The Ouki (小右記)

The "Ouki" (also pronounced Shoyuki) is the diary of the Heian-period court noble FUJIWARA no Sanesuke. The name 'Ouki' means 'the Record (Diary) of Ononomiya, the Udaijin (Minister of the Right)' (a reference to Sanesuke). It contains 61 volumes. The entire diary was written in kanbun, the Classical Chinese hybrid script. The Ouki is also known as the "Yafuki."

There are two main versions of this diary that have survived for posterity, the one in the Sanjonishi family library (entitled "Ouki"), and the one in the Fushiminomiya family library (entitled "Yafuki"), and as most manuscripts and printings of this diary in recent years rely on one or the other of these two versions, both titles continue to co-exist. Moreover, the diary has many alternate names in use, including "Zokusuishinki" (Suishinki, Continued), so named because it followed in the tradition of "Suishinki" (or "Seishinkoki"), the diary of his grandfather Saneyori. But in fact all of these names were coined after Sanesuke's death; he himself called it the "Rekki" (calendrical record). This is thought to be because the original manuscript was written in the margins of the Guchu calendar; in any case, the word "Rekki" appears quite frequently in the diaries of nobles of that period. The original manuscript has not survived to the present day, however.

It appears Sanesuke began writing it starting in about 978, but the only currently extant section is the portion from 982 to 1032.

Subject matter of the diary
The Ouki records the golden age of FUJIWARA no Michinaga and Yorimichi and goes into great detail about its society, government, Court ceremonies and ancient practices, and considering that it is largely thanks to this diary that we know what we do about these aspects of life during this period, it is a historical record of immense value and importance.

The tone of his descriptions is dry and harsh overall, and critical of the Fujiwara family's Kujo lineage (rivals of Sanesuke's own Ononomiya lineage) but it is especially scathing in its criticisms of both the political decisions and personal life of Michinaga, the head of the Fujiwara family during Sanesuke's lifetime, and furthermore, because the diary covers a lengthy 55 year span, it is possible to achieve a true understanding of the circumstances and Court/military practices of society during the Fujiwara regency period. And it also gives a rich, flavorful account of Michinaga's life at Hojoji temple after taking the tonsure and entering the priesthood, a period of time the "Mido kanpakuki" (Record of the Mido Chief Advisor) doesn't cover.

The reason the famous Michinaga poem, 'When I reflect, this world is indeed my world, nor is there any flaw in the full moon,' is known to the world is thanks to the "Ouki," where it was recorded (it does not appear in Michinaga's own diary, the "Mido kanpakuki").

The Ouki offers description of the cuisine and dietary culture of the day, and also presents a picture of the lifestyle of nobles in that period.

There are several such sections, including one describing a scene in which people at the imperial palace started drinking ice water after being unable to bear the heat any longer. Another section discusses how bees had made a nest in Sanesuke's own house, and how he was collecting their honey. A third describes the time when Sanesuke invited FUJIWARA no Tadakuni, a man famed for his gluttonous appetite, to his house for dinner, and had him eat six bushels-worth of rice.

[Original Japanese]