Yamaguchi Naomi: Acts of Looking and Listening in the Kojiki

Thursday 12/5/2013,  2:15-3:00 PM, Doheny Library 233

Acts of Looking and Listening in the Kojiki
YAMAGUCHI Naomi, Graduate Student in Japanese Literature, Meiji University

The section devoted to the reign of the monarch known as Nintoku Tennô in the eighth-century Kojiki, or Record of Ancient Matters, begins with the geneology of the monarch and then records an episode when he looked out over his realm from a hill.  At the time he observed that very few families were cooking their meals and thus he decided not to tax people for three years.  Three years later Nintoku looked out again and observed smoke from fires where rice was cooking at numerous residences.  So he knew that the people prospered and he decided to tax them again. In later times people praised the reign of Nintoku Tennô and called it a divine sovereign’s era. This act of a monarch looking out over his realm was an important royal ritual called “kunimi,”  and we find it described in extant gazetteers (fudoki) and in the Man’yoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves).

In my view however, a careful reading of the Kojiki suggests that the action of listening was as important as the action of looking. Listening too had ritualistic significance, a fact that has not received the note it deserves. In this paper I will discuss acts of listening and their meaning as described in the Kojiki.

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