Teaching sessions

This is page contains preparatory materials for those who will attend the summer school and have no or little knowledge of Japanese early modern cursive. The same materials can be used to study the basics of early modern cursive Japanese independently.

Before you start please familiarize yourself with the page containing information about the necessary reference materials and resources.

Session 1: Introduction

Watch this video to learn about hentaigana, kuzushiji, and the basic rules for producing an accurate diplomatic transcription. The following sessions will refer to this introductory.

Session 2: starting with an easy text.

We are now moving onto our first text. This is a humorous take on measles, as recounted in an 1862 print (hashika-e). First watch the video, then move onto the picture and produce your own transcription. Check your transcription against the transcription provided below. And enjoy a fabulous story while learning the first steps in decoding early modern Japanese cursive.

Download the transcription (which includes 翻刻 on page 1 and 校定, a critical edition meant to facilitate ease of reading, on page 2). Familiarize yourself on how to make an accurate diplomatic transcription.

What is funny?
The print narrates the frustration of those whose income has been badly affected by the measles pandemic: performers (yose), all sorts of food retailers (including tempura and tōfu) and even entertainers (geisha)! So, they are all angry at the god of measles and rush out to kill him. Yet, one person tries to stop them: a doctor! We are talking about one of those doctors who were making money out of all this. The doctor asks them to wait. “It’s too sudden”, he hastily adds. When pressed on why, he ends with a clever pun: “tomokakumo hashika no koto ni shinee“. Hashika is phonetically similarly to ashita. If we try to recreated the pun, it would be something like: “At any rate, just wait till the mo(u)rning is over!”.

Check your progress with the kana variants.

Session 3: let’s consolidate and move forward

Here is our second text. It is a charming book illustrated by Nishikawa Sukenobu 西川祐信 titled Ehon fude tsubana 絵本筆津花 (1746). We are reading the one double-page spread (vol. 2, 9v-10r).

Download the section of the text that we are reading here. Original kept in private collection Ebi bunko. Digital images of the whole second volume available on the website of the ARC (Ritsumeikan University).

Exercise: transcribe the last half folio of the second volume of Ehon fude tsubana.
Once you are done you can check the transcription.

Check your progress with the kana variants.