Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) (万葉集)

The "Manyoshu"(written as 万葉集 or 萬葉集) is the oldest extant collection of poems, compiled from the latter half of the seventh century to the latter half of the eighth century. It is thought that the Manyoshu was completed after 759, with more than 4,500 poems composed by people of different birth from emperors and nobles to lower ranked officials and Sakimori (soldiers garrisoned at strategic posts in Kyushu in ancient times), and so on.

The Manyoshu is unquestionably an outstanding source within Japanese literature, and as it contains poems written in dialects from the places the composers were from it is also a very important source within linguistics.

The origin of the title
There are various views about the origin of the title "Manyoshu."
A view says that the book was named after an expression which means to collect 'Man no Koto no Ha' (literally, thousands of leaves of word), 'the collection of word leaves, namely poems.'
This opinion was supported by Sengaku and KAMO no Mabuchi, and others. Sengaku quoted the part shown as follows from the 'Kanajo' (Japanese preface) of "Kokin Wakashu" (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry) in his commentary on the Manyoshu called "Manyoshu Chushaku."

Yamatouta wa Hito no kokoro wo tane toshite Yorozu no kotonoha tozo narerikeru (Waka [Japanese poems] are born from people's minds and grow into countless words.)
But as "Kokin Wakashu" was completed after the "Manyoshu," the probability cannot be denied that the above interpretation was made after the completion of the "Manyoshu;" therefore, it is questionable to suppose the part the origin of the "Manyoshu."

There are other opinions such as that describing the book as 'a collection of poems to be handed down forever' (by Keichu and Masazumi KAMOCHI), and that yo (of Man-yo-shu, 葉) should be literally understood as a leaf and 'the leaves were likened to poems.'
The most established opinion among scholars is based on the following part in the preface to the "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters), 'Nochino yo ni Tsutaen to hofu' (it is wanted to be told in the future), which is understood to mean 'a collection of poems that should be handed down forever', taking 'yo' (leaves, 葉) as 'yo' (generation, 世).

Because details about the completion of the "Manyoshu" are still unknown, there are various views as to who the editor was, including suggestions that it was a compilation made by imperial command, TACHIBANA no Moroe, or OTOMO no Yakamochi; at present, OTOMO no Yakamochi is considered the most probable editor. It is considered most likely that each volume had an individual editor and that OTOMO no Yakamochi finally compiled them into 20 volumes, instead of the "Manyoshu" being compiled in its entirety by one editor.

There is no record of the year of completion of the 20 volumes of the "Manyoshu" individually or as a complete work, but based on evidence in the book it is considered that the Manyoshu grew in the order shown below.

(1) The first half of volume 1 (Nos. 1 to 53): The Original Manyoshu
Each emperor is described as 'Emperor.'
This part provided a model for later volumes of Manyoshu. It is considered that Emperor Jito and KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro might have taken part in editing this part.

(2) The addition of the latter half of volume one and volume two: The Two-Volume Manyoshu
Emperor Jito is described as 'Daijo Tenno' (ex-Emperor), and Emperor Monmu is described as 'Taiko Tenno' (a deceased emperor before having been given a posthumous title). This part states that Emperor Genmei was the reigning emperor. It is considered that Emperor Genmei and O no Yasumaro might have taken part in editing this section.

(3) The addition of volume 3 to volume 15 and part of volume 16: The 15-Volume Manyoshu
After Keichu advocated that the Manyoshu was initially completed in 16 volumes, and that volume 17 to 20 were added later to create a second version, there have been various opinions about the matter; there is a great deal of evidence to support the opinion that the Manyoshu was divided at volume 16, including that the table of contents goes up to volume 15 in old manuscripts like 'Genryaku Kohon' (revised version in Genryaku era) and 'Amagasaki-bon' (manuscript of Manyoshu found in Amagasaki), the citation of earlier sources, and the categorization by Budate. It is believed that Emperor Gensho, ICHIHARA no Okimi, OTOMO no Yakamochi, and OTOMO no SAKANOUE no Iratsume might have taken part in editing this part.

(4) The addition of the remaining volumes: The 20-Volume Manyoshu
This part was completed by OTOMO no Yakamochi in around 783.

However, this version of the "Manyoshu" has not been officially recognized. This is because the assassination of FUJIWARA no Tanetsugu by OTOMO no Tsuguhito occurred in 785, immediately after the death of Yakamochi, and Yakamochi was implicated in the assassination. In that sense, the editing of the "Manyoshu" collection of poems was finally completed in 806 when Yakamochi was pardoned by a decree of amnesty.

It is thought that the 20 volumes of the Manyoshu were not edited as one unit, but rather smaller sets of volumes were edited consistently but separately, the sets being drawn together to form the whole.

The collection consists of more than 4,500 poems, but the exact number of poems differs according to the counting method based on respective handwritten copies.

The volumes are organized systematically, such as in chronological order, or according to categories or provinces. Poems are also categorized within each volume.

The poems are classified into the three major categories of Zoka, Somonka, and Banka, according to their contents.

Zoka: Meaning 'miscellaneous poems,' contains all the poems which are not classified as Somonka and Banka. Specifically, they include the poems about public court life, poems composed during travel, and poems describing the beauty of nature and seasonal changes.

Somonka: As 'Somon' means people keeping in touch with each other by exchanging words, this category mainly contains poems used for exchanging feelings of love between men and women.

Banka: Poems for when a coffin is carried. These are poems to mourn and lament the death of a person.

The poems are categorized according to the form of expression as follows:
Kibutsuchinshi: The expression of sentiments of love through likening them to things in nature
Seijutsushinsho: The expression of sentiments and feelings directly
Eibutsuka: The expression of seasonal features
Hiyuka: The expression of feelings conveyed through objects

Only volume 14 has its name; Azumauta (Japanese poems in Eastern Dialect). This volume contains Zoka from the 4 provinces of Kazusa, Shimosa, Hitachi, and Shinano, Somon-oraika (exchanged Somonka) from 12 provinces of Totomi, Suruga, Izu, Sagami, Musashi, Kazusa, Shimosa, Hitachi, Shinano, Kozuke, Shimotsuke, and Mutsu, Hiyuka from the 5 provinces of Totomi, Suruga, Sagami, Kozuke, and Mutsu, and Zoka, Somon-oraika, Sakimoriuta (Sakimori Guard's poetries), Hiyuka, Banka, Gishoka (ancient comic [satirical] tanka) and the like from unspecified provinces.

There are three categories of Japanese poetry: Tanka, choka, and sedoka. A short line consists of five syllables, and a long line consists of seven syllables.

Tanka consist of five lines in the pattern 5-7-5-7-7.

Choka generally consist of more than 10 to more than 20 lines with alternatively five and seven syllables and a couplet of seven syllables at the end. One or several tanka appended to a choka is called a hanka.

Sedoka consist of two katauta, which in turn consist of a set of tanka and choka with one more choka added. It is thought that the name sedoka originated from its form in that the first three lines are repeated as the last three lines.

Chronological Division
The Manyoshu is divided into four periods according to when the poems were composed.

The first period is from the enthronement of Emperor Jomei in 629 to the Jinshin War in 672, with a lot of poems closely related to Imperial ceremonies and events. Nukata no Okimi is well-known as a poet representative of this period. This period contains poems composed by Emperor Jomei, Emperor Tenji, Prince Arima, Kagami no Okimi, and FUJIWARA no Kamatari.

The second period is to the transfer of the capital in 710, and contains both famous poems in praise of the Imperial Court composed for ceremonial occasions by court officials like KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro, TAKECHI no Kurohito, and NAGA no Okimaro, and poems composed during travel. Other poets of this period are Emperor Tenmu, Emperor Jito, Prince Otsu, Oku no Himemiko, and Prince Shiki, and so on.

The third period is to 733, and contains a lot of original poems. There are several poets representative of this period, such as YAMABE no Akahito who wrote descriptive poetry depicting scenery and landscape, OTOMO no Tabito who wrote choka full of elegance and lyricism, YAMANOUE no Okura who wrote poems sympathetic to those facing hard times and the lower strata of society, TAKAHASHI no Mushimaro who wrote poems to show the true nature of various legends, and OTOMO no SAKANOUE no Iratsume who composed poems with the pathos of a woman.

The fourth period is to 759 and OTOMO no Yakamochi, a son of Tabito, KASA no Iratsume, OTOMO no SAKANOUE no Iratsume, TACHIBANA no Moroe, NAKATOMI no Yakamori, SANO no Otogami no Otome, and Yuhara no Okimi are representative of this time.

The poets range from the Imperial Family and nobles to middle ranked and lower ranked court officials, and the anonymous poems are considered to have been written by lower ranked court officials and commoners in the Kinai (Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara) area, and it is apparent from the volumes entitled Azumauta and Sakimori no uta that an increasing number of commoners began to wrote poems. The composition of poetry spread from the neighborhood of the Imperial Palace to Kyoto, to Kinai, and to Togoku (the eastern provinces) as years went by.

Poetry Styles
The Manyoshu is extremely valuable in that it contains many poems written by commoners in the 'Sakimori no Uta' (Sakimori's poems) and 'Azumauta' for example. The poems written by commoners are characterized by a simple and straightforward style rather than using showy techniques. KAMO no Mabuchi called the poems in this category 'Masuraoburi' (manly poetical style).

Manyo-gana (a form of syllabary used in the Manyoshu)
The Manyoshu is written in Chinese characters and it is written to look like a Chinese classical work. But the poems are written in the Japanese word order. The poems are written in various styles such as those written ideographically in Chinese characters, some phonetically with Chinese characters, others both phonetically and ideographically in Chinese characters, and those written without using letters.

As the Japanese syllabary had not been established at the time the Manyoshu was written, it was written in a unique writing system called manyo-gana. Specifically, the manyo-gana writing system was for expressing the Japanese language through using only the Chinese pronunciations of the characters, with the result that the sounds had nothing to do with the meanings of the characters. In that sense, manyo-gana was the first writing system for Japanese even though it used Chinese characters.

Poems of OTOMO no Yakamochi written in manyo-gana

Written in manyo-gana: 都流藝多知 伊与餘刀具倍之 伊尓之敝由 佐夜氣久於比弖 伎尓之曾乃名曾

Japanese reading of the poem shown above: Tsurugi-tachi Iyoyo Togubeshi Inishieyu Sayakeku oite Kinishi sono na so (Sharpen the great sword ever shaper; This name borne untarnished from of old) (Volume 20 - 4467)

Another poem in manyo-gana: 去來子等 早日本邊 大伴乃 御津乃濱松 待戀奴良武

The poem shown above was composed by YAMANOUE no Okura who was staying in Great Tang Dynasty China, and contains strong feelings of nostalgia.
Japanese reading of the poem shown above: Iza Kodomo Hayaku Nihon e Otomo no Mitsu no hama matsu Machi koinuran (Come my lads, let us swiftly to our land! For the pine trees of Otomo's noble harbor must eagerly await our return) (Volume 1 - 63)

At the end of the Nara period manyo-gana was developed through slight transformations of the characters, with characters with fewer strokes being increasingly used, and during the Heian period they were further developed into characters with extremely simplified figures (known as soryaku) or characters with some strokes partly omitted (known as shokaku) which could be written faster and more efficiently. Both the 'hiragana' and 'katakana' syllabaries were created from these characters.

Manyo-gana is still used at various times at present, for example most place names which are difficult to read were derived from manyo-gana.

Manyo-gana and dialects
In the "Manyoshu" some of the dialects of the time are indicated such as 'Ayunokaze Etsu no Kuniburi no kotoba, Higashikaze wo Ayunokaze to iu' (In the Etsu dialect, the word 'higashikaze' [an east wind] is 'ayunokaze,' 東風 越俗語、東風謂之安由乃可是也) (volume 17, 4017), but a great many other dialects are recorded even though they are not indicated as such. Specific examples of this can be found in volume 14 (Azumauta) and volume 20 (Sakimoriuta).

Azumauta, meaning poems from the Togoku region, covers poems handed down in Togoku, which covers the present Kanto region, Tohoku region, and Tokai region, divided into two groups for poems with their place of origin known called kankokuka (90 and 5 poems) and for poems where their place of origin was unknown called mikankokuka (140 and 3 poems). As the dialects of the Togoku region of the period are frequently used in most of the poems the 'Azumauta' has an important position as a specific record of these ancient dialects, even though the year the poems were composed, the profile of the composers, and how they were recorded remain unknown. Also the large quantity of the poems it contains is seen as a particular merit of the collection.

A small number of sakimoriuta, poems composed by coast guards conscripted from Togoku, can be found in volumes 13 and 14 but the majority (84 poems in total) appear in volume 20 under the title of 'In August, 749, the poems of Sakimori and others dispatched in turns to the provinces in Chikushi' (天平勝宝七歳乙未二月、相替遣筑紫諸国防人等歌). Regarding these poems, captains of the Sakimori who were conscripted in 755 from each province were commanded to record and submit the poems composed by the Sakimori guards; among the originally collected poems, 82, or almost half of them, were not included as they were felt to be not skillful enough, and the selected poems were registered with the composers' names, and the provinces they came from (the counties they came from in some cases were also included). Also, as the content of the poems was expressed in Manyo-gana when the poems were transcribed to the Manyoshu, Sakimoriuta is evaluated much higher than Azumauta as a valuable resource in relation to the dialects of the Togoku region.

One poem each from Azumauta and Sakimoriuta are shown as follows.

Hiru tokeba tokenahe himono wagasenani aiyorutokamo yorutokeyasuke(昼解けば 解けなへ紐の 我が背(せ)なに 相寄るとかも 夜解けやすけ) (Volume 14, 3483)
(I could not untie the cord in the daytime, but perhaps because I will meet my husband, in the evening it will be easier to untie.)

Hiru tokeba tokenahe himono wagasenani aiyorutokamo yorutokeyasuke (比流等家波 等家奈敝比毛乃 和賀西奈尓 阿比与流等可毛 欲流等家也須家)
Kusamakura tabino maruneno himotaeba agatetotsukero korenoharumoshi(草枕 旅の丸寝の 紐絶えば 我(あ)が手と付けろ これの針(はる)持(も)し) (Volume 20, 4420)
(If you sleep in your clothes when on a journey and the cord of your garment becomes broken, sew it back on the garment yourself with this needle.)

Kusamakura tabino maruneno himotaeba agatetotsukero korenoharumoshi (久佐麻久良 多妣乃麻流祢乃 比毛多要婆 安我弖等都氣呂 許礼乃波流母志)

As can be seen from the above poems, quite a few of the dialects of the Togoku region recorded in the "Manyoshu" have correlations with the modern dialects found in eastern Japan. Taking a couple of examples, the negative auxiliary verbs '-nafu' and the sentence-ending particle '-ro' that follows the imperative base form can be associated with '-nai' and '-ro' in the modern dialects of eastern Japan. The quadrigraded conjugation verbs and the attributive form of adjectives of the dialects in the Togoku region such as 'Ta to tsuku' ('Tatsu to tsuki' [the new moon comes]) and 'Kanashike imo' ('Itoshii Imoto' [my sweet younger sister]) take unique forms different from the standard Japanese; on the other hand, it is known that the Hachijo dialect spoken in Hachijo-jima island such as 'Kakotoki' ('Kakutoki' [when man writes]) and 'Takake yama' ('Takaki Yama' [a high mountain]) takes the same form as that of the ancient dialects of the Togoku region. Among the large number of dialects in the Japanese language, only the Hachijo dialect takes this kind of form.

The poem at the beginning of the book
The 20 volumes of the "Manyoshu" begin with a poem by Emperor Yuryaku, one of the five kings of Wa, or ancient Japan. This means that people during the Nara period regarded Emperor Yuryaku as a special Emperor.

Poem written by Emperor Ohohatsuse wakatakeru

Komoyo mikomochi fukushimoyo mibukushimochi konowokani natsumasuko ienoshirase nanorasane soramitsu yamatonokuniha oshinabete warekosowore shikinabete warekosomase warenikosoha norame iewomonawomo (The basket you carry, so pretty; your digging tool, so elegant: Girl picking herbs on the mountain, tell me your family, tell me your name: All of the land of Yamato follow me; and I watch over all of the land: For me, please tell me your family, tell me your name) (Volume 1, 1)
Komoyo mikomochi fukushimoyo mibukushimochi konowokani natsumasuko ienoshirase nanorasane soramitsu yamatonokuniha oshinabete warekosowore shikinabete warekosomase warenikosoha norame iewomonawomo (篭毛與 美篭母乳 布久思毛與 美夫君志持 此岳尓 菜採須兒 家告閑 名告紗根 虚見津 山跡乃國者 押奈戸手 吾許曽居 師吉名倍手 吾己曽座 我許背齒 告目 家呼毛名雄母)

Some theories suggest that several ancient Japanese tales originated from Manyoshu.
Taketori Monogatari (the Tale of Bamboo Cutter)
Based on the choka 'Yuen aru Zoka' (time-honored Zoka) in Volume 16 which contains references to an old bamboo cutter and a celestial nymph, it has been pointed out that the Manyoshu is linked to Taketori monogatari.

Urashima Taro
The choka composed by TAKAHASHI no Mushimaro in volume 9 contains elements of the original tale of Urashima Taro.

Whale fishing

The Manyoshu contains poems writing about 'isana,' an expression which generally indicates whales, and which is written as 鯨魚, 鯨名, 勇魚, 不知魚, and 伊佐魚. And the word 'isana-tori', mainly meaning whale fishing, was widely used as a set epithet to describe the sea, an inlet, a beach, the open sea and the like.

Volume 2
Isana-tori' Omi no umi wo oki sakete kogikurufune hetsukite kogikuru fune oki tsu kai itaku na hane so he tsu kai itaku na hane so wakakusa no tsuma no omo tori tatsu (Omi's whale-hunted waters leaving the offing as you approach nearing the shore as you approach; Do not strike your oars so roughly in the offing! Do not strike your oars so roughly near the shore! The bird of my husband supple as the young grass will fly away.)
Volume 3
Koshi no umi no Tsunuga no hama yu Obune no Makaji nuki oroshi 'isana-tori' umiji ni idete (Large ship left Tsunuga Beach in Etsu sea with the oars down to go for whale fishing.)
Volume 6
Yasumi shishi Waga Okimi no arigayo Naniwa no miya wa 'inasa-tori' Umi katazukite Tamairiu Hamae wo chikami asa wa furu namino otosawaku Yunagi ni Kaji no Oto kikoyu Akatoki no Nezame ni kikeba Watatsumi no Shioi no muta Urasu ni wa Chidori zuma yobi Ashibe ni wa Tazugane toyomu Miru hito no Katari ni sureba Kikuhito no Mimakurihorisuru mike mukau Ajiharanomiya ha Miredomo Akanu kamo (Naniwanomiya Palace where Our Okimi often goes is placed at the sea and near the beach to pick the balls; It could be heard the sound of waves in the morning as if birds shake their wings, the sound of oars in the evening; Keeping ears open at the dawn, birds sings to call my wife in a hidden reef appearing at low tide, canes cries in the reedy shore; when people hear about the palace from those who have seen it, they want to see it; it has seen enough of Ajiunomiya [also known as Naniwanomiya Palace])

Connections with other languages

In the 1960s, Tokutaro YASUDA stated in his book "Manyo no Nazo" (Mystery of the Manyoshu) that the parent language of Japanese is Rong from the northern part of India, and that the Manyoshu can be read by the Rong.

In the 1980s, it was suggested that the language used in the "Manyoshu" is related to ancient Korean, and that the Manyoshu could have been read by Koreans of that time, and a series of books about this theory became a bestseller. This idea was thoroughly opposed and criticized by the Japanese language scholars of the time, and it is taken as a kind of pseudoscience or folk etymology, i.e. merely a coincidence of languages, and it is no longer taken seriously. The 'Japan-Korea single ancestry theory' was behind the motivation for the putting forward of this idea. Some Korean nationalist sentiments assert that the whole of ancient Japanese culture originated from the Korean Peninsula (put forward by Pak Pyong Sik and Yi Yong-hui), and some Japanese people including Yuka FUJIMURA have also supported those views, and elements of the media including the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (such as NHK, which is recognized as a respected state-run broadcasting station in other countries, in some ways moreso than in Japan) and major publishing houses including Bungeishunju Ltd. and Shincho Publishing Company have reported that those opinions have been shared by some Japanese people. Many Korean scholars have mixed feelings in relation to documents which prove that literature and an original writing system had been widely established in Japan including for people outside the aristocracy much earlier than in Korea; therefore, some Korean scholars may prefer to adhere to hypothesis of direct relationship between 'the ancient Korean language' and the "Manyoshu" without concrete scientific evidence to back up the assertion. However, there is no logical or rational ground for denying the conventional interpretation of the reading of the "Manyoshu," which means that the idea of taking the "Manyoshu" as being derived from the ancient Korean language have technically collapsed.

The view of pursuing the relationship between other languages and the Japanese based on the opinion that the "Manyoshu" has many correlations with that language has been frequently stated in connection with the grounds for justifying Japan's imperialistic expansionism after the Meiji period, and there is no novelty in this view. In other words, this could be said to be on a par with the popular folklore of identifying Genghis Khan with MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune.

[Original Japanese]