In the sec. VI d, Chinese arrived in Japan, together with Chinese culture, also Buddhism and probably on this occasion the Japanese organized their national religion in new forms, calling it, in contrast to the “way of the Buddha”, “way of the gods”, or shintō. Between Shintoism and Buddhism there is first harmony in that they pursue different purposes: the one worldly salvation and the other the extramundane one. Later, the formation of syncretistic sects entailed their competition, but in its essential lines Japanese religious history remains characterized by a public Shinto cult (including private, but equally civic, ancestor cults), and an expressed private religiosity. mainly in the various forms of Buddhism, of which the main ones are tendai, zen and jodo. The interpretation of religion in Japan remains, in any case, a rather individual, personalized fact (it is not uncommon to see among the gifts offered in temples homemade sweets or supermarket drinks), so much so that it may be more appropriate, especially in ancient times. modern, talk about spirituality, to embrace and better understand the multiple ways of living the religious dimension of the Japanese. Visit for Asia religion.


In the Edo or Tokugawa period (1603-1868), in which the shogunal government passed to the Tokugawa and its headquarters in Edo (today’s Tōkyō), the increase of industries and trade determined the rise of an urban and mercantile class, for whose needs a popular destination narrative arose, entirely in kana and with an adventurous or fabulous or anecdotal content. A well-known scholar of the genre was Ryōi Asai (1621-1691). A Japanese version of Aesop’s fables, the Isoppu Monogatari, was conducted on a Dutch translation . In fact, the first contacts with Europeans had already been established and the introduction of Christianity had also begun, which was then opposed and persecuted. These events did not greatly influence literature, but inspired narrative works such as the Kirishitan Taiji Monogatari (History of the extermination of Christians). A new type of novel, ukiyo-zōshi (books of the floating world), inspired by everyday life in big cities, had a great success. The main author of the genre was Saikaku Ihara (1642-1693), whose numerous works – including Kōshoku ichidai otoko (1682; Life of a libertine), Kōshoku ichidai onna (1686; Life of a worldly woman), Nippon eitaigura (1688; The Eternal Warehouse of Japan) – reveal great inventiveness and an extraordinary ability to create new models that mix romantic elements with a skeptical and unsentimental realism. The path begun by Saikaku was carried forward, albeit with less brilliant results, by Kiseki Ejima (1667-1736) and Ippū Nishizawa (1665-1731).

Starting from the second half of the eighteenth century other genres of prose fiction emerged: the kibyōshi (yellow cover), humorous and often satirical, and the sharebon (trendy books), set in the leisure districts of large cities and in particular in the Yushiwara of Edo. Dedicated to the relationships between clients and prostitutes, to the complicated etiquette and the system of values ​​that governed them, they count among the most representative writers Nanpo Ota (1749-1823) and Kyōden Santō (1761-1816). Prohibited in 1790 for reasons of public morality, the sharebons gave way to ninjōbons (books of sentiments) which, while essentially dealing with the same topics and environments, accentuated the element of romantic love. Among the most important authors is Shunsui Tamenaga (1789-1843). Another genre of great importance was the so-called yomihon (books to read), historical and adventurous stories, often inspired by Chinese folk literature, which paid particular attention to weaving and style, requiring greater literary and artistic commitment. Unsurpassed interpreter of this type of tale was Akinari Ueda (1734-1809): his collections, Ugetsu monogatari (Tales of rain and moon) and Harusame monogatari (Tales of spring rains), remain among the most interesting examples of historical tales., often dominated by the fantastic and supernatural element. After him, Bakin Takizawa (1767-1848) gave further development to the genre, highlighting in a conspicuous way on the one hand the adventurous element and the twists, on the other the didactic component inspired by Confucian morality and Buddhism. The haikai poetry rose to artistic dignity with Bashō Matsuo (1643-1694), evolving into a lyric genre with a strongly impressionistic character. The poet’s travel diaries were composed of haikai interspersed with prose, among which the Oku no hosomichi (The narrow road to the north) remains the most famous. Later taken up by Buson Yosa (or Taniguchi) (1716-1783) and Issa Kobayashi (1763-1827), the haikai (called haiku in modern times) remains one of the most original poetic genres of Japanese literature. The theater developed in turn, giving rise to two “popular” genres: kabuki, played by actors, and jōruri (now bunraku), puppet theater. The greatest author of texts was Monzaemon Chikamatsu (1653-1724), who was responsible for highly spectacular historical dramas and social dramas inspired by the inevitable conflicts between the impositions of a highly hierarchical and conservative society and the demands of individual freedom. Other theater authors include Kaion Ki no (1663-1742) and Izumo Takeda (1691-1756). The latter, in collaboration with Senryū Namiki and others, was the author of Kana-dehon chūshin-gura (A syllabic manual or the warehouse of faithful vassals), the famous story of the revenge of the forty-seven samurai, which still remains one of the fundamental texts. of the Tokugawa era theater. Among the last great authors of kabuki dramas , we remember Nanboku Tsuruya (1755-1829), famous for his macabre ghost stories, and Mokuami Kawatake (1816-1893). Scholarly literature was a sector in itself. The kangakusha movement (scholars of Chinese studies), established in the century. XVII, called for a revival of Chinese culture and Neo-Confucian thought, inspired by the Chinese rationalist philosopher Zhu Xi. The most important exponent was Hakuseki Arai (1657-1725). The exaltation of Chinese culture brought as a consequence the reaction of the kokugakusha (lovers of national studies), who dedicated themselves to the interpretation, the renewal, the dissemination of the heritage of the indigenous tradition. Among the major representatives: Mabuchi Kamo no (1697-1769) and Norinaga Motoori (1730-1801).

Japan Religion and Literature

Japan Religion and Literature
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