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.
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.
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.
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 appearance and this sparked the idea of incorporating their design into a new indie T-shirt business.
Since each of Monofuku’s T-shirts is an expression of the unique creativity and aesthetic sense of its artist, Mr. Tanaka sees parallels in the creation process of both his T-shirts and the kabuto helmets. He believes that, if the samurai warriors were alive today, they would embrace modern designs and materials in their expressions of beauty.
Ondrej Hybl was born in 1977 in Czech Republic. He studied Kyogen Ookura style, the traditional Japanese theater, under the influence of Shigeyama Sengorou. In 2000, he started studying at Charles University Graduate School of Philosophy. In 2002, he enrolled in Doshisha University Graduate School of Letters as an exchange student. He began studying Kyogen under Kyogen Master, Shime Shigeyama.
After graduating with a master’s degree from Doshisha University in 2005, he further moved his study and is currently studying for his doctorate at Oosaka University Graduate School of Letters. At EXPO 2005, Mr. Hybl was recognized by the Czech Republic government for his work and contribution as a representative of Czech Republic.
Mr. Hybl, who became fascinated with the Kyogen world which is a quintessential traditional Japanese performing art, became the first Czech Kyogen pupil.
He says that Kyogen requires technique to make people laugh, but that the laughter is not cheap. It is a humor that is kind to people.
Mr Hybyl adds “When people laugh, the boundary between countries disappears. Now that Kyogen is recognized as a world heritage art form, Kyogen has become a valuable asset for people all over the world. Kyogen, which has deep roots in the ancient Japanese world, has the potential to make people in the world rich inside.”
Hayashiya Kikuou, a rakugo storyteller, was born in 1937, Tokyo. Kikuzou first studied under Katsura Mikisuke III, an established rakugo storyteller. However, when Mikisuke passed away in 1961, Kikuzou went on to become a pupil of Hayashiya Shouzou X III and named himself Hayashiya Kikuzou. In 1972, he was promoted to become “shin’uchi” and made his official debut as an independent storytelling performer. In 1965, he became a regular star on “Shouten”, a popular television program. He is also the chairman of the National Ramen Noodle Party and a member of trustees of the Rakugo Association. In 2007, he handed his name to his eldest son and gave himself a different name, Kikuou.
Hayashiya Kikuzou was born in 1975, Tokyo. He graduated from the Department of Performing Arts at Tamagawa University. He studied under his father, Hayashiya Kikuzou. In 1996, he became “zenza”, meaning he was allowed to perform on the stage for the first time, and named himself Hayashiya Kikuo. In 2007, he was promoted to “shin’uchi” and became Hayashiya Kikuzou II.
Together Hayashiya Kikuou and Kikuzou launched a performing tour to celebrate their double name-taking ceremony starting at Suzuki Performing Center at Ueno, Tokyo, in 2007. It was an unprecedented occurrence for a pupil to take on his master’s name while the master was still alive.
“Even for rakugo which is a rather gentle performing art, it is essential to be assertive and think outside of the box, and not just maintain the tradition”, says both Hayashi. It is evident that they thrive on developing rakugo, finding new ways of working while keeping its tradition alive.
Kazuo Kawasaki was born in 1949, Fukui Prefecture. He is a design director and doctor of medical science. After graduating from Kanazawa College of Arts, he started working at Toshiba where he worked on developing and branding Audio Aurex, a revolutionary new audio system at that time. In 1979, he went freelance and two years later he moved his business base to his home town, Fukui. Since then, he has worked on a wide range of product designs including knives, LCD TVs, eyeglasses and artificial hearts. He has made significant advances in all of these fields.
He was the jury chair for the Japan Good Design Award from 2001 to 2003. He is currently a professor at Communication Design Center and Frontier Research Center at Graduate School of Engineering Osaka University. He is also a professor of Medical Center for Translational Research at Osaka University Hospital.
Mr. Kazuo believes that the designer is a professional that imbues idealism into a physical object. He incorporates many varied fields including mathematics, science, technology and art and builds reality hardheadedly and precisely.
Design is a dream. Here is at least one design director in Japan who earnestly believes that the power of design can change the world.