Kojidan (古事談)

"Kojidan" (Talks about Ancient Matters) is a collection of fables produced in the early Kamakura period. It was compiled by Gyobukyo (Minister of Justice), MINAMOTO no Akikane (1160 - 1215), who was the fifth generation descended from MINAMOTO no Akifusa from the MURAKAMI-GENJI (a branch of the MINAMOTO clan descended from Emperor MURAKAMI). It was produced between 1212 and 1215.

Akikane served as Minister of Justice for many years. Also, being a cultural person, he made friends with FUJIWARA no Sadaie (also known as FUJIWARA no Teika) and Eisai, and was knowledgeable about customs and practices of the court and military households.

"Kojidan" includes 462 fables dated from the Nara period to the middle of the Heian period. It consists of six volumes ("Life in the Imperial court", "The Moral Principle of Vassals", "Activities of Monks", "Brave Warriors", "Shrines and Temples", and "Residence and Accomplishments") with the events in each volume arranged chronologically. The text is mainly written using Chinese characters but some sentences are a mixture of both Chinese and Japanese characters.

Stories in "Kojidan" get their subject matter from anecdotes about the aristocracy, customs and practices of the court and military households, and folklore, and many include excerpts from earlier literature such as "Shoyuki" (The Diary of FUJIWARA no Sanesuke), "Fuso Ryakki" (A Brief History of Japan), "Chugaisho" (The Narrative of FUJIWARA no Tadazane), and "Fukego" (A Collection of the Sayings of FUJIWARA no Tadamitsu). Compared to other works of that period, "Kojidan" doesn't show such a great reverence for the past. Even secrets of the nobility, including emperors, are disclosed without hesitation and descriptions of the history of the Japanese dynasty demonstrate a human touch, which gives a thoroughly different perspective as compared to the official history. Perhaps wary of causing scandals, there exists an abridged version which removed obscene stories about the Empress Koken (later enthroned again as the Empress Shotoku) and the monk Dokyo, the Emperor Uda and FUJIWARA no Hoshi, and the Emperor Kazan and Uma no naishi. "Kojidan" is a collection of unusual and secret stories about the society of emperors, aristocrats and monks.

"Kojidan" is an important piece in the history of narrative literature and it influenced subsequent works including "Zoku Kojidan" (A Sequel to Kojidan) written in 1219 and "Uji Shui Monogatari" (a Collection of Tales from Uji).

"Kojidan" is now included in "Shintei Zoho Kokushi Taikei" (A Newly Revised and Expanded Survey of Japanese History) published by Yoshikawakobunkan, and the two-volume "Koten Bunko" (Classic Library) published by Gendaishicho-sha. The "The Complete Edition of Japanese Classic Literature" series from Iwanami Shoten Publishers ends with "Kojidan and Zoku Kojidan."

[Original Japanese]