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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: January 2016

38 - Introduction to early modern Japanese literature

from Part IV - The Edo period (1600–1867)


Hyakunin isshu, a collection of one hundred poems by one hundred poets who lived from the seventh century to the thirteen century, was compiled by Fujiwara no Teika. It contains forty-three love poems, nearly half of the collection and an extremely high percentage compared to that in imperial waka anthologies. In the Edo period the Hyakunin isshu came to represent the entire tradition of Heian court poetry, and it saw a sudden increase in readership, particularly due to the new print culture, which enabled people from all classes to educate themselves. The Hyakunin isshu has taken many forms. During the Pacific War a collection called Aikoku hyakunin isshu or The Patriotic Hyakunin isshu appeared, praising the emperor and encouraging loyalty to the nation and the throne. Today Hyakunin isshu is one of the most familiar pieces of classical literature in Japan and without a doubt will reappear in the future in many new forms.