Matsi nu miduri

I just realized that the Okinawa Prefectural Library has put all kinds of amazing material online in their "digital library of valuable materials" (貴重資料デジタル文庫). This is a big deal because it's difficult and/or expensive to buy even a basic modern printed edition of most of this stuff. You want to read the Chūzan seikan 中山世鑑? What force on earth will keep you from doing so? (Oh, right, capitalism.)

Or here's the Kokin Ryūka shū ("Collection of Ryūka old and new"), in glorious printlike hentaigana. Poem #1 is by Shō Kō 尚灝:

Tushi ya tachikawati/ hatsiharu nu sura ni/ niwaka tsichiditaru/ matsi nu miduri
The New Year is here, and into the early spring sky thrusts the green of the pine

(Transcription based on and translation heavily indebted to Shimizu Akira's Ryūka Taisei 琉歌大成 (1994, Okinawa Times), p729.)


The Yanagita Kunio Guide to the Japanese Folk Tale

Find of the day: Fanny Hagin Mayer's translation of the Yanagita Kunio Guide to the Japanese Folk Tale.

65. "If Anyone Sees You, Turn into a Frog"

There was a somewhat foolish novice at a certain temple. Once when he received a coin with a hole in it for going on an errand, he strung it onto a piece of straw and buried it in a corner of the yard. While he buried it, he said over and over, "If I dig you up, be a coin. If somebody else digs you up, turn into a frog." Whenever he received a coin after that for an errand, he always buried it with the same admonition. The old priest noticed this. He dug up all the coins one day and put a frog into the hole instead. When the boy came as usual to bury a coin, he discovered the coins were gone and a frog came jumping out. He cried, "Wait wait, I'm not somebody else! I'm me, I'm me! If you jump like that, the string will break." He ran after the frog as the old priest held his sides laughing.


The Hentaigana App is here

The Hentaigana App has finally been released for iOS (it came out for Android a few weeks ago, but as is well known Apple outsources app review to starships traveling at relativistic speeds). This is apparently the first fruit of Uniqlo founder Yanai Tadashi's donation to UCLA to "globalize Japanese humanities".

What is the Hentaigana App? A flashcard program and quick reference for individual hentaigana. There are apparently plans to add multi-kana phrases at some point, but no kanji, so this isn't a complete "learn cursive Japanese writing" app. On the other hand, as a hentaigana-only app, it's much nicer than it had to be, with most of the visuals taken from Waseda's collection of scanned books. This doesn't make the app any more informative, say, than a hypothetical version with newly created vector-graphic characters and iOS 7-style flat color backgrounds. But it does make it more involving. Japanese calligraphers are fussy about paper for a reason, after all.

There's no getting around the need to drill hentaigana. This app lets you drill in idle moments waiting for the bus, rather than at a desk flipping back and forth between multiple reference works. And it's free. What more could you want?