Spring and

Take a look at the title page of Miyazawa Kenji's Haru to Shura (Spring and Asura):

(Image from National Diet Library via link above.)

Notice anything odd? Right: sukecchi (sketch) is misspelled sukkechi -- a two-character transposition from スケツチ to スツケチ. A bit embarrassing on a title page, but no big deal.

Interesting though that the error should be in the katakanafied English loanword. It draws attention to the vigorous heterogeneity of vocabulary on this page alone. Haru is ancestral Japonic, a cornerstone of the nation's poetry since before it was even a nation. Shura 修羅 is ultimately from Sanskrit Asura, via Chinese. Shinshō 心象 is Chinese in that it's made of Sino-Japanese morphemes, but to judge from the citations in the Nikon Nihon Kokugo Daijiten (earliest is 1892) and the extreme paucity of examples in the Chinese Text Project, I strongly suspect it was a Meiji-era Japanese invention.

Incidentally, the 1996 animated Miyazawa Kenji biopic Haru to shura was released in English as Spring and chaos. "Chaos" is another possible meaning of shura — the direct referent there is the wartorn Asura Realm — and it might be appropriate for the title of the movie. But I don't think it's appropriate for the poetry collection, because in the title poem Miyazawa unambiguously uses the word to refer to the beings themselves, e.g. Ore wa hitori no shura na no da おれはひとりの修羅なのだ ("I am a [lone] Asura").

Popularity factor: 8


So Nikon goes all the way back to 1892?


Hey, they're "at the heart of the image," aren't they? Just the people to be defining 心象! (Fixed, thanks.)


Is the internal text of this work in kanji and hiragana mostly? A lot of govt reports from early Showa were in kanji and katakana (which seemed in that respect to function like courier typeface did in the U.S.). What were the primary domains of hiragana and katakana in publications during the Taisho era?


Kanji & Katakana looks official, latinate, cold. I think.

Ian Rapley:

If I recall correctly, Shura is one of the hypothesised origins (via reversal) of the Rasu in Miyazawa's Rasu Chijin Kyokai; another was Ruskin.


Yeah, it's kanji and hiragana inside. By then kanji + hiragana was pretty well codified for literature and kanji + katakana for government business and similar texts as you say. But the interesting thing is that because katakana was considered easier to learn and somehow more basic to the writing system, kids learned it first, unlike today where they start with hiragana.

Ian: I didn't know that! Thanks!


I wonder if that has to do with the dimishing relevance of handwriting. Hiragana is a kind of cursive, and involves more complex hand gestures than kaisho kanji – or the broken pieces of kaisho kanji, aka katakana.


I wrote up a blogpost about the changing roles of katakana and hiragana a while back. Katakana seems to have made a resurgence during the Meiji industrial/telegraph era.

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