Because it begins with the creation of heaven and earth, the Nihonshoki has both characteristics of a historical chronicle and a creation tale––one that tells about the origin of Japan centering on the emperor. This is why there has been much debate about how reliable the content in it is.
Comparing it with the other works of history compiled by imperial order, the Rikkokushi (The Six National Histories of Japan), the Nihonshoki is distinct in terms of the establishment of the age of kami, the counting using a sexagenary cycle based on taisai (an imaginary star directly opposite Jupiter), and the inclusion of many ballads and songs, which highlight how different it is from later history books beginning with the Shoku Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan Continued).
The inclusion of many bunchū is also another distinct feature. Bunchū used to be regarded as “loose notes,” and there was a view that such notes did not exist at the time of completion of the Nihonshoki. 1 However, Sakamoto Tarō concludes that based on the fact that the styles of the main text and of bunchū are identical, the bunchū were not added in a later period but existed from the time of completion.
Today the mainstream understanding is that the bunchū versions are the main notes which existed from the time of the text’s completion in the 4th year of Yōrō (720).2
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