Friday, June 22, 2012

The Literacy of Japanese Women Part II

In support of Contemporary Literary Horizon, I have deleted the text.
Here you will find it.   Thank you, readers, and all your comments.


jiturajgor said...

Keiko I like this post. I am surprised to know that meaning of this ancient writing is solely depends on who is reading it,[if i understood your post correctly]Would like to know.

keiko amano said...


I think the development of our writing system is probably the most complicated in the world. I've been writing bits and pieces, and sometimes, I feel reluctant to resume writing about it because it's so complex and idiosyncratic. But or because of it, I'm more and more fascinated by our language. Maybe because I've learned English enough to compare and express my idea, I have challenges to it.

It's very interesting. There is no limit in learning culture and language.

Our culture is different in addressing people. We avoid addressing people even today if we could, and in old days like one hundred years ago, especially men changed their names many times throughout their lives. If we are reading a personal letter from a hundred years ago, and if we do not know those names, then we cannot decipher who sent to whom and so on. Luckily, we value documents and have tendency in saving old things, so we can compare and figure out eventually most of it if we continue to persevere. But Iwa's letter is not a national importance, so I doubt anyone wants to put further effort.

In your language, do you think you can pick up a one-hundred-year-old personal letter and read and understand it easily? Have you had such experience?

jiturajgor said...

Good interpretation Keiko.Yes In my language 'Gujarati' I can read 100 year old letter and will understand it fully.Only thing I have to be careful is metaphors,puns and technical words used in that time. I have a document [sale-deed] of my wife's grand parents house more then 100 year old.handwritten with wooden pen and ink. We were privileged with technology due to British rule of 200 years. If possible I will post a copy of it after scanning.

keiko amano said...


I searched using a key word as follows:
松平武聡夫人寿子書簡(まつだいらたけあきふじんひさこしょかん), and found the following site.

Scroll down and you'll find a letter written by Hisako Matsudaira who was the wife of the Hamada Han's lord when the vassals defeated. I think Iwa was similar age as Hisako. In the letter, Hisako wrote that she worried about his young son. Iwa must have been in the same situation. Iwa's husband worked for the lord.

Look at similarity in brushstrokes between Hisako's and Iwa's although that particular letter Hisako wrote was quite formal because of a major political event. She wrote to the wife of another lord who was their ally. Iwa's letter was addressed to her younger sister.

Jitu, yes, please show us your old formal document. I'd like to see. But, I was talking about personal letters. One hundred year old formal Japanese documents related to real estate are readable even today. Actually even one thousand year old, if the document was written in formal way, I can read and make sense although I cannot say it for sure that I would understand 100%.

ZACL said...

Analysing personal letters is a minefield in English. You have to allow for bias, understand the culture and thinking of the time in which a letter was written, but, not put your own interpretation onto the character who wrote it or add information that is not there just because something is possible. The investigative approach is challenging and can easily become distorted by personal judgement instead of the evidence of fact.

keiko amano said...


That is true when we read other people's letters.

About bias, I don't have any problem with Iwa's letter because they were selfless and hardworking people.