On Manyoshu, the collection of ten thousand leaves anthology

Manyoshu is the oldest Japanese poetry anthology including nearly 4500 poems. Themes include the description of nature, love, traveling, family matters, elegies etc. The poems were composed by a variety of people such as Emperors, imperial court members, nobility, ordinary people and even soldiers, and there are many poems whose authors are not known. Most poems are believed to have been written from the 5th to the middle of the 8th centuries in Nara, the western part of Japan, and the cradle of Japanese civilization. Most poems are freely written lyrical poems, and most were composed in a simple manner, without any social or imperial restrictions or obligations. That is: there was no social pressure to write the poems in any particular style or on any particular subject, instead people wrote them as they saw fit. Therefore, poems in the Manyoshu present peoples’ true feelings and genuine emotions toward natural phenomena as well as personal relationships. These poems are seen as the purest of ancient Japanese literature.

Historically the early days of Japan were characterized as a period in which emotions or feelings dominated rather than intellect. As time went by, in the Edo period(1603-1867) Confucianism had greatly influenced the people and culture, leading Japan to be a country based on strong intellect. Especially from the Asuka(592-710), Nara(710-784) and up to Heian (794-1185) eras, Japan was a culture in which emotion was highly valued. This is why the Japanese still put an emphasis on humanity both in businesses and personal relationships. Some examples of this in earlier periods are the Manyoshu anthology and the Tale of Genji in the Heian period.

The Japanese are often considered to be very modest or gentle, and I believe the Japanese owe their modesty and gentleness to the love of writing poems as shown in the Manyoshu anthology. It also has a lot to do with Emperors who have enjoyed creating poetry from ancient times up to the present.