Unbelievable! Kawabata is moving!

My latest article at Néojaponisme: Kawabata, Mishima & the Nobel Prize. I recommend it to anyone interested in Kawabata, Mishima, the Nobel Prize, gossip about ISHIHARA Shintarō, and/or the J2E translation scene in postwar Tokyo. Extra No-sword-exclusive related content follows:

[Kawabata/Mishima image]
  • In the 1965 interview that Chuckles links to, Mishima is quoted thus:

    No dictionary contains all the Kanji there are. The first and second proofs often come back with a mark called a geta, because it looks like the imprint of a geta, the Japanese wooden clog, in place of a character that the printer has had to order specially made. He always has it for the third proof.

    That mark is the geta symbol 〓, which is probably most familiar this century as the symbol that cellphones use in place of characters they can't display. (I recall seeing a lot of these in cellphone mail from emoticon-happy friends on different networks—this was before the phone companies began their glaciation towards a hypothetical standard.)

  • "Sensei, what kind of a thing is happiness?" -- KAWABATA Yasunari's Asagumo, in coming-attraction form. "The purest coming-of-age girl novel in the history of Japanese literature!" From a mid-90s program called Bungaku to iu koto (文學ト云フ事), which apparently gave this treatment to a different classic of Japanese letters every week. The music is bafflingly inappropriate; contrive therefore to ignore it.

Popularity factor: 9

Paul D.:

I've heard it said that in the end, any Chinese character can be used in Japanese. Do you agree with that? I suppose that pushes the burden of "how many kanji Japanese has" back onto Chinese.


Chinese, plus the ones invented here... or would China count them as hanzi too?

I would agree with the idea that any pre-CCP Chinese character could be used in Japanese, in theory, with the obvious caveats that usability doesn't imply comprehensibility for readers, and that few Japanese style guides would nowadays allow the use of non-simplified forms like 戀 etc. except for meta-reasons.

(The trivial case would be names—editors ancient and modern have sometimes modernized or substituted for convenience, but in theory any Chinese proper noun can be dropped into a Japanese sentence with the exact same characters.)

When the CCP started their simplification projects, though, they effectively created a new branch which is not accessible to Japan. (Notwithstanding mutual simplifications used in handwriting etc.) So those characters are out, at least.


Matt-- concerning the "J2E translation scene in postwar Tokyo," John Nathan, translator of Mishima, Oe, and others, has published a memoir called Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere. Haven't read it, but heard him read some excerpts, and it was very funny and interesting.


It matters how the substitution is done, of course.

A Chinese translation of AHIBE Taku's Murder in the Red mansions just came out, and the Chinese publisher rendered the author's given name as 边拓 instead of 辺拓. Though 辺 isn't a current Chinese character, it was a variant of 道 and has the pronunciation dào, which is guessable and is at least closer to the Japanese than 边 biān.


Wait, I'm confused. Isn't 边 the simplified form of 邊? If that's the case, then it's actually an OK substitution, because in postwar Japanese at least 辺 = simplified form of 邊. I must confess I did not even realize that 辺 had its own separate line of descent from 道.

(Also, not relevant to the issue, but that's actually the second character in his family name -- cf the /be/ in Watanabe 渡辺 etc.)

David Marjanović:


Just for the record, most of this appears on my screen in solid black. Too many strokes to be displayed at this font size and screen resolution.


I realised yesterday as I zoned out in front of the TV that the Softbank logo is the geta symbol! So... as a mobile phone service provider, what is that supposed to mean? They wanted a logo that people could display on their phones without having to register a new character? Sort of the opposite of "artist formerly known as Prince"


David: Hence the simplification, I suppose. It's basically just a blob to me too at any sensible screen resolution- I recognize it by outline and context more than anything else.

Claire: "We have tech so advanced even we don't support it?" The Softbank logo is actually supposed to echo the flag of Sakamoto Ryoma's Kaientai, Japan's first modern corporation (industry: kicking ass and inciting revolution)... the resemblance is definitely eyebrow-raising.


Ah. That makes sense then. Obviously the publishers know what they're doing.

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