The Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) is the oldest surviving work of Japanese mythology (and, indeed, the oldest surviving work in the Japanese language, period), and as I understand it, much of our understanding of early Japanese mythology (the creation myths, the mythological emperors, etc.) comes from it.

Do we have reason to believe that there were earlier, non-surviving written works that collected Japanese myths? For example, do any early texts claim that such-and-such story is narrated in some other work that we no longer have any copies of?

1 Answer 1


We know they existed, but not much else.

In fact, none other than the Kojiki itself states that its stories are collected from contemporary works (which have all been lost). This is because the Kojiki was a compilation. It was the product of a royal effort to collect "historical" texts in circulation at the time, to edit into a relatively coherent narrative. And propaganda.

From the Kojiki's own preface,


We heard that chronicles collected by other families are inaccurate and contains many fabrications. If this is not corrected now, within a few years the true message would dissipate. Therefore we compile this chronicle, examine the old tales to remove false narratives and pin down the truth for the future.

Thus, it is certain there were earlier works, but unfortunately none has survived. The Kojiki (and later the Nihon Shoki were somewhat political in nature for justifying the legitimacy of the ruling house. Thus natural attrition due to time and lack of government patronage aside, contrarian records likely faced a hostile environment when it comes to preservation.

  • Do we happen to know the names of any of the works from which the Kojiki was compiled?
    – senshin
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 15:38
  • 1
    @senshin AFAIK we don't know any, but they probably would have had generic names similar to the surviving officially backed works.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 16:11
  • They might have been oral stories similar to how some other Asian primitive people like the M'nong Ot N'Drong. Passed orally and eventually written down, many lost with the death of a storyteller without inheritor Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 19:36

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