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【JWF News Vol.163】5th Kyoto World Water Grand Prize: Project is now ongoing!


【JWF News Vol.163】5th Kyoto World Water Grand Prize: Project is now ongoing!
May 16, 2018



・Foreword To love the Japanese Language

・Announcement from the Japan Water Forum
– 5th Kyoto World Water Grand Prize: Project is now ongoing!


・Foreword To love the Japanese Language
By Kotaro Takemura, Chair of the Japan Water Forum


A Lecture in the Secret Society
After the 8th World Water Forum I finally had time to relax, so I attended a lecture to which I had been invited. While walking to the site of the lecture from Ichigaya Station, I crossed the Imperial Palace’s sotobori (outer moat), breathing in the fresh air of early summer.

The lecture was organized by a group of people who cherish the Japanese language, following the wishes of the late Tsuneari Fukuda. Amidst calls for globalization, lessons are taught in English in some Japanese universities, and English has become an official language in some Japanese companies.
Those trying to protect the Japanese language do not get much attention from the public. Therefore, the group’s meetings have been held quietly, like meetings of a secret society. I have taken part in meetings of the group since it was launched. This lecture was given by Prof. Takao Suzuki.

Takao Suzuki, Ninety-one Years Old
Takao Suzuki is a scholar and educator who loves the Japanese language. He is not simply a domestically-oriented scholar, but an international linguist who studied European languages in the US for many years. He is also a fluent speaker of Russian.

The title of his lecture was “How to increase the number of young people who find their calling in diffusing Japanese”. He spoke on a wide range of topics, from ancient world history to social conditions in the 21st century.

To my surprise, he stood during his whole 90-minute speech at the age of 91. His voice was loud, strong and rhythmical. When I saw him in person with my own eyes, having known him only through his books, I was overwhelmed by his enthusiasm and youthful energy.

The key word of his speech was kanji.

Strange Kanji
I will summarize his speech. Each kanji character has two readings: on-yomi (Chinese reading) and kun-yomi (Japanese reading). In the fifth century, Kanji was introduced from China. Kanji, a written language, fused with Japanese, a spoken language.

An individual kanji character was used in different ways, to convey both logical and sentimental concepts. A kanji character was read in on-yomi (Chinese reading) in describing a logical concept, and in kun-yomi (Japanese reading) to describing sentiment.

The kanji 水(water) is read “sui” in logical approach. Therefore 水路(water channel) is read as “suiro”. However, in the case of drinking water, 水(water) is read in kun-yomi (Japanese reading). We drink “mizu”, not “sui”.

Japanese people use two different readings of a kanji depending on the situation. During modernization in the Meiji era, people showed a particular ability to do this. In the years spanning the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period, we absorbed every word of Western civilization, all rendered in kanji.

The enigmatic word “philosophy” was translated into “tetsugaku(哲学)” in Japanese. Many words used in our daily lives were coined in the Meiji period. The Japanese language is quite flexible. Though we imported kanji, we fused it with hiragana and katakana characters native to the Japanese language.

Also, the Arabic numeric characters 1, 2, and 3 are used in Japanese texts. In other cases, a word that does not translate into Japanese, such as “identity” is written in katakana, while keeping the same pronunciation as English. Moreover, we use English itself such as JICA in Japanese texts.

Japanese is one of the most unique languages in the world. The original Japanese language, Chinese characters, Arabic numerals and English are all used.

Flexible Japan Brings Peace
Prof. Suzuki claims that the Japanese language has the power to ease tensions and conflicts in a bitter and competitive world. As I am not a linguist, I cannot explain his sophisticated logic. Therefore, I will describe it from the geographical perspective I am good at.

Japan is an island country in the Far East, off the Eurasian Continent. Long ago, people and information from the Eurasian Continent arrived on the islands and stayed there, since East of the Japanese islands lay the vast Pacific Ocean, which prevented people from going any further.

Since the dawn of humanity, the Japanese islands have received a migration of people and information from all over the world. Therefore, the Japanese have developed a high level of tolerance and the ability to embrace all people and information, because the Japanese themselves were immigrants to these islands.
Tolerance leads to the flexibility to accept anything. This tolerance and flexibility have become features of the Japanese. They respect yao-yorozu-no-kami (multiple gods) and live peacefully together.

An era of global rivalry is looming. In such times, Japanese tolerance is very valuable. I believe that Japan has the potential to ease global tensions caused by internecine strife among nations.


・Announcement from the Japan Water Forum


5th Kyoto World Water Grand Prize: Project is now ongoing!

Kyoto World Water Grand Prize aims to praise an organization involved in grassroots activities dealing with water problems, which may serve as a model for other organizations straggling for the same issues.

In the 5th edition of the prize,  “Charité Chrétienne pour Personnes en Détresse (CCPD)”, that was chosen out of 144 applicants from the world after careful screening, received an award of 2,000,000 JPY from the representatives of the co-organizers and sponsors.

CCPD has started to carry out the project funded by the prize money from May 2018 to July 2019 in Togo, aiming to solve water issues in the country.

▼Please visit the following website for details▼

(Reported by Akie Gunji, Manager)

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JWF News Vol. 163 / May 16 2018
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