Another recent review at the Japan Times: James C. Dobbins' Jōdo Shinshū. This is one of those books I never anticipate getting rid of, even though by now I probably own half of the Japanese books Dobbins cites as sources.

I also wrote a short piece for Néojaponisme about book cover design.

A Tour of Tokyo's Bookstores at AbeBooks. I didn't realize so many were using AbeBooks to sell.

Here's something else I was reading recently: "Translating the Zen Phrase Book", by G. Victor Sōgen Hori. This is the translation that eventually got published as Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Koan Practice, I assume (review here; introduction available here [pdf]). Pages 91 onwards are about the details of how Hori presents his translation; note that he provides a kundoku reading, which — I mean, I wonder if anyone is actually using these in their practice, reciting these incantations that are actually the result of semi-mechanically converting a line of written Chinese into a bare-minimum Japanese translation. And some of that Chinese would have wandered in from the Indic branch of IE, of course. Language is amazing.

Popularity factor: 2


Oh god, that Tour of Tokyo's Bookstores took me back! "The Maruzen Bookstore is well-worth a trip on its own merits": no kidding; I spent as much time as I could there when I lived in Tokyo in the early '60s. Good thing I didn't know about the Jimbocho district then -- not that it would have done me much good, come to think about it, since I didn't, and don't, read Japanese, but I would have been in ecstasy just walking down the street feeling the presence of all those wonderful books.


The tea ceremony uses Zen words in calligraphy scrolls. I noticed that kanbun-kundoku is the normal way of engaging with these scrolls, though they don't think of it as kundoku, much less Chinese. It's just "what's written up there today" or "what it is".

A typical exchange is as follows:
Scroll: 花不礙路
Me (in Japanese): (What's that third character?) Teacher, I'm terribly sorry to bother, but I can't read today's scroll…
[points to character 1] Hana wa (flowers +TOP)…
[points to character 4] michi wo (the way +OBJ)…
[points to character 3] samatage- (hinder)
[points to character 2] -nu (not)

(= flowers don't hinder the Way)

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