Sapporo Clock Tower, or “Tokeidai,” is a symbol of Sapporo City, Hokkaido. The tower was built in 1878 as a militaly drill hall of the former Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University). At the time of the construction, it was a bell tower without a clock. However, as the first floor was used for laboratories, the incorrect experiment data were often obtained due to the vibration caused by the ringing bell, from which the clock was installed in 1881. The clock was designated as the standard time clock of sapporo in 1888. In 1903, when Agricultural College was relocated to the place where Kokkaido University is located now, the clock tower was left out of use for some time. Then in 1906, Sapporo ward office bought the tower and removed it not by dismantling but by dragging to the present location. Being loved by the citizens of Sapporo, it was designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1970. The improvement works were given for 4 years since 1995, and it is now used as exhibition space and a ceremony hall.
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.
Chinkin is the technique of decorating lacquerware by carving patterns into the lacquered surface using a special chisel called “chinkin-to,” then gold leaf or powder is inlayed into the curved design. The technique is said to have been introduced from China in the Muromachi period. It is the traditional handicraft in Wajima City, Ishikawa Pref. Fumio Mae (1940-), the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) in Chinkin, studied under a master craftsman and his father, Tokuji Mae after his graduation from the Japanese Painting Department of Kanazawa College of Art in 1963. He advanced his studies in Chinkin-to chisels and even contrived his own chisels. Using a variety of excellent Chinkin techniques, he has created original, sensitive and expressive works. He is also contributing to the technical training in lacquering at the Wajima Lacquer Technique Training Center.
Sugihara Paper is a traditional handicraft handed down for over 1,000 years in Kami-ku, Taka-cho, Hyogo Pref. Cold and clear water that springs out of the deep mountain and the severe climate with heavy snow have grown fine mulberry that is made into this paper. This craft dates back to the Nara period (701-794). Its further advanced techniques have made it possible to produce fine paper for copying mantras and thin paper. It was once listed as the most excellent paper in quality as well as in quantity in production. However, with the change of times, it was replaced by western-styled paper, and the paper making in Sugihara valley came to a period in 1925. It was in 1966 when the townspeople started to work on the preservation of this craft. They put up the stone monument at the birthplace of Sugihara Paper, and then in 1968, established Sugihara Handmade Paper Factory, where annually 700 kg of washi paper is produced with the traditional paper filtering techniques. They had revived the craft so far as to be designated as a prefectural Important Intangible Cultural Property and in 1983.
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.
Shino Ware is most identifiable for a squat and cylindrical shape with thick white glazes. It is one of the Mino-styled pottery, which started to be made in the Azuchi-momoyama period in the late 16th century. Using glazers mixed with feldspar and iron oxide, various colors are created. The color variation from white, gray, to red depends on the combination of the glazers and the firing time and method.
It was favored by tea masters of the time, but was gradually declined because many potters all over the country started to copy the style of this pottery, by which Shino ware lost its originality and were gradually fogotten by people.
It was in 1930 when Shino ware was revived by the hands of Toyozo Arakawa. Having been born in the Mino region, he had a special affection for Shino pottery and discovered the old Momoyama kiln. Then he developed the first modern Shino glaze by studying Monoyama Shino pots. Since then he had actively fired his Mino wares in a kiln very much like those of the Momoyama potters and contributed to the revival of this old pottery. Today, a lot of potters are fascinated by this pottery and eager to create thir original Shino pottery works.
Miyadaiku are specialists in the construction of shrines and temples. As miyadaiku stay and work in a construction site away from home for many years, they are also called “peripatetic carpenters.” Different from ordinary carpenters, miyadaiku never build the same building because there are no shrines or temples of the same design in this country. The building they build will stand for hundreds of years by being given many repair works, miyadaiku need to acquire not only excellent carpentry techniques but also knowledge in various fields including archaeology and geology. Using more than 300 kinds of tools, miyadaiku use elaborate traditional wood joinery techniques called “hikite” and “tsugite,” where no nails are used. These elaborate skills are transmitted orally from a master to an apprentice.
There used to be several hundred miyadaiku in Japan, but now there are only about one hundred. Some of the famous miyadaiku are Tsunekazu Nishioka, the Master Carpenter in the Showa Grand Renovations at Horyuji Temple, Kahei Sasaki, who directed the renovation of Asakusa Kannon Hall, and Shoji Matsuura, the specialist in preservation of cultural assets and directed the repair work of the five-story pagoda at Kaijusenji Temple in Kyoto.
Farm No. 2 of Sapporo Agricultural College located in the campus of Hokkaido University was created on September 13, 1876 based on the idea of the large-scale farm management conceived by William Smith Clark, the first vice president of the school. The farm was attached to Sapporo Agricultural College and called “College Farm.” It was divided into two sections of Farm No.1 and No.2. Farm No.1 was the study farm for agricultural education, while Farm No.2 was the model farm to practice animal industry management. The 9 wooden buildings constructed in the Meiji period (1868-1912) are now preserved on the farm today.
The farm had been closed for a short time since it was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1969, but in 2000, Model Barn and Corn Barn were open to the public and visitors can see the agricultural tools and historical documents during Hokkaido’s Pioneering period. The harm was designated as one of Hokkaido Heritages in 2001.