From Pimiko to Fimiko?
A history of Japanese writing before 1600
The history of Japanese writing is a relatively short but eventful one. In the span of only a couple of centuries the Japanese people went from having no writing system at all to having one of the richest and most complex. Fortunately, because Japanese writing is so young we know a great deal about its origins. The 807 AD work Kogojuui (“Gleanings from the ancient language”) stated in its preface that writing was not known to the Japanese people until Chinese script was imported via Korea. A 13th century commentary on Nihon Shoki, however, claimed that writing had existed in Japan since time immemorial, and the so-called “language of the gods” was supplanted by Chinese script. Debate raged on for centuries over which assertion was the correct one. There was a certain appeal to believing that the gods themselves had granted writing to the Japanese people, and so this belief came about long after everyone who knew the truth firsthand had died of old age.