Nihon Gafu (日本楽府)

"Nihon Gafu" is an anthology of poems written by Sanyo RAI. It was completed in 1828 when he was 49 years old. Modeled on "Giko Gafu" by Chinese poet Li Tung-yang (1447 - 1516), "Nihon Gafu" covers in a ballad style historical events and incidents that occurred from ancient times up to the Shokuho era (Oda-Toyotomi era, as known as Azuchi Momoyama period). "Nihon Gafu" is the only book of his which was published while Sanyo was still alive, in1830. Sanyo's pupil, Hyakuho MAKI, provided the annotations on the poems and explained the historical events which are written in the poems. "Nihon Gafu" consists of 66 "ketsu". The character for "ketsu" means "a passage" or "a section" and 66 "ketsu" means the anthology has 66 poems or songs.

A "giko gafu" is a Chinese folk song (gafu) borrowing only a title from an older Chinese folk song (kogafu). Many gafu that became popular in the period of Rikucho (the six dynasties in China running from the third to the sixth centuries) mimic traditional folk songs and their lyrics. However after strict rules about modern style poetry were consolidated in the Tang dynasty, gafu were mainly produced with only the title borrowed from kogafu in the period of Rikucho, and those gafu were almost the same as the old style poetry in their format. Li Tung-yang (mentioned above) was a literary man from the later period of the Ming dynasty, whose poetry was modeled after the poetry of the early eighth century of the Tang dynasty and the old literature by the eight great literati in the Tang and Song periods, and which challenged Taikaku style (poetry with an exquisite form of expression but with insubstantial content) fashionable at that time. In the latter part of "Nihon Gafu", it is written that Li Tung-yang was good at giko gafu and Sanyo followed him in producing "Nihon Gafu."

Although the poems in "Nihon Gafu" are about historical events, its descriptions are often different from the ones written in some reliable historical documents, as was the case with "Nihon Gaishi " (Unofficial History of Japan). The same is true of "Giko Gafu" poems by Li Tung-yang, and they were derided at that time as describing his dogmatic worldview of history which was contradictory to the socially conventional view of history. However it is narrow-minded to see Sanyo's poems as works by an historically uneducated person. Rather it must be regarded as a subjective commentary on historical events based on Sanyo's personal view.