Suseri Oota is an entertainer born in the Kanagawa Prefecture. Her stage name, also Suseri Oota, is written only in katakana characters, instead of the kanji characters of her real name. The name, Suseri, came from Princess Suseri, a legendary figure who appeared in the book Kojiki (680 A.D.). The Suseri of legend was known to have been driven to pursue whatever she wanted.
Suseri Oota left university before completing her course to become an actor and she began to study acting at Gekidan En Kenkyuujo. After finishing her studies there, she formed a comic duo. When her partner got married and left the duo, she became a solo performer, often accompanying herself on guitar. She loved to perform on stage but she is also highly regarded as a film and TV actor, scenario writer and essayist. Her most successful book is Dekai Onna (Large Woman).
Suseri is 176cm tall and her shoe size is 26cm. This stands out from other Japanese women whose average height is 159cm. Her stature adds uniqueness to her image and it gives her a sharp eye for details in everyday life which many people overlook. She strives to free herself and others from social and aesthetic stereotypes.
Suseri Oota is a performer and an artist who is a person of action and who is not afraid to reveal herself to the public. She is a modern version of the Princess Suseri written about in ancient times. Her uniqueness and courage have set the course for great success in the future.
Dr. Christoph Schmitz is a scholar of the work of Dr. Shizuka Shirakawa, Japan's leading authority on the origin of Kanji, or Chinese characters. Dr. Schmitz also researches the history of philosophical thought as well as Japanese thought. A native of Cologne, Germany, he currently resides in Tokyo, Japan.
His interest in Kanji was aroused while he was studying the history of Japanese thought based on the understanding of Japanese and general history, philosophy and the history of philosophy at universities both in Germany and Japan. The absence of convincing explanations of the relationship between Kanji forms and their meaning in the world of Western higher education made him lose his trust in established Kanji education. In 1997, reading an interview with Dr. Shirakawa about his work, he started his research. After teaching history of philosophy and Kanji for adult education classes in Germany, hoping to introduce Dr. Shirakawa's work and meritorious achievements to the world, in 2001, he met Dr. Shirakawa for the first time. In the following year, he became a research student at University of Tokyo Faculty of Law.
In December 2003, he started translating 'Jouyoujikai' (Basic Kanji Dictionary), a primer on Kanji written by Dr. Shirakawa with the consent of the author. To tackle the manifold difficulties of this yet unseen project took him almost three years. His aim is to base Kanji learning on natural understanding.
Few Japanologists seem to have read the proclamation of the Japanese prime minister from 9 December 1954, in which capitalization of nouns in alphabetical transcription of Japanese is sanctioned. After all, it still is nothing less than the official Japanese transliteration system. Accordingly, capitalization is applied in this translation to clearly mark nouns for learners who often do not know which word is a noun, and which is not. Thus, to counter the weakness of modern English spelling which does not clearly mark nouns, I come back to the traditional English capital spelling of nouns as usual some hundred years ago.
There are a lot of problematic or false notions widely used in the field that can mislead learning once they hoaxed the mind of the unwary, which is why I use terms that learners will find more convincing, like the following.
Tortoise Plastron, not Tortoise ‘Shell’
Those thousands of tortoises used for divination seem to have died in vain. Few term coining scholars ever took the pain to verify which one of the two shells of these tortoises was used; a rough translation with ‘shell’ or ‘carapace’ misses the specific meaning of the Kanji 甲 and gives an unclear view of the matter. The flat belly plate was used in what amounts to a percentage of more than 99 % of cases, the carapace, however, which is the hooked back shell only in very rare exceptions: It is too hard to be carved in. The character 甲 shows the flat ‘plastron’ with the vertical and horizontal notched natural ‘lines’ of the belly or breast shell.
Revisiting in 2016
This introduction with its casual explanations intending to help a first easygoing acquaintance with Shirakawa's character explanations is now complemented with your comprehensive dictionary "The Keys To The Chinese Characters"!
Giving the full contents as only a dictionary can, it renews and supersedes a part of the terminology given here.
With its technical terms and methodical approach enriched with many citations from and references to the classics, a meticulous commentary and copious indexes you will have a powerful instrument to master your study and enjoy deepening your understanding.
'Dragonfly-ball'---do you know this small ball with an unusual name? In short, dragonfly-ball is a glass ball with a colorful pattern; a bead with a hole for string. In Japanese, it is called 'Tombo-dama' and in English 'glass beads'.
The dragonfly-ball has a very long history; it is believed to originate around 3500 years ago in Mesopotamia, the ancient Egypt civilization. Many different dragonfly-balls have been made over the years, attracting many people.
They arrived in Japan in the Edo period from Namban-trade, the trade with Portugal and Spain. The name originated because the surface was decorated with a circle pattern and it looked like the eye of a dragonfly. Since then, for about 400 years, different styles of manufacture or expression have been developed. Now many modern artists are creating beautiful dragonfly-balls.
Souun Takeda, a calligrapher, was born in 1975 in Kumamoto. He started calligraphy when he was three years old, studying with his mother, Souyou Takeda, also a calligrapher.
After graduating from Tokyo University of Science majoring in Science and Technology, he worked at NTT for three years before he became a calligrapher. Since then, he has established himself through a series of unique and original pieces, often collaborating with other artists in various fields including Noh and Kyougen actors, sculptors and musicians, and unconventional one-man exhibitions. He also runs a calligraphy school where many of his students study. “Calligraphy is the same as a conversation. I just use calligraphy to communicate with people”, says the gentle but passionate Mr. Takeda, who is hailed as the new generation of calligraphy.
In 2003, Mr. Takeda received the Longhuacui Art Award from Shanghai Art Museum in China and the Constanza de Medici Award in Firenze, Italy. His work includes title letterings for many movies such as Spring Snow and Year One in the North. He also published three books; Tanoshika, Shoyudou and Sho o kaku tanoshimi.
Omikuji are fortunes written on paper at Shinto shrines and temples. The word “o” is usually put at the top of something honorable, and “mi” literally means “sacred” and “kuji” means “lottery”, however, as to the part that reads “mi” of the word, a Kanji meaning “god” is used for the ones at shrines, while a Kanji meaning Buddha is used for the ones at temples. The fortune written on a piece of paper is divided into one’s whole fortune, chances to find a lost item or find a match, and general matters about health, money, and life, which can be described as any one of the following: Great blessing (dai-kichi), Blessing (kichi), Middle blessing (chū-kichi), Small blessing (shō-kichi), and Curse (kyō). Or more precisely, Great blessing (dai-kichi), Blessing (kichi), Middle blessing (chū-kichi), Small blessing (shō-kichi), Half-blessing (han-kichi), Near-blessing (sue-kichi), Near-small-blessing (sue-shō-kichi), Curse (kyō), Small curse (shō-kyō), Half-curse (han-kyō), Near-curse (sue-kyō), and Great curse (dai-kyō). After reading Omikuji, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and tie it up to a tree in the precincts. The reason for this custom is the idea that tying means marridge tie. So this custom should have been originally practiced only at a shrine where a marridge deity was enshrined, but nowadays it is practiced at every shrine and temple.
The purpose of shuji, Japanese calligraphy, is to write the correct word.
Shuji differs from shodo in that, while shodo shows the beauty of a written word, letter or character, shuji is about learning the word and improving one's concentration.
It is said that the art of shuji came from China and the Korean Peninsula. Later, the writing of shuji impacted the aristocracy and warrior class. The aristocrat wrote unfussy words. In contrast, the warriors wrote powerful words.
Shuji is a necessary aspect of a liberal arts education in Japan, which affects all other aspects of Japanese culture.
Nara-sumi is high quality India ink and a local specialty of Nara prefecture which once housed the capital city of Japan and is still filled with temples, relics of the Imperial Court, and other significant historical artifacts. Sumi-making techniques were originally brought to Japan from China by Koubou-Daishi Kuukai in the Heian period. Later, in the Muromachi period, a priest of Koufuku-ji Temple manufactured Yuen-zumi by burning rapeseed or sesame oil, this is said to be the origin of Nara-sumi making. Sumi-making, which once thrived all over Japan in the Heian period, began to wane and eventually, it was only the main temples in Nara that continued to make sumi. Among those temples, Kofuku-ji Temple, which was built by the Fujiwara clan in the Nara period, was the leading sumi-maker and produced sumi exclusively for writing, transcribing sutras or woodblock - printed sutras, called Kasuga-ban. As is evidenced by a history of over 1000 years, the best way to preserve written documents for decades, or hundreds of years, is to write them on Japanese paper, using sumi. Even now, with computers integrated into our everyday lives, sumi-making remains one of the great traditional crafts that will surely continue successfully into the future .
The Japanese word 'tayori' seems to have gained the more recent meaning of 'letters'. A hand-written letter makes you enjoy imagining the sender based on the unique form of the written characters and illustrations.
But 'tayori' then turned into the telephone message, and has now become something done by e-mail communication on the Net. As you can get in touch with someone sooner and for greater distances, the word 'tayori' itself is falling out of usage.
'Tayori' has the same sound as 'dependence' in Japanese. I feel that both senses of the word 'tayori' have something in common. If you are worried about the sender, the words 'You have not given me tayori' might have the meaning 'You do not give me dependence'. People might have lived 'depending' on someone's letter.
Because we are losing 'the ways to depend on others', we are getting worse at 'taking advantage of others' in a good sense.