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5 What does “Literature of Correspondence” Mean? An Examination of the Japanese Genre Term ōraimono and its History

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter, one can search for the origins and development of the genre term ōraimono in Japanese history. With reference to the original meaning of the word ōrai, one may expect style-or etiquette-related information for 'correspondence' or 'a thing which is sent'. This may also include writings which use the style of letters or written communication for a purpose other than letter-writing. In general the modern term ōraimono means that: educational literature used in lessons at home or at school as can be seen in early compilations, such as Okamura Kintarō's, but also in modern editions by Ishikawa Ken and Ishikawa Matsutarō. The three early ōrai mentioned in the chapter (Meigō ōrai, Izumi ōrai, Kōzanjibon koōrai) shares a common structure, which relies on letters, namely messages and answers. It focuses on epistolary style texts for the purpose of teaching various arts, to begin with, letter-writing, calligraphy, and vocabulary.

Keywords: ōraimono; educational literature; epistolary style texts; Ishikawa Ken; Ishikawa Matsutarō; Izumi ōrai; Japanese history; Kōzanjibon koōrai; Okamura Kintarō; written communication



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