Riverside Mansion Mythologies
Retextualising the Past in Poetic Commentary
This essay explores one reading of Roland Barthes’ notion of myth and intertextuality as a potential approach to understand how what I call the Riverside Mansion myth may be a model for the creation of cultural memory in late classical and medieval Japan. I argue that medieval commentaries (so-called kochūshaku) to Kokin wakashū and Ise monogatari constitute a method of creation of a Barthesian myth. The case study is Kawara-no-in (Riverside Mansion), a historical estate created by the ninth-century statesman Minamoto no Tōru (822-895), which became famous, among other things, for its supposed recreation of Shiogama, a place in northern Japan. Specifically, this essay considers as a so-called ‘base-text’ not the classic texts but the image of Riverside Mansion, and looks at elaborations in medieval commentaries of the concrete features of Tōru’s reconstruction as creative forms of creating an understanding of the cultural role and meaning of Riverside Mansion.