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.

Please refer to the following rules for transcribing and producing a honkoku 翻刻.

Session 1

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.

Session 4
One more text to consolidate further and think about how to transcribe

For our third text, we will be reading a passage from book illustrated by Nishikawa Sukenobu 西川祐信 entitled Saimyōji-dono kyōkun hyakushu 最明寺殿教訓百首, possibly better known as Shimizu no ike 清水の池. On the one hand we will consolidate and expand knowledge on hentaigana but we will also be exposed to more cursive kanji. I will also use this session to talk you through the rules for making a diplomatic transcription. We will be reading the passage on vol. 3, 10r.

You can find a digitized version at the National Diet Library:

<object class="wp-block-file__embed" data="https://wakancambridge.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/text-3-transcription.pdf&quot; type="application/pdf" style="width:100%;height:600px" aria-label="Embed of Transcription of <em>Shimizu no ike Transcription of Shimizu no ike vol.3 10rDownload

Feel free to use the passage below to try out your own transcription. No transcription is provided here.

Session 5
Let’s start reading sōrōbun

We are now moving onto text that are written in the so-called sōrōbun style.

If you are enrolled on our Summer School programme, you can download the manual for sōrōbun. If you are not enrolled and you are interested in accessing this material please contact Dr Moretti (lm571@cam.ac.uk).

An excellent introduction to the grammatical features of sōrōbun can be found in Yada Tsutomu 矢田勉 , Kokugo moji hyōki shi no kenkyū 国語文字・表記史の研究 (Kyuko shoin, 2012), pp. 449-91. For more materials please consult the manual.

Session 6
Transcribing a jestbook on Minna de honkoku

This session builds on the previous ones to think about how we transcribe. We are using the AI platform Minna de honkoku (developed by Prof Hashimoto Yuta, National Museum of Japanese History) to transcribe and make sense of a passage from the jestbook きのふはけふの物語 (Kan’ei era) [National Diet Library, shelf mark に-63]. Please note that this video contains also specific guidance also for the participants of the 2021 summer school. So, bear with me there! This video should be viewed in conjunction with the video created by Joseph Bills (MPhil student at the University of Cambridge) where he explains the technical features of Minna de honkoku.

This is the second year of collaboration with Prof Hashimoto Yuta and we are very grateful for this 🙂

Session 7
Reading more sōrōbun

In this session we build on Session 5 and read an easy text written in sōrōbun. It is a hikifuda 引き札 which is part of a charming collection of advertising materials titled Kunshūjō 捃拾帖, kept at the General Library of the University of Tokyo. The digital images are accessible online.

You can download text and transcription below.