Over all, it was written based on the idea of Mitogaku based on Shushigaku which considered that retainers should revere the emperor, and the book greatly influenced thought during the end of the Edo period. The present revised list of the emperors is considered to be based upon "Dai Nihonshi."

A historian KUME Kunitake severely criticizes "Dai Nihonshi" as well as "Nihongaishi" as 'a kind of script.'

[Original Japanese]