Episode 508 – The Culture of Classical Japan, Part 2

This week on the podcast, we’re all about literature. We’ll be exploring the varieties of poetry and prose that have made the Heian period one of the golden ages of literary flourishing in Japanese history.


Sorensen, Joseph T. “Canons of Courtly Taste” in Japan Emerging: Premodern History to 1850

McCullough, Helen Craig. “Aristocratic Culture” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol II: Heian Japan

Brower, Robert, and Earl Miner. Japanese Court Poetry.


An illustration of Ariwara no Narihira combined with one of his poems, included in the Hyakunin Isshu.
A drawing of Ki no Tsurayuki by Yosai. From the Edo period.
The Tosa Nikki, as copied by Fujiwara no Teika.
A transcription of one section of the Izumi Shikibu Diary. Note the flowing nature of the cursive writing and the mixture of Chinese characters and kana — unusual for written work by women.
An illustration of a scene from Kagero Nikki by the Edo period artist Yashima Gyakutei.
Two pages of a transcription of the Sarashina Diary. Note the hiragana text; remember that hiragana was once known as “women’s hand.”
Sei Shonagon with her poem from the Hyakunin Isshu (no. 62) above.
Murasaki Shikibu gazes at the moon, being inspired to write the tale of Genji.