The Kojiki, translated by Basil Hall Chamberlain, , at sacred-texts.com
The latter portion of the Preface to the "Records of Ancient Matters" is the only documentary authority for the origin of the work. It likewise explains its scope. But though in so doing the author descends to a more matter of fact style than the high-sounding Chinese phrases and elaborate allusions with which he had set forth, still his meaning may be found to lack somewhat of clearness, and it will be as well to have the facts put into language more intelligible to the European student. This having already been done by Mr. Satow in his paper on the "Revival of Pure Shintō," 2 it will be best simply to quote his words. They are as follows: "The Emperor Temmu, at what portion of his reign is not mentioned, lamenting that the records possessed by the chief families contained many errors, resolved to take steps to preserve the true traditions from oblivion. He therefore had the records carefully examined, compared, and weeded of their faults. There happened to be in his household a person of marvellous memory named Hiyeda no Are, who could repeat without mistake the contents of any document he had ever seen, and never forgot anything that he had heard. Temmu Tennō 3 took the pains to instruct this person in the genuine traditions and 'old language of former ages,' and to make him repeat them until he had the whole by heart. 'Before the undertaking was completed,' which probably means before it could be committed to writing,
the Emperor died, and for twenty-five years Are's memory was the sole depository of what afterwards received the title of Kojiki 4 or Furu-koto-bumi as it is read by Motoori. At the end of this interval the Empress Gemmiō ordered  Yasumaro to write it down from the mouth of Are, which accounts for the completion of the manuscript in so short a time as four months and a half. Are's age at this date is not stated, but as he was twenty-eight years of age some time in the reign of Temmu Tennō, it could not possibly have been more than sixty-eight, while taking into account the previous order of Temmu Tennō in 681 for the compilation of a history, and the statement that he was engaged on the composition of the Kojiki at the time of his death in 686, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that it belongs to about the last year of his reign, in which case Are was only fifty-three in 711."
The previous order of the Emperor Temmu mentioned in the above extract is usually supposed to have resulted in the compilation of a history which was early lost. But Hirata gives reasons for supposing that this and the project of the "Records of Ancient Matters" were identical. If this opinion be accepted, the "Records," while the oldest existing Japanese book, are, not the third, but the second historical work of which mention has been preserved, one such having been compiled in the year 620, but lost in a fire in the year 645. It will thus be seen that it is rather hard to say whom we should designate as the author of the work.
[paragraph continues] The Emperor Tem-mu, Hiyeda no Are, Yasumaro may all three lay claim to the title. The question, however, is of no importance to us, and the share taken by Are may well have been exaggerated in the telling. What seems to remain as the residue of fact is that the plan of a purely national history originated with the Emperor Temmu and was finally carried out under his successor by Yasumaro, one of the Court Nobles.
Fuller evidence and confirmatory evidence from other sources as to the origin of our "Records" would doubtless be very acceptable. But the very small number of readers and writers at that early date, and the almost simultaneous compilation of a history (the "Chronicles of Japan") which was better calculated to bit the taste of the age, make the absence of such evidence almost unavoidable. In any case, and only noticing in passing the fact that Japan was never till quite recent years noted for such wholesale literary forgeries (for Motowori's condemnation of the "Chronicles of Old Matters of Former Ages" has been considered rash by later scholars),—it cannot be too much emphasized that in this instance authenticity is sufficiently proved by internal evidence. It is hard to believe that any forger living later than the eighth century of our era should have been so well able to discard the Chinese "padding" to the old traditions, which after the acceptance by the Court of the "Chronicles of Japan," had come to be generally regarded as an integral portion of those very traditions; and it is more unlikely still that he should have invented a style so little calculated to bring his handiwork into repute. He would either have written in fair Chinese, like the mass of early Japanese prose writers (and his Preface
shows that he could do so if he were so minded); or, if the tradition of there having been a history written in the native tongue had reached him, he would have made his composition unmistakably Japanese in form by arranging consistent use of characters employed phonetically to denote particles and terminations, after the fashion followed in the Rituals, and developed (apparently before the close of the ninth century) into what is technically known as the "Mixed Phonetic Style" (Kana-mazhiri), which has remained ever since as the most convenient vehicle for writing the language. As it is, his quasi-Chinese construction, which breaks down every now and then to be helped up again by a few Japanese words written phonetically, is surely the first clumsy attempt at combining two divergent elements. What however is simply incredible is that, if the supposed forger lived even only a hundred years later than A.D. 712, he should so well have imitated or divined the archaisms of that early period. For the eighth century of our era was a great turning point in the Japanese language, the Archaic Dialect being then replaced by the Classical; and as the Chinese language and literature were alone thenceforward considered worthy the student's attention, there was no means of keeping up an acquaintance with the diction of earlier reigns, neither do we find the poets of the time ever attempting to adorn their verse with obsolete phraseology. That was an affectation reserved for a later epoch, when the diffusion of books rendered it possible. The poets of the seventh, eighth. and ninth centuries apparently wrote as they spoke; and the test of language alone would almost allow of our arranging their compositions half century by half century, even without the dates
which are given in many instances in the "Collection of a Myriad Leaves" and in the "Collection of Songs  Ancient and Modern,"—the first two collections of poems published by imperial decree in the middle of the eighth, and at the commencement of the tenth, century respectively.
The above remarks are meant to apply more especially to the occasional Japanese words,—all of them Archaic,—which, as mentioned above, are used from time to time in the prose text of the "Records," to help out the author's meaning and to preserve names whose exact pronunciation he wished handed down. That he should have invented the Songs would be too monstrous a supposition for any one to entertain, even if we had not many of the same and other similar ones preserved in the pages of the "Chronicles of Japan," a work which was undoubtedly completed in A.D. 720. The history of the Japanese language is too well known to us, we can trace its development and decay in too many documents reaching from the eighth century to the present time, for it to be possible to entertain the notion that the latest of these Songs, which have been handed down with minute care in a syllabic transcription, is posterior to the first half of the eighth century, while the majority must be ascribed to an earlier, though uncertain, date. If we refer the greater number of them in their present form to the sixth century, and allow a further antiquity of one or two centuries to others more ancient in sentiment and in grammatical usage, we shall probably be making a moderate estimate. It is an estimate, moreover, which obtains confirmation from the fact that the first notice we have of the use of writing in Japan dates from
early in the fifth century; for it is natural to suppose that the Songs believed to have been composed by the gods and heroes of antiquity should have been among the first things to be written down, while the reverence in which they were held would in some cases cause them to be transcribed exactly as tradition had bequeathed them, even if unintelligible or nearly so, while in others the same feeling would lead to the correction of what were supposed to be errors or inelegancies. Finally it may be well to observe that the authenticity of the "Records" has never been doubted, though, as has already been stated, some of the native commentators have not hesitated to charge with spuriousness another of their esteemed ancient histories. Now it is unlikely  that, in the war which has been waged between the partisans of the "Records" and those of the "Chronicles," some flaw in the former's title to genuineness and to priority should not have been discovered and pointed out if it existed.
During the Middle Ages, when no native Japanese works were printed, and not many others excepting the Chinese Classics and Buddhist Scriptures, the "Records of Ancient Matters" remained in manuscript in the hands of the Shintō priesthood. They were first printed in the year 1644, at the time when, peace having been finally restored to the country and the taste for reading become diffused, the great mass of the native literature first began to emerge from the manuscript state. This very rare edition (which was reprinted in facsimile in 1798) is indispensable to any one who would make of the "Records" a special study. The next edition was by a Shintō priest, Deguchi Nobuyoshi, and appeared in 1687. It has marginal
notes of no great value, and several emendations of the text. The first-mentioned of these two editions is commonly called the "Old Printed Edition" ( ), but has no title beyond that of the original work,—"Records of Ancient Matters with Marginal Readings" ( ). Each is in three volumes. They were succeeded in 1789-1822 by Motowori's great edition, entitled "Exposition of the Records of Ancient Matters" ( ). This, which is perhaps the most admirable work of which Japanese erudition can boast, consists of forty-four large volumes, fifteen of which are devoted to the elucidation of the first volume of the original, seventeen to the second, ten to the third, and the rest to prolegomena, indexes, etc. To the ordinary student this Commentary will furnish all that he requires, and the charm of Motowori's style will be found to shed a glamour over the driest parts of the original work. The author's judgment only seems to fail him occasionally when confronted with the most difficult or corrupt passages, or with such as might be construed in a sense unfavourable to his predilections as an ardent Shintoist. He frequently quotes the opinions of his master Mabuchi, whose own treatise on this subject is so rare that the present writer has never seen a copy of it, nor does the public library of Tōkyō possess one. Later and less important editions are the "Records of Ancient Matters with the Ancient Reading" ( ), a reprint by one of Motowori's pupils of the Chinese text and of his Master's Kana reading of it without his Commentary, and useful for reference, though the title is  a misnomer, 1803; the "Records of Ancient Matters with Marginal Notes" ( ), by Murakami Tadanori, 1874; the "Records of Ancient Matters in the Syllabic
[paragraph continues] Character" ( ) by Sakata no Kaneyasu, 1874, a misleading book, as it gives the modern Kana reading with its arbitrarily inserted Honorifics and other departures from the actual text, as the ipissima verba of the original work; the "Records of Ancient Matters Revised" ( ), by Uematsu Shigewoka, 1875. All these editions are in three volumes, and the "Records of Ancient Matters with the Ancient Reading" has also been reprinted in one volume on beautiful thin paper. Another in four volumes by Fujihara no Masaoki, 1871, entitled the "Records of Ancient Matters in the Divine Character" ( ), is a real curiosity of literature, though otherwise of no value. In it the editor has been at the pains of reproducing the whole work, according to its modern Kana reading, in that adaptation of the Korean alphabetic writing which some modern Japanese authors have supposed to be characters of peculiar age and sanctity, used by the ancient gods of their country and naméd "Divine Characters" accordingly.
Besides these actual editions of the "Records of Ancient Matters," there is a considerable mass of literature bearing less directly on the same work, and all of which cannot be here enumerated. It may be sufficient to mention the "Correct Account of the Divine Age" ( ) by Motowori, 3 Vols. 1789, and a commentary thereon entitled "Tokiha-Gusa" ( ) by Wosada Tominobu, from which the present translator has borrowed a few ideas; the "Sources of the Ancient Histories" ( ) and its sequel entitled "Exposition of the Ancient Histories" ( ), by Hirata Atsutane, begun printing in 1819,—works which are specially admirable from a philological point of view, and in which the student will find
the solution of not a few difficulties which even to Motowori had been insuperable; 5 the "Idzu no Chi-Waki" ( ), by Tachibana no Moribe, begun printing in 1851, a useful commentary on the "Chronicles of Japan"; the  "Idzu no Koto-Waki" ( ), by the same author, begun printing in 1847, an invaluable help to a comprehension of the Songs contained in both the "Records" and the "Chronicles the Examination of Difficult Words" ( , also entitled ), in 3 Vols., 1831, a sort of dictionary of specially perplexing terms and phrases, in which light is thrown on many a verbal crux and much originality of thought displayed; and the "Perpetual Commentary on the Chronicles of Japan" ( ), by Tanigaha Shisei, 1762, a painstaking work written in the Chinese language, 23 Vols. Neither must the "Kō Gan Shō," ( ), a commentary on the Songs contained in the "Chronicles" and "Records" composed by the Buddhist priest Keichiū, who may be termed the father of the native school of criticism, be forgotten. It is true that most of Keichiū's judgments on doubtful points have been superseded by the more perfect erudition of later days; but some few of his interpretations may still be followed with advantage. The "Kō Gan Shō" which was finished in the year 1691, has never been printed. It is from these and a few others and from the standard dictionaries and general books of reference, such as the "Japanese Words Classified and
[paragraph continues] Explained" ( ), the "Catalogue of Family Names" ( ), and (coming down to more modern times) Arawi Hakuseki's "Tōga" ( ), that the translator has derived most assistance. The majority of the useful quotations from the dictionaries, etc., having been incorporated by Motowori in his "Commentary," it has not often been necessary to mention them by name in the notes to the translation. At the same time the translator must express his conviction that, as the native authorities cannot possibly be dispensed with, so also must their assertions be carefully weighed and only accepted with discrimination by the critical European investigator. He must also thank Mr. Tachibana no Chimori, grandson of the eminent scholar Tachibana no Moribe, for kindly allowing him to make use of the unpublished portions Of the "Idzu no Chi-Waki" and the "Idzu no Katō-Waki," works indispensable to the comprehension of the more difficult portion of the text of the "Records." To Mr. Satow he is indebted for the English and Latin equivalents of the Japanese botanical names, to Capt. Blakiston and Mr. Namiye Motokichi for similar assistance with regard to the zoological names.
 Comparing what has been said above with what the author tells us in his Preface, the nature of the text, so far as language is concerned, will be easily understood. The Songs are written phonetically, syllable by syllable, in what is technically known as Manyō-Gana, i.e. entire Chinese characters used to represent sound and not sense. The rest of the text, which is in prose, is very poor Chinese, capable (owing to the ideographic nature of the Chinese written character 6), of being read off into Japanese. It is also not only full of "Japonisms." But
irregularly interspersed with characters which turn the text into nonsense for a Chinaman, as they are used phonetically to represent certain Japanese words, for which the author could not find suitable Chinese equivalents. These phonetically written words prove, even apart from the notice in the Preface, that the text was never meant to be read as pure Chinese. The probability is that (sense being considered more important than sound) it was read partly in Chinese and partly in Japanese, according to a mode which has since been systematized and has become almost universal in this country even in the reading of genuine Chinese texts. The modern school of Japanese literati, who push their hatred of everything foreign to the bounds of fanaticism, contend however that this, their most ancient and revered book, was from the first intended to be read exclusively into Japanese. Drawing from the other sources of our knowledge of the Archaic Dialect, Motowori has even hazarded a restoration of the Japanese reading of the entire prose text, in the whole of which not a single Chinese word is used, excepting for the titles of the two Chinese books (the "Confucian Analects" and the "Thousand Character Essay") which are said to have been brought over to Japan in the reign of the Emperor Ō-jin, and for the names of a Korean King and of three or four other
[paragraph continues] Koreans and Chinese. Whatever may be their opinion on the question at issue, most European scholars, to  whom the superior sanctity of the Japanese language is not an article of faith, will probably agree with Mr. Aston 7 in denying to this conjectural restoration the credit of representing the genuine words into which Japanese eighth century students of history read off the text of the "Records.'
v:2 Published in Vol. iii, Pt. I, of these "Transactions."
v:3 I.e., the Emperor Tem-mu.
vi:4 I.e., "Records of Ancient Matters." The alternative reading, which is probably but an invention of Motowori's, gives the same meaning in pure Japanese (instead of Sinico-Japanese) sounds.
xiii:5 Unfortunately the portion already printed does not carry the history down even to the close of the "Divine Age." The work is as colossal in extent as it is minute in research, forty-one volumes (including the eleven forming the "Sources") having already appeared. The "Idzu no Chi-Waki" and "Idzu no Koto-Waki" are similarly incomplete.
xiv:6 p. xvThe translator adopts the term "ideographic," because it is that commonly used and understood, and because this is not the place to demonstrate its inappropriateness. Strictly speaking, "logographic" would be preferable to "ideographic," the difference between Chinese characters and alphabetic writing being that the former represent in their entirety the Chinese words for things and ideas, whereas the latter dissects into their component sounds the words of the languages which it is employed to write.
xvi:7 "Grammar of the Japanese Written Language," Second Edition, Appendix II., p. VI.