Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki (和州吉野郡群山記)

Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki (hereafter 'Gunzanki') is a name of the series of the natural history and topography books written by Tomoari MINAMOTO of the Kishu Domain, a scholar of herbalism and natural history in the late Edo period. They are an eight volume series and the last two volumes have a special title of 'Washu Yoshinogun Bussanshi' (Book of Products of Yoshino County, in Yamato Province). Bussan (products) here does not mean artificial products but means natural products such as animals, plants and minerals in the Mt. Yoshino area; therefore, these are the books on Yoshino's natural history.

The book is known with titles such as manuscripts 'Yoshinogun Meizan zushi', 'Washu Yoshinogun Meizan zushi' and 'Yoshino Gunzanki', but the title that Tomoari chose for himself was 'Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki'. These manuscripts need to be treated carefully because they contain incorrect information and bibliographic errors (manuscripts and bibliography).

History of Establishment

Tomoari received a command of Domain and began a survey of the Tenryo (a shognal demesne) including the whole Kii Province and Yoshino. The survey covered the whole Kii Peninsula and he wrote reports in "Kumano Bussan shoshi" to cover most of the Kumano Region (Muro-gun) from Nakahechi and Ohechi to Owase City and Nagashima-cho (Mie Prefecture), "Kinan Rokugun shi" for the northwestern area from Muro-gun, "Yasan Somoku tsushi" on the vegetation of the estate of the Koyasan Temple. The survey by command of Domain means a survey for resources development but these books were on regional animal and vegetation from the perspective of natural history, so Tomoari's interest was very clear. Among these books, Gunzanki is a literary work of achievement of the survey in the Mt. Yoshino area.

It is not exactly clear when Gunzanki was written, but because the latest article was about Totsukawa-mura Village in January 1847 and Tomoari mentioned the construction of the Gunzanki in the latter to his disciple Ryunosuke HOTTA dated on February 1, 1848; it is thought to be around 1848. Tomoari went to Hakusan, Kaga Province in 1822 and wrote "Hakusan no ki" and "Hakusan Somoku shi" (two-volume) and because they were in a similar style in the concept and construction as Gunzanki, they were thought to be an experimental work before writing the Gunzanki.

It is clear that the survey for Gunzanki was conducted between 1818 and 1829 due to Tomoari's statement. Ahead of Gunzanki, Tomoari wrote about a vegetation survey from 1835 to 1836 in a book called "Kingaku Somoku shi" but the survey in Mt. Yoshino was continued after that and until the Koka Period, it lasted for 20 years.

The route that Tomoari took from Wakayama to Yoshino could be traced from 'Totsukawa Shoki' in the Gunzanki Volume six. He explained it in detail with the distance and through the route stated below, he was based in places along Totsukawa River such as Dorogawa (Amakawa-mura, Yoshino-gun, Nara Prefecture) and used local hunters who knew about the mountain as his guides.

From Wakayama, he walked up Ise-Kaido Road along the Kinokawa River and moved to Koya-Kaido Road through the Tentsuji Pass from Hashimoto City.

He reached Totsukawa-mura along the Nishikumano-Kaido Road (today's Route 168) from Gojo City.

Then he reached to Mt. Sanjogatake through Koyasan Mountain, Nosegawa and Dorogawa from Wakayama.

He moved from Nakahechi to Totsukawa Hotel.

From the Ise-Kaido Road, he walked to Ominekugake-do Road through Yoshino.

The survey was not easy and sometimes he had to camp and had to endure gales holding on to trees and plants ("Gunzanki" Volume four). Kotaro SHIRAI heard about Tomoari from an old priest of Zenki (Shimokitayama-mura, Yoshino-gun, Nara Prefecture) when he visited Yoshino in 1895. The old priest described Tomoari as 'a big man with swords on both sides', so we can image the scholar of natural history with a healthy body and strong mind who carried out his study vigorously.

Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki

Tomoari was not the only scholar of herbalism who wrote a book on vegetation in the Edo period. However, no other scholars tried to understand the characteristics of the nature of a region, not only about plants but also animals and minerals, by localizing the area and it is characteristic of his work in which detailed topography of the target area was also included. Tomoari's achievement was deeply connected to the line of development from herbalism to natural history, via Ranzan ONO to Tomoari's teacher Todo OBARA.

The characteristics of the book are those illustrations. The illustrations of animals and plants have scientific value with the detailed characteristics of them and they are also great as fine art which increases the value of the book. To replicate the grand image of the mountains on the limited space of paper, the pictures of them are worthy of mention because not only so many different styles of drawing were used but they are also of a scientific nature, unlike any other books. Among the methods, there were birds-eye views, views of the mountains and hills compressed, important parts emphasized, red grid lines drawn to show directions, etc., to increase the effect.

Tomoari was not totally relying on his own survey results but he also referred to other literature to give it objectivity. The books he cited in the first six volumes add up to 80 and the main ones were "Gokinai shi" (Book on the Gokinai Capital Region), "Washu Junran ki" (Journey of Yamato) and "Washu Kyuseki ki" (Historic Scenes of Yamato). At the time of writing Gunzanki, Tomoari was almost 50 years old and was not just working on Gunzanki alone. However, it is clear that Tomoari's learning reached its maturity then, comparing "Hakuzanki" and Gunzanki.

As Tomoari called it Fudo-shi (Book on Climate and Culture) in a letter, from Volume one to six, it is topography of Yoshino Mountains. The contents were not just about the topography of the mountains but also they had an aspect of cultural anthropology with description of endemic folkways.

Washu Yoshinogun Bussan-Shi

The Volume seven and eight have a special title of 'Washu Yoshinogun Bussan-shi'. The Bussan in the title means something naturally produced, not artificial products. The subjects were animals and plants such as medical herbs, fungi, vegetation, insects, fish, beasts and birds as well as some minerals.

As mentioned above, Tomoari described not only the characteristics of each animal and plant in detail drew some illustrations. He also wrote about the place of their origins and together with the topography from Volume one to six, it is a series of local reports of animals and plants of ecology and ecological geography. Considering that most books on nature by scholars of herbalism in the Edo period were just a description of each animal and plant and did not go beyond descriptive taxonomy by listing them up in the order of the 'Compendium of Materia Medica', it is clear that Tomoari was different due to these features of his Gunzanki.

Manuscripts and Bibliographies

Three manuscripts of Gunzanki are known as below. Within these, the one estimated to be written by Tomoari is "Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki" held by his disciple Ryunosuke HOTTA and other manuscripts were alternative versions copied from the original book. However, those alternative versions have problems not only bibliographical mistakes such as using the new title of 'Meizan zushi', a word the author never used, and misspelling '志' with '誌', but also the title was changed for a tourist information book when the original was an academic book on natural history.

Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki

It was kept by Tomoari's disciple Hotta and also called Hotta-bon (Hotta's book). From the style of the handwriting, it is said to be the manuscript in Tomoari's own hand and is thought to be given to Hotta by Tomoari's family after Tomoari's death.

It was written on Mino paper, on both sides in ink, nine lines in Gyosho (cursive style of writing Chinese characters) and citations were written in Kaisho (block script). Each volume was bound with Koyori (string made from twisted paper). From the index of the whole book, it is said that there are seven volumes but the seventh 'Washu Yoshinogun Bussan-shi' is in two Volumes, so it is actually an eight-Volume book. Bussan-shi is just a list of the names of places as the places of origin and from Volume one to Volume six need to be referred to.

Yoshinogun Meizan Zushi

These are five volumes in five books and kept at the National Diet Library. Because Kotaro SHIRAI ordered to make it from the book Saburo KAGA of Tokyo had in 1916, it is called 'Shirai-bon' (Shirai's Book). The construction of the books is different from the Hotta-bon and some illustrations, which did not exist in the original, were added; and the part of the title 'Meizan Zushi' was not chosen by Tomoari. Yet, from the contents, it is clear that the book is a manuscript of the Hotta-bon.

Washu Yoshinogun Meizan Zushi and Yoshino Gunzanki

They are in possession of the Tenri library attached to the Tenri University. They were privately owned before and it is a copy of the same book as the Shirai-bon with almost similar contents. They might have tried to make it more suitable to the title of 'Meizan Zushi' (Book of famous mountains), it has a sentence 'Daiyama reki ryakki' written by Kyuichiro NORO, a Chinese Nanga style artist of Kishu Domain; but the drawing of Chinese Nanga style mountains is somewhat ill-fitted. Also because the person who copied the illustrations might have tried to show his skills, there were some which give an impression of the distortion of the original; especially in the drawing of the mountains from Misen to Shakagadake, this is quite obvious.

Printed Books

It is included with the title of "Yoshinogun Meizan Zushi" from pages 432 to 523 of "Nihon Meisho Guzoku Zue, Nara Section" (Customs of Historical Places of Japan, Nara Prefecture Section) of Volume nine of 'Nihon Meisho Fuzoku zue' by Yoshitomo HIRAI, 1984, published by Kadokawa Group Publishing Co., Ltd. The original text for the book was "Yoshinogun Meizan Zushi" (from the National Diet Library) and "Washu Yoshinogun Meizan zushi" (from the Tenri library attached to Tenri University).

"Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki - the Survey Routes and its Biota" by Kyuemon GOSE, 1998, published by Tokai University Press ISBN 4486014200 - is a book based on Shirai-bon and compiled with Hotta-bon (Tomoari's original). It also contains the "Kingaku Somoku-shi" and a literature list.