Mumyo Zoshi (Story Without a Name) (無名草子)

Mumyo Zoshi (Story Without a Name) is a classic from the early Kamakura Period, and the oldest critique of literature in Japan. It is also called "Mumyo Monogatari" or "Kenkyu Monogatari." This is a critique of Ocho Monogatari (tales of the Heian and Kamakura periods) from a female perspective.

A prevailing theory states that the author of Mumyo Zoshi is the daughter of FUJIWARA no Toshinari (KOSHIBE no Zenni).

It was completed in the period between 1196 and 1202.

It takes the style of a dialogue between an 83-year-old nun who, at a young age, served Kokamonin's mother, Kitanomandokoro (legal wife of regent or chief adviser to the Emperor), and young court ladies living at the foot of Mt. Higashiyama with four chapters of "Preface," "Critique of Monogatari (tales)," "Critique of Kashu (collection of poetry)," and "Critique of Women."

The "Critique of Monogatari" starts with a short review of chapters, characters, and impressive scenes of "The Tale of Genji," followed by discussions of tsukuri monogatari" (fictional tales) in the Heian Period, such as "Sagoromo Monogatari" (The Tale of Sagoromo), "Yowa no Nezame" (Awaken at the midnight), "Mitsu no Hamamatsu" (Hamamatsu Chunagon Monogatari [The Tale of Hamamatsu Chunagon]), and "Torikaebaya Monogatari" (The Changelings). In the next chapter, discussions focus on poetry stories and collections of poetry, such as "Ise Monogatari" (The Tales of Ise) and "Yamato Monogatari" (Tales of Yamato), and shift to "Manyoshu" (the oldest anthology of Japanese poetry), seven major imperial anthologies of poetry, personal anthologies, and poetry contests. In the last chapter on women, stars in the Imperial court such as Sei Shonagon, Murasaki Shikibu, Izumi Shikibu, Koshikibu no Naishi, Yamato no Senji, and Kojiju are the topics of discussion, but the author seems to give the highest praise to Ise, who was a poet, Imperial Princess Senshi, FUJIWARA no Teishi, and FUJIWARA no Kanshi. Each of the four women had her own attitude toward her life. The book is concluded by stating that it leaves the critique of men to other tales like "Okagami" (The Great Mirror).

Mumyo Zoshi is a valuable literary work not only for research on scattered and lost tales but also for understanding how people in the early Medieval Period accepted the Heian literature.

[Original Japanese]