NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2008/7/10


シュミッツ クリストフ Syumittsu Kurisutofu Dr. Christoph Schmitz

Jp En

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.

On Transcription
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.

On Terminology
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.
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2008/1/29


【史】 Shi History

Jp En

This is the Kanji 史 ‘Shi’ from 歴史 ‘Rekishi: history.’ Surprisingly, the background of the meaning of 史, however, is not known. In China, historiography started at a very early stage in history. This fact is closely related to the character. The first character form already appears in the tortoise plastron and bone characters. As in 信・吉・哲 and the like, the part 口 here also is a ‘norito’ prayer receptacle. It shows the form of holding a wooden stick which is attached to the ‘norito’ prayer receptacle. It is the form of the ritual of worshipping the spirits of the king’s ancestors. Like 祭る ‘matsuru: to worship,’ 史 also has the reading 史る ‘matsuru: to worship.’ From the meaning of worship itself its meaning shifted to that of the person who conducts the act of worship. The world of ancient China is not based on the principal of separation of religion and state. The role of holding and carrying the ‘norito’ prayer receptacle is a religious service typical for a cleric and at the same time like that of a public servant in the Royal household.
使 and 事 are characters of the same lineage. Worship of the Royal ancestors became the model for ancestor worship of the whole people and it can be said that its record is history itself.
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2007/10/3


山口 松陰神社 Yamaguchi Shouin-jinjya Shoin Shrine in Yamaguchi

Jp En

Shoin Shrine was founded in 1890 to enshrine Yoshida Shoin, who had devoted to developing many Sonno Shishi warriors until he was executed at age 29. His discoples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Maebara Issei, Yamagata Aritomo and Ito Hirofumi, who respectively made an outstanding contribution to the Meiji Restoration.

In 1955, the shrine was removed to the present location, where the shrine building was newly constructed. The old shrine building also exists in the north of the precinct as an attached shrine Shomon Shrine, where Shoin’s disciples are enshrined.

There area many historic ruins remaining in the precinct, which include the old house where Shoin was sentenced to house arrest and ran Shokasonjuku Academy to teach the youth. It is now open to the public.

As the deity of study, Shoin Shrine is the most respected shrine in the city of Hagi and visited by a lot of people especially on New Year’s Day.
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2007/8/10


白川静 ShirakawaShizuka Shizuka Shirakawa

Jp En

Shizuka Shirakawa was a world-leading scholar of “kanji”, or Chinese characters.
Mr. Shirakawa was born in 1910 in Fukui Prefecture. He became fascinated with Kanji in his mid teens and subsequently worked voraciously to acquire more knowledge about the subject.
He published “Kanji”, a kanji dictionary in 1970, which established his unique viewpoint undermining commonly accepted theory in Kanji study.
Since then, he published “Shikyou”, “Kinbun no Sekai” and “Koushiden” all in which he introduced his original and innovative interpretation of Chinese philosophy and culture. “Jitou”, published in 1984, was a kanji etymology in which he studied the origin of letters. He pursued his unique approach to kanji study in which he found some magico-religious meaning in the composition of kanji. “Jitou” was followed by two more publications; “Jikun” and “Jitsuu”, all of which became highly influential as his trilogy on kanji studies.
In 1997, he was appointed the director at Institute of Letter and Culture. The following year, he was named as “Bunka Kourousha”, a recognition given to a person who has performed distinguished services in the field of culture.
In 2004, he received the Order of Cultural Merit, one of Japan’s highest honors. He passed away on October 30th, 2006, at the age of 96.
His insatiable quest in the universe of Kanji has influenced many scholars and his ideas are still being developed and advanced today.
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2007/8/6


仙台御筆・宮城野萩筆 Sendai-ofude Miyagino-hagi-fude Sendai Ofude (Brushes), Miyagino Hagi-fude

Jp En

The brush making in Sendai began in the early Edo period (1603-1868), when Date Masamune, the founder of the Sendai domain, invited a craftsman specialized in brush making from Osaka to promote learning and industry. Accordingly, the domain had its own brush-making craftsmen, and the low-ranked warriors also began to make brushes as their side jobs.

Because of their careful work and efforts to improve skills, Sendai Brushes gradually earned reputation, and eventually, it was dedicated to the Shogun of the time. Since then, Sendai Brushes have been deferentially called “Ofude,” which means “an honorable brush.”  

Among Sendai Brushes, the ones made of hagi (Japanese bush clover) naturally grown in Miyagino, which was Masamune’s hunting field, is called Miyagino Hagi-fude. The wild touch of the brush-holder and the sensitive hair at the tip are favored by poets and fanciers all over the country as the hallmark of Sendai Ofude.
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2007/7/12


メノウ浜 Menou-hama Meno Beach

Jp En

“Meno Beach” is another name for Motochi Beach, which is located in Kafuka-mura, Rebun-cho on Rebun Island in Hokkaido. As rude ores of agate are washed ashore, it is called Meno (agate) Beach. The beach is across the island from the village of Kafuka, the main settlement on the east coast, but there are also a lot of houses standing side by side near Meno Beach. As there is a bed rock of agate offshore, a large ore of agate is sometimes found when the sea is rough. Along the beach rises a huge rock with a height of 50 m. It is called Jizo Rock because it looks like a Jizo joining his hands in prayer. As Jizo Rock is said to have a power to bring good fortune in study and marriage, a lot of people come to worship it and leave money in the chap of the rock.
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2007/4/10


安井息軒旧宅 Yasui-Sokken-Kyuutaku Sokken Yasui’s Residence

Jp En

Sokken Yasui’s residence located in Kiyotake-cho, Miyazaki-gun, Miyazaki Pref. is a designated National Cultural Asset. Sokken Yasui, a great Confucian scholar of the late Edo period, was born in the town of Kiyotake in 1799. Since his childhood, he was fascinated by learning. His accomplishment was highly evaluated as the comprehensive study of Confucianism in the Edo period, which served as the foundation for the near modern study of Chinese classics. He also fostered as many as 200 excellent figures including Kanjo Tani and Munemitsu Mutsu, base don the idea of “One should begin planning for the day in the morning. One should begin planning for the year in the spring. One should begin planning for their life in their youth.”
On the grounds stands a stone monument with the verse written by Ietatsu Tokugawa. The plum tree planted by Sokken himself still remains in the garden. Visitors can sense the atmosphere that produced a great thinker, who had a large influence in the world of thought at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
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2007/3/16


曽根天満宮 Sone-tenmanguu Sone Tenmangu Shrine

Jp En

Sone Tenmangu Shrine located in Takasago City, Hyogo Pref. is known as a shrine enshrining Sugawara no Michizane, the deity of study. The legend has it that in 901, Sugawara no Michizane took a rest in Mt. Hikasa on his exile journey to Dazaifu in Kyushu. He lamented for being falsely charged with a crime and planted a young pine tree he took in the mountain, praying “Grow well to prove my innocence,” beside which Michizane’s son, Atsushige, built a shrine later. The pine tree has been worshipped by people, called as “Sone Pine Tree.” The tree has been replanted several times and the present one is the 6th generation. At the annual festival held on October 13 to 14, people from the surrounding areas come to see traditional religious ceremonies of Hitotsumono Shinji (a divine service dedicated by children in ancient costume), Omenkake (mask dance performance), and the Bamboo Breaching, in which a long bamboo stick is split into pieces, as well as the parade of 15 colorful futon-floats.
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