MY intent in writing this little book has been to provide the Western reader--the man who enjoys the great works of the Western literary heritage--with an introduction to some of the things which I have found most beautiful and remarkable in Japanese literature. Since the size of the book was necessarily limited, I had to decide whether to give a bare outline of the long and complex history of Japanese literature, or to select a relatively small number of representative works for fuller discussion. I preferred the latter alternative, even though it meant passing over in complete silence some of the masterpieces most acclaimed by Japanese and Western critics alike; thus, I was forced to sacrifice any mention of the Manyōshū, the most famous collection of Japanese poetry, for it was clear that if I discussed it adequately there would be too little space left for the linked-verse and haikai, which greatly appeal to me. The book is thus neither a systematic outline nor a work of reference, but a highly personal appreciation of certain aspects of Japanese literature which I believe to be of especial interest to Western readers.
I have included in the bibliography the titles of histories and other reference works for the guidance of readers who wish to go beyond the scope of this introduction. I have also given a list of readable translations. Thanks mainly to the superlatively good work of Arthur Waley, the Western reader who is ignorant of Japanese need not fear that if this book arouses his curiosity there will be no way to appease it. I have taken advantage of Dr. Waley's kind permission to quote extensively from his writings; however, all translations which are not specifically acknowledged are my own.