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Time in Medieval Japan

Time in the Diaries of Courtiers and Warrior Administrators


© Alexandra Ciorciaro 2019

Alexandra Ciorciaro, M.A.

This research project compares various aspects of time in the diaries of officials of the imperial court and the warrior administration (the shogunate). Diaries are records of daily activities and thus provide insight into the daily rhythms in the lives of their authors. Contrary to the rather personal diaries of our era, however, the diaries in question are of a more official nature: They are duty diaries, recording the day-to-day business of the officials at court or the shogunate, and were meant to serve as guidelines to future generations in office, or provide a basis for other official records, such as chronologies.

While many diaries of court officials are preserved today, only a handful of diaries of shogunate officials survived. The earliest of these documents is Ōta Yasuari’s Kenji sannen ki that records events of the year 1277. I compare this text with a contemporary record of a court official, an excerpt of Hirohashi Kanenaka’s Kanchūki. Other documents, such as the diary of Yasuari’s son Tokitsura and chronologies will complement the corpus under investigation.

In my research, I analyse how these documents address time, which aspects of time they are concerned with, and the time practices they disclose. I highlight differences and similarities of the texts produced in the two aristocratic spheres and reflect on how the temporal patterns identified relate to the communicative function and social background of the texts.

Although duty diaries are regarded as valuable sources of knowledge about medieval history, they are rarely analysed in detail as literary texts. The research demonstrates how these sources, when carefully studied, can provide more than mere biographical data, but offer insight into general attitudes towards fundamental determinants of human life such as time.

Weiterführende Informationen

Latest conference:

TIMEJ Online Conference 2021 

August 18–20th 2021

International Society for the Study of Time


Yamaguchi University Research Institute for the Study of Time


Read more about our joint coference of 2018 here.

Time in Medieval Japan

Prof. Dr. Raji C. Steineck


Time in Medieval Japan (TIMEJ) is a research project of the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies of the University of Zurich.

It is funded by the  European Research Council (ERC) with an Advanced Grant under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 741166)

Read about the outline of the project on the official CORDIS Webpage

Read more about the TIMEJ-Artwork