"Kojikiden" or "Furukotofumi no tsutae" is forty-four volumes of commentaries on "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters) by Norinaga MOTOORI, a scholar of Japanese classical literature in the Edo period. This book is casually referred to as "Kiden."
Norinaga started writing the book in 1764 and finished it in 1798, spending as many as thirty-five years completing it. This book was published in print from 1790 to 1882, during which Norinaga died.
In 1756, Norinaga, aged 27, who had studied medicine in Kyoto, bought "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters) and "Sendai Kujihongi (Ancient Japanese History): Lineage of the Mononobe and Soga Clans" at a book store. In these days, Norinaga had already read "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) and became more acquainted with Japanese Kodo (ancient method, ancient moral teachings, the way of learning) after he came across the writings of KAMO no Mabuchi (a scholar of Japanese classical literature) and was intrigued with his way of discussion and reasoning. In 1763, Norinaga finally met Mabuchi whom he had secretly admired and modeled after, and this encounter, known as 'the night in Matsuzaka,' made him decide to carry out extensive research into "Kojiki" throughout his life. In 1764, the following year, Norinaga set out to work on "Kojikiden." However, it took him as many as thirty-five years before it was completed in 1798, during which he wrote other books, including "Tamakatsuma" (a collection of essays) and "Uiyamabumi" (First Steps into the Mountain).
Before giving commentaries on Kojiki, Norinaga had to determine its body of text by collating a large number of copies and carefully comparing, examining, and revising differences among them. Then, he provided ancient words with Japanese reading and detailed commentaries. (This style was taken over by Kenji KURANO, who later wrote "Kojiki zenchushaku" (a comprehensive commentary on the Kojiki). Out of 44 volumes of "Kiden," Volume 1 provides general remarks (an outline), including 'Naobinomitama' (a book of Shinto), Volume 2 commentaries on the preface and the genealogy of gods, and the rest, Volume 3 to 44, commentaries on the text. Additionally, "Teisei Kokun Kojiki", which was once regarded as the "Kojiki"'s authentic manuscript, is actually a book published by Norinaga's pupils in 1803 after he died; in this book, small corrections were made only to the text and pronuciations "Kojikiden" provides.
Norinaga's "Kojikiden" is regarded as a top-level study of Kojiki in the pre-modern period and appreciated as the first positivist, philological work. The ancient special Kana usage, which is now widely accepted by Japanese language scholars, was also discovered by Norinaga. In providing commentaries on Kojiki in "Kojikiden," he established Kokugaku (the study of Japanese classical literature), which worships the age of Japanese deities. Norinaga's admiration for "Kojiki" completely changed the way people saw it. It had been regarded as inferior to "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), the official history of Japan, but it came to be regarded as a collection of Shinto scriptures. In giving commentaries on "Kojiki," he believed all the stories in it to be true, and strongly supported "Yamatogokoro" (literally, "the heart of Japan") while denying "kan gokoro" (literally, "the heart of Kara (an ancient Chinese dynasty)," a Confucian view.
Its influence on studies of literature and history
"Kojikiden" is not only comprehensive commentaries on "Kojiki," but also had an immense impact on research into ancient literature and history. Even in the twenty-first century, his book continues to be referred to by the scholars of "Kojiki" and ancient culture as the authoritative book. It is fair to say that today's commentaries on "Kojiki" have mostly adopted the reading and interpretation by Norinaga although some corrections have been made to them by later researchers. On the other hand, there are various criticisms from people who oppose his commentaries and interpretations.
Norinaga interpreted "Gishi wajinden" (Records of the Wa people, Chronicle of Wei) based on "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," which supported the view of Sonno Joi, (a view that advocates reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners), and came up with the theory that Himiko was the female head of the Yamataikoku kingdom and the kingdom was located in Kyushu. His theory and that of Hakuseki ARAI, who insisted that the kingdom was in Yamato (the Kinki region), have become the source of controversy called Controversy over Yamataikoku.
The cover title of "Kojikiden" ("古事記伝") was written by Harutomi TOKUNAGA, the tenth lord of the Kishu domain, who employed Norinaga, as a token of his appreciation.