Yamato Bibliography of Sources

Literary Histories

Keene, Donald. Seeds in the Heart: Japanese Literature from Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1993.

Konishi, Jin'ichi. A History of Japanese Literature: Volume One. Trans. Aileen Gatten. Princeton: Princeton University press, 1984. (Chapter One: The Kojiki (33-61)).

There are many other surveys and histories of Japanese literature. Keene's work is the standard and most general and wide-ranging survey of premodern Japanese literature. It is a good place to start. Each chapter, including the one on Kojiki, comes with a decent bibliography that can suggest further resources. Konishi's study is part of a 3-volume history of Japanese literature that has been translated from Japanese into English. It is far more detailed than Keene's survey and focuses much more closely on examining the literary aspects of various genres and periods and the shifts between genres and ages. It should not be one's first introduction to Japanese literature since it assumes quite a bit of knowledge in Japanese literary history, terminology, style, etc., but with an extensive index it can be a useful resource if one wants some more information on a specific topic.

Studies and Related Articles

Aoki, Michiko Yamaguchi. Ancient Myths and Early History of Japan: A Cultural Foundation. New York: Exposition Press, 1974.
Ebersole, Gary L. Ritual Poetry and the Politics of Death in Early Japan. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989.

This study provides a fascinating political reading of the Yamato Takeru myth and other myths and rituals found in Kojiki. Ebersole examines the role and rituals of death in early Japan to discuss the configurations of society and power; his work provides an alternate approach to reading this early body of literature. The volume comes with a good index and an extensive bibliography.

Horton, H. Mack. "Japanese Spirit and Chinese Learning: Scribes and Storytellers in Pre-modern Japan." The Ethnography of Reading. Ed. Jonathan Boyarin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. 156-179.

This article provides a great explanation of the development of the writing systems in Japan, the importation and adaptation of Chinese characters, the relationship between oral and written traditions, and other aspects that are related to the creation of Kojiki and other texts in the 8th century and later.

Morris, Ivan. The Nobility of Failure. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976.

This study is one of the classics of western scholarship on Japan and its literature. While some of it is definitely outdated and some of it should be, and has been, questioned, this study still provides interesting insights and approaches to the figure of the tragic hero in Japanese literature and history. The first chapter of the book is devoted to the story of Yamato Takeru, Morris' archetypal tragic hero.

Obayashi, Taryô. "The Origins of Japanese Mythology," Acta Asiatica 31, 1977.

This article discusses 3 themes in Japanese mythology: 1) the origin of the world or land, 2) the origin of culture, especially agriculture, and 3) the origin of kingship. Obayashi takes a comparative approach; he locates the similarities and links between the Japanese myths and those of other parts of Asia and the rest of the world.

Pelzel, John C. "Human Nature in the Japanese Myths." Personality in Japanese History. Eds. Albert M. Craig and Donald H. Shively. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970. 29-56.

This article covers a number of interesting points concerning the characterization of human nature found in the myths of Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. It could be a useful article for thinking about how Japanese myths deal with concepts of "good" vs. "evil", morality and ethics, views of heaven and earth, etc. that come up in many myths from all parts of the world.


Aston, W. G. Nihongi. London: Kegan Paul, 1896.

This is a translation of Nihon shoki, (720) also known as Nihongi.

Borgen, Robert and Marian Ury. "Readable Japanese Mythologies: Selections from Nihon shoki and Kojiki." Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese 24:1 (April 1990). 61-97.

Includes versions from both works of the creation myths and a translation of the Yamato Takeru myth from Kojiki.

Chamberlain, Basil Hall, I, Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1981. (First published 1932).

Philippi, Donald L. Kojiki. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1968.

The standard scholarly complete translation of Kojiki.