Historical Reality or Metaphoric Expression? elucidates the differing interpretations on Japanese mythology by the German philologist and historian Karl Florenz (1865 - 1939) and the Japanese kokugakusha Iida Takesato (1828 - 1900) at the end of the 19th century.
Iida in his Nihonshoki-tsushaku and Florenz in his Japanische Mythologie approached a comparable endeavor from very different vantage points. It is shown how their distinct cultural formation, their education and upbringing within unlike academic discourses, and their life within a variety of intellectual, social and political milieus formed their different scholarly outlook and methodology in interpreting and commenting on the Nihongi-myths.
Comparing both scholars, their work and their mutual relation, we can find a very interesting interaction of cultural and scholarly traditions. Based on translations of both works, this study juxtaposes Iida's `emic' inner view on Japanese mythology with the `etic' outside view of Florenz, and at the same time provides the first portrayal of life and work of these two eminent scholars in English.