Masukagami (The Clear Mirror) (増鏡)

Masukagami is a historical tale. It is believed to have been compiled during the Northern and Southern Court period in Japan. Although the author is unknown, there are various theories holding it to be either Yoshimoto NIJO, Kinkata TOIN or someone related to the Shijo family. In order of composition, it is the final work among what is known as the shikyo (Four Mirrors, a series of four historical works compiled between the late Heian period and the early Muromachi period). Its contents deal with the most recent period in the shikyo.


The existing text consists of 20 volumes, and succeeding the other shikyo (now lost), it annalistically covers 150 years and the reigns of 15 Emperors, from Emperor Gotoba's accession to the throne in 1183 to Emperor Godaigo's exile on Oki island, and ends with his coming back to Kyoto in 1333.

It takes the format of the author taking notes on the tales of a 100-year-old Buddhist nun on a visit to the Seiryo-ji Temple in Sagano. (However, as the nun appears only in the first scene in the existing text, there is an opinion that, as in the other shikyo, there once existed a scene at the end where the nun appeared.)
One can enjoy its rich literary flavor and elegant style in its descriptions of the life of the court aristocracy.

In the past, there was a 17-chapter text and a 19-chapter text.
They are distinguished by calling the former 'the Old Text' and the latter 'the Vulgate Text.'
The two texts are especially different around the middle section (from Emperor Gosaga's accession up to the period of his cloistered government). The standard theory is that the latter text was produced by enlarging, expanding, and revising the former, but there is another theory that it was written first, and that the former text was produced from various sections that had been deleted from the latter.
(The latter is thought to have less pages chronologically out of order due to binding errors than the former.)
Whichever came first, it seems that there already existed two versions of "Masukagami" by the end of the 14th century. Furthermore, the existing 20 chapter text is a revised and enlarged edition produced in the Meiji period by Hidematsu WADA and others to eliminate the inconsistencies between the two texts, and is strongly criticized by Japanese literature researchers as having modified the classical work more than necessary, so that today study of the work is generally based on 17 and 19 chapter texts.

[Original Japanese]