By James Forsyth

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The ninth century also saw a transformation of the Japanese writing system, for it was during this time that the kana syllabary system was devised and became increasingly used in preference to the phonetically based mafia system of the NaTa period . This T Copyrighted Material 42 A HISTORY OF JAPANESE LITERATURE invention led of course to the USE' of an orthographical writing style consisting of a mixture of Chinese characters and Japanese syllabary (kana majin) in the writing of literature. The writing system used in today's n ewspapers differs fundamentally from that of the Man'yosllu but much less markedly from that of the Kokinshii, compiled in 905.

With a few exceptions, the above-mentioned characteristics of Hitomaro's elegies are to be found throughout the Man'yoshu (the exceptions are principally to be found ill the work of the eighthcentury poets Yamanoue no Okura and Otomo no Yakamochi and will be dealt with later). In general the elegies related to a dead partner and dwell on what he or she was when still alive (the past of this world) and on the grief of the survivor (the present of this world) . Seldom is mention made of the state of the deceased after death (the next world).

Vol. 5, poem 893) Classical Chinese influence is evident in Okura's poems on old age and his poems on poverty follow the precedent of the Tsin dynasty poet Tung Shih in his Pin-jia Fu (Ode of a poor family). Yet these influences do not alter the basic originality of Okura . No other poet in the Man'yosliii possessed his facility for self-directed sarcasm and black humour. His clioka on poverty begins: On the night when the rain beats, Driven by the wind, On the night when the snow-flakes mingle With the sleety rain, I feel so helplessly cold.

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