Nihon Shoki – The Chronicles of Japan

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Nihon Shoki [日本書紀] is the second oldest book in classical Japanese history. This book, which literally means Chronicles of Japan, has proved to be an important tool for historians, as it has the most complete record of ancient Japan.

The Nihon Shoki was completed in 720 under the editorial supervision of Prince Toneri and with the assistance of Ō no Yasumaro dedicated to Empress Gensho. The book is also called Nihongi [日本紀] which means Japanese Chronicles.

The Nihon Shoki begins with the Japanese creation myth, explaining the origin of the world and the first seven generations of divine beings (beginning with Kuninotokotachi), and continues with various myths, much like the Kojiki, but continues its account through events in the eighth century.

It is believed to accurately record the last reigns of Emperor Tenji, Emperor Tenmu, and Empress Jito. Nihon Shoki focuses on the merits of virtuous rulers as well as the mistakes of bad rulers. It describes episodes from mythological times and diplomatic contacts with other countries.

The Nihon Shoki was written in chinese classical, as was common in official documents of the time. The Nihon Shoki also contains numerous transliteration notes informing the reader how the words were pronounced in Japanese.

Collectively, the stories in this book and the Kojiki are called the Kiki stories. The Tale of Urashima Taro is developed from the brief mention in Nihon Shoki (Emperor Yūryaku, year 22) that a certain son of Urashima visited Horaisan and saw wonders.

Nihon Shoki - The Chronicles of Japan
Urashima Taro

Nihon Shoki writing

The Nihon Shoki compilation came about when Emperor Tenmu ordered 12 people, including Prince Kawashima, to edit the old empire history. The process was done until part of May 720.

Prince Toneri had compiled Nihongi under the Emperor's orders; he completed it, submitting 30 volumes of history and a volume of genealogy. The compilation process is generally studied by stylistic analysis of each chapter.

Although written in Literary Kanji, some sections use styles characteristic of Japanese editors. The Nihon Shoki is a synthesis of older documents, specifically on the records that were kept continuously at the Yamato court since the 6th century.

It also includes documents and folklore presented by clans serving the court. Before Nihon Shoki, there were Tennōki and Kokki compiled by Prince Shōtoku and Soga no Umako, but as they were stored in Soga's residence, they were burned at the time of the Isshi Incident.

Contributors to the work refer to various sources that do not exist today. Among these sources, three Baekje documents (Kudara-ki, etc.) are cited primarily for the purpose of recording diplomatic affairs.

Records possibly written in Baekje may have been the basis for the citations in the Nihon Shoki. Textual criticism shows that scholars fleeing the destruction of the Baekje to Yamato wrote these stories and the authors of Nihon Shoki relied heavily on these sources.

This must be taken into account in relation to statements referring to ancient historical rivalries between the ancient Korean kingdoms of Silla, Goguryeo and Baekje. The use of Baekje place names in Nihon Shoki is another evidence showing the history used by the Baekje documents.

Nihon Shoki - The Chronicles of Japan
Nihon Shiki's writing

Nihon Shoki Chapters

  • Chapter 01: Kami no Yo no Kami no maki;
  • Chapter 02: Kami no Yo no Shimo no maki;
  • Chapter 03: (Emperor Jimmu) Kan'yamato Iwarebiko no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 04:
    • (Emperor Suizei) Kamu Nunakawamimi no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Annei) Shikitsuhiko Tamatemi no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Itoku) Ōyamato Hikosukitomo no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Kōshō) Mimatsuhiko Sukitomo no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Kōan) Yamato Tarashihiko Kuni Oshihito no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Kōrei) Ōyamato Nekohiko Futoni no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Kōgen) Ōyamato Nekohiko Kunikuru no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Kaika) Wakayamato Nekohiko Ōbibi no Sumeramikoto;
    • Chapter 05: (Emperor Sujin) Mimaki Iribiko Iniye no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 06: (Emperor Suinin) Ikume Iribiko Isachi no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 07:
    • (Emperor Keikō) Ōtarashihiko Oshirowake no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Seimu) Waka Tarashihiko no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 08: (Emperor Chūai) Tarashi Nakatsuhiko no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 09: (Empress Jingū) Okinaga Tarashihime no Mikoto;
  • Chapter 10: (Emperor Ōjin) Homuda no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 11: (Emperor Nintoku) Ōsasagi no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 12:
    • (Emperor Richū) Izahowake no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Hanzei) Mitsuhawake no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 13:
    • (Emperor Ingyō) Oasazuma Wakugo no Sukune no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Ankō) Anaho no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 14: (Emperor Yūryaku) Ōhatsuse no Waka Takeru no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 15:
    • (Emperor Seinei) Shiraka no Take Hirokuni Oshi Waka Yamato Neko no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Kenzō) Woke no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Ninken Emperor) Oke no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 16: (Emperor Buretsu) Ohatsuse no Waka Sasagi no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 17: (Emperor Keitai) Ōdo no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 18:
    • (Emperor Ankan) Hirokuni Oshi Take Kanahi no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Senka) Take Ohirokuni Oshi Tate no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 19: (Emperor Kinmei) Amekuni Oshiharaki Hironiwa no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 20: (Emperor Bidatsu) Nunakakura no Futo Tamashiki no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 21:
    • (Yōmei Emperor) Tachibana no Toyohi no Sumeramikoto;
    • (Emperor Sushun) Hatsusebe no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 22: (Empress Suiko) Toyomike Kashikiya Hime no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 23: (Emperor Jomei) Okinaga Tarashi Hihironuka no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 24: (Empress Kōgyoku) Ame Toyotakara Ikashi Hitarashi no Hime no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 25: (Emperor Kōtoku) Ame Yorozu Toyohi no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 26: (Empress Saimei) Ame Toyotakara Ikashi Hitarashi no Hime no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 27: (Emperor Tenji) Ame Mikoto Hirakasuwake no Sumeramikoto;
  • Chapter 28: (Emperor Tenmu) Ama no Nunakahara Oki no Mahito no Sumeramikoto, Kami no maki;
  • Chapter 29: (Emperor Tenmu) Ama no Nunakahara Oki no Mahito no Sumeramikoto, Shimo no maki;
  • Chapter 30: (Empress Jitō) Takamanohara Hirono Hime no Sumeramikoto;

Where to buy?

The Nihon Shoki is not available in English or in the same way as the original book. But we will present below some books from Amazon that are in English or that can highlight some points of Nihon Shoki. Hope you like it! Thanks for reading the article.

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