Kado (The art of versification) (歌道)

Kado, which literally means an art of poems, is an art of creating waka (traditional Japanese poems of thirty-one syllables) and a study regarding waka itself (treatise on waka poetry and the study of waka).


In the Nara period when "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) was compiled, an awareness that waka was the only literature in Japanese emerged. Since around the early 10th century when "Kokin Wakashu" (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry) was compiled, 'uta no michi' (the way of waka) was advocated against Kidendo, a study of Chinese poetry (also called Monjodo).
A typical example is that OSHIKOCHI no Mitsune, who wrote the preface of "Yayoi mika Ki no shisho Gokusuinoen" (Ki no shisho Gokusuinoen waka) that was made at gokusuinoen (ceremony in the Imperial Court) held in the house of KI no Tsurayuki, said 'uta no michi.'
In addition, because the Emperor Daigo's reign during which "Kokin Wakashu" was compiled was called 'Engi no chi' (the peaceful era of Engi), the compilation of Chokusen wakashu (anthology of Japanese poetry compiled by Imperial command) and the thought of magnificent imperial reign were linked together. Furthermore, after Kento-shi (Japanese envoy to Tang Dynasty China) was abolished, the decline of Tang culture and uplift of the Kokufu Bunka (Japan's original national culture) activated events such as Uta-kai (poem competitions) and utaawase (poetry contests), and organization and establishment of rules of Kadai (subjects of waka Japanese poem) and Daii (meanings of subjects), and specialization in the study of classics and knowledge of court rules, ceremony, decorumts regarding waka that were considered to be necessary to compose better waka developed. As a result, 'Kado' that was systematized as a study was established.

After the mid 11th century, germination of the master and pupil system emerged and Rokujo Genke (the Rokujo Minamoto family), Rokujo Toke (the Rokujo Fujiwara family), and the Mikohidari family, etc. were formed. Under such circumstances, literature supremacy theory intensified in the poetry circles, and finally, Kado started to take on themes of the occult and mystics, which led to absolutization of Kado in waka after the medieval period. Among others, the Mikohidari family, who organically linked practical composition and theories of waka while valuing traditionalism, overpowered other families, and as a result, the family eventually established Kashoku (one's trade or profession) as 'kadoshihanke' (lecturer on the art of waka poetry). After FUJIWARA no Tameie, his descendants broke apart into three schools: the Kyogoku school of poetry, the Nijo school of poetry, and Reizei school of poetry. Soke (the head family) of the Kyogoku and Nijo schools extinguished one after the other early in the Muromachi era and only the Reizei family, Soke of the Reizei school, kept its family name to this day. However, the Nijo school, which was inherited by disciples after the Soke extinguished, had the most influence through the medieval period.

In the Nijo school, a secret theory regarding explication of waka contained in "Kokin Wakashu" that has been considered to be the ideal of Chokusen wakashu has been secretly inherited from the master to the disciple as 'Kokin denju.'
Kokin denju, with its mystique, made to be authoritative as the supreme inherited secret teachings in the poetry circles of the medieval period. Prominent successors of Kokin denju include Tsuneyori TO, Sogi IIO, Saneki SANJONISHI, Fujitaka HOSOKAWA, and Imperial Prince Toshihito.

However, early in the Edo period, it was criticized by Katsutoshi KINOSHITA and Mosui TODA, and later, original study of waka based on the study of Japanese classical literature began its rise. Early in the modern times, waka reformists such as Shiki MASAOKA and Tekkan YOSANO denied the value of Kado itself, which brought an end to the history of Kado.

[Original Japanese]