In the years since WWII, the folk legends laid down in the book have been popularized as ancient tales retold in movies, mangas and simplified school book texts while the original Kojiki in its full length is still a tough book to read - even for Japanese people. However, Sukeyuki Miura's translation of the Kojiki into modern Japanese as published by Bungei Shunju in , turned out to be best seller: Extensive footnotes provide detailed background information, at times even including pictures to make clear which, say, bird was actually meant in the original text.
Miura's version of the Kojiki also includes extensive tables at the back of the book clearly delineating all the complicated family relations related in the text. One could only wish that any of the English translations would come even close to Miura's modern edition. Being an absolute pioneer with his work, and Japan's old legends so far largely unknown in the West, Chamberlain felt it rightfully necessary to provide extensive background information on the text in his lengthy introduction and to explain every detail known to him in the footnotes on the pages.
Chamberlain did not only explain what he knew, he also translated almost every name of the gods and emperors given in the text into English - right in the text, not in the footnotes.
The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters
Which makes for a very strange read, of course. The names of the most famous deities were left intact, however with translation provided , and so are most of the place names. Being a man of Victorian times, Chamberlain couldn't possibly wrap his head around the fact that Japan was a sexually rather permissive society and that even the oldest gods spoke in open terms about sexual matters. Chamberlain thus translated the racy paragraphs of the Kojiki into Latin rather than English.
The erudite dons at Oxford and Cambridge would grasp the Latin with a smirk, the rest of the readers would be left out of the loop. Chamberlain's translation is still in print today.
The Kojiki Index
American scholar Donald L. Philippi's translation of the Kojiki was first published in Philippi not only corrected various errors in Chamberlain's translation and rendered the sections previously only available in Latin in English, he also tried to convey the most accurate old Japanese phonology of all the many names mentioned in the book. Since the latter effort meant to revive vowels not used in current Japanese anymore, many of the names include academic pronunciation signs. Many names of the gods thus look rather strange to readers used to the currently common Western spelling of Japanese names.
A discussion of the English translations of the Kojiki 古事記 (By O No Yasumaro)
That aside, Philippi's book is a pleasure to read. His fluent writing combined with the mystery of the old Japanese names works really well. You can get a small glimpse at his translation of the story of warrior Yamato Takeru here: Unfortunately, Philippi's book hasn't been reprinted since It is still available in the form of second-hand copies at Amazon and other online dealers but the price has by now become horrendous.
Kojiki Japanese religious text.
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Help us improve this article! It gives a unique perspective of how the Japanese people thought, at a time when these stories were seen as truth. The annotations give it additional depth, showing this culture from the perspectives of a Westerner in the early s in what would now be seen as an otherworldly land.
Classical Book Review: A Brief Look at ‘The Kojiki’ (Tuttle)
Its foundation is the somewhat chaotic beauty of what is natural, and the divine hierarchy that brings order to chaos. Fascinating,— I had not heard of this— and this article is especially informative since it briefly outlines the history of translation and recommends what the author feels is the edition most true to the original. Fascinating, especially comparing the modern and older translations and its implications, and how the subtlest things reveal huge philosophical differences. Philipp, thank you for reminding us of the importance of early literary texts. It is frequently true that the scholarly work of earlier centuries is more profound, and sometimes, as you have pointed out, more accurate, than that of later times.
From the Kojiki itself of , poems from the legendary Emperor Ojin and the ill-fated Prince Kinashi no Karu are of most interest to me. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam.
Learn how your comment data is processed. By Joshua Philipp The Japanese creation story begins in a time of primordial chaos, and from this the god Izanagi and the goddess Izanami emerge to create the Japanese islands.