- 'Records of Ancient Matters'. The oldest extant work of imperial mythology, written by a court noble called Yasumaro in 712. It incorporates some much older oral material including a number of songs. Rediscovered through the philological researches of Kamo no Mabuchi and especially Motoori, Norinaga, it came to be regarded as a Shinto scripture by the kokugaku school. The work is said to have been initiated by Emperor Temmu who in 673 had usurped the throne and was concerned to 'correct' existing clan histories. Temmu recited the material to Hiyeda no Are, a member of his household endowed with a remarkable memory. No details are known about Are, who may have been male or female. For twenty-five years after the emperor's death Are preserved the text before transmitting it on the orders of Empress Gemmio to Yasumaro, who rendered the oral tradition into written form in 712. For the main text Yasumaro used Chinese characters but in a way which preserved a far less Chinese-influenced, more 'Japanese' style of narrative than the near-contemporary Nihongi, hence the kokugaku preference for this text. Like the Nihongi, the Kojiki contains myths and semi-historical material about the imperial clan. It covers events from the birth of the primordial kami in the plain of high heaven (takama-ga-hara) down to to the historical reign of the empress Suiko (r.593-623) and was intended to legitimise the lineage of Temmu. There are English translations by Chamberlain (1882) and Philippi (1968).
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.