NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2008/7/28


小田部庄右衛門 (御鋳物師) Kotabe Shouemon (On-Imonoshi) Shouemon Kotabe (Metal Worker)

Jp En

Shouemon Kotabe was born in the Ibaragi Prefecture in 1971.
Mr. Kotabe is the 37th successor to his family’s foundry business which has been handed down for over 800 years.
Since his childhood, Mr. Kotabe helped his father make temple bells.  After graduating with a Metal Engineering degree from National Takaoka College (now Toyama University), he went into training at an iron kettle studio in Morioka. He then, returned to the Kotabe Foundry run by his father and took charge of it at the age of 25.
At the foundry, on the foot of Tsukuba Mountain, Mr. Kotabe makes temple bells, fire bells and rainwater bowls. Orders come from all over Japan as well as from other countries.
After consulting about letters and patterns, he creates a mold with local sand and clay and then pours copper and tin heated to 1200 ºC into the mold. Because he doesn’t color the bells, he takes considerable time to create an elaborate mold. It takes four to six months and occasionally as long as one year to make one temple bell. A bell newly taken out from a mold is orange-brown in color. Its tone gradually changes to red, then purple and finally to blue-green. As time passes, the local air makes the bell change its color.
Wanting the sound of his bells to resonate in people’s hearts, Mr. Kotabe continues his quest for the perfect bell-tone.


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オオタスセリ Oota Suseri Suseri Oota

Jp En

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.
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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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2008/6/24


大野勇太郎 Oono Yuutarou Yuutarou Ohno

Jp En

Yuutaro Oono was born  in Tokyo in 1935. He is currently the CEO of Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd.
     After graduating from Hokunoujima Technology High School, Mr. Oono was employed by an 8mm film company. In 1978, he started Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd which specializes in making gears. He also dedicated himself to bringing back Karakuri dolls , which were popular in the Edo period, to modern times, using the advanced techniques of  modern  gear making.
     Mr. Oono first learned about Karakuri in an engineering book and he became passionately interested in them.  He had acquired a copy of “Karakuri-zui”, an illustrated compendium of mechanical devices written by Hanzou Hosokawa, a legendary karakuri artisan of the Edo period. Mr. Oono began studying the book intensely and, for the last 20 years, he has been reproducing the Karakuri dolls most loved by people in the Edo period such as “tea serving doll”, “shinan guruma” and the “Karakuri clock”.
     Each doll is made using about 80 different parts, not counting its face and clothing.  The dolls are created in such a way as to preserve traditional methods as much as possible. The fusion of the Edo period and modern times shows both beauty and functionality.
     Mr. Oono’s next project is to bring back “Yumihari Warawa, or “ Boy Archer”, which shows  a boy shooting an arrow at a target. His tremendous respect for  the Karakuri artists of the Edo period motivates him to try to recreate the Karakuri Dolls most beloved in that period, so that people can remember and appreciate their heritage.
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2008/4/22


もののふ(MONONOFU) mononofu Mononofu

Jp En

Mononofu is an old term for a samurai warrior. It is also a brand name created by a man who loves history.  The Mononofu brand expresses the uninhibited and innovative spirit of  the Sengoku period or the Warring State period.
Hideki Tanaka, the creator of the brand, boldly joins two seemingly contrary elements: the promotion of modern art and the reproduction of traditional craftwork. Mr. Tanaka, who first saw a collection of unusual kabuto helmets for warriors at the National Museum, was struck by their a