Tosa Nikki

Tosa Nikki

The Tosa Nikki (土佐日記 – Tosa Diary), written in 935AD by Ki no Tsurayuki, is an account (punctuated by poems throughout) of his journey home to Kyoto.

Tosa Nikki
Copy of the Tosa Nikki by Fujiwara no Teika.

The composition of the diary is as if it was written by a women, ie. it is written in kana script. And so Ki no Tsurayuki throughout the diary refers to himself in the third person using titles such as yuku hito (the traveller), funagimi (the passenger) and aru hito (a certain person).

As he writes as a women the first line of his diary reads:

it is generally a man who writes what is called a Diary, but now a woman will see what she can do.’

’男もすなる日記といふものを、女もしてみむとてするなり.’

Throughout he includes poetic verses, and all but two of them are written in tanka verse (5-7-5-7-7)

At a distance of 200 miles, the account states it took 55 days in total to reach his destination, though there were several delays including a ten day delay in Ōminato. The journey was seen to be leisurely, camping on shore at night, remaining there if the weather look dangerous the next morning.

The book was described by Aston (1899) as:

‘its only merit is that it describes in simple yet elegant language, and with a vein of playful humor, the ordinary life of a traveler… This has proven sufficient to give it a high rank among st Japanese classics… It has been followed by many imitations, but has had no equal.’1

Footnotes

1. Porter, W.N. (1981) ”The Tosa Diary by Ki no Tsurayuki”. Singapore: Tuttle Publishing.

Check out Japan Archives, our Japanese History Podcast

Follow us on social media.
Twitter: @japanarchives Instagram: @nexus_travels


Hibayama