Tuesday, November 6, 2012

More on More Imagination and Creativity

Tomomi san who sat next to me at a cafe impressed me with all of her pink items! 

In response to Vincent’s comment, this is the continuation from the last post.

I think it’s fair to say the Roggendorf’s quote is one sided if it isn’t negative. 
I again read the previous lines from the quote on P. 109 of the book, Roggendorf compares two ideas: Rafcadio Hearn’s and Spencer’s.  But it is unclear to me what exactly he compared with.  Roggendorf was German and studied in London before coming to Japan, and later he returned and studied a few more years to become a professor in English at Sophia University in Japan.
Another negative word I have to point out among the previous lines is this:  Hearn was not as cultured.  This blows me away.  Again, such statement is unclear what Roggendorf compared with.  Himself?  Hearn’s contribution to the introduction of the Japanese literature and culture to the west is singularly important.  He married a local woman from a samurai family which enabled him to know the culture from the bottom up. 
At the introduction to his future wife, Hearn said to the go-between that she was ugly, but as he got to know her, his love to her deepened.  To their married dwelling, she brought her entire family.  Many samurai were contrary to their proud faces.  They were very poor.  The things Hearn hated such as she and her family helped him dress although he could dress by himself because he was not a child, but he said if that gave them pleasure, he would let them.  The family members were also grateful for him, but I guess they could not express their gratitude other than helping him dress and undress or doing chores around the house.  What a thoughtful man Rafcadio Hearn was!  Was he cultured?  Yes, he was in my opinion. 

Obviously, Roggendorf wouldn’t have put so much effort in learning Japanese if he didn’t see great benefits from it.  I’m sure his achievement was like conquering Mt. Everest.  Maybe when he wrote the book, he was quite frustrated.  Living in the foreign culture like Japan, I can understand.
Anyhow, Japan has been functioning all these years using nothing but the Japanese language.  All the important and not so important documents are all written in Japanese.  That means all the critical thinking in Japan has been done in Japanese.  Thank goodness, we still speak and write in Japanese daily. 
I think how exactly people speak or write depends on the needs and the ability of the speaker or writer in any language. 

About exactness, I’ve written a blog on the Japanese usage of subject and object before.  If you and your wife/husband are alone in a room facing each other, and you say “I love you,” she/he understands you.  But if you omit “I” and “you,” English speakers do not understand.  They probably feel frustrated and demand us to be more specific.  This is unfortunate. 
Let’s take a moment to think.  Let’s take the grammar, tradition and habit out and think pure logic.  In above situation, wouldn’t you agree that you and I are not needed to understand each other?  Don’t forget, we are eliminating the base thinking of the grammar, tradition and habits.  You’ve just said goodbye to them.  Remember?  Try to be as pure as you can be on the logic itself. 
When the needs of being exact become habitual for centuries, I think people forget the original logic.  The evidence of that habit probably can be seen when we compare some love letters of the Chaucer’s time and the modern times.  I checked a bit although not love letters.  I’ve compared the poems by Chaucer and a modern American poet once although it’s not enough sampling for a scholarly statement.  The latter had many more articles and subject and objects in her poems compared to Chaucer’s.
So, the tendency is wanting to be exact in English, and it has been increasing.  I’m only stating the phenomenon, not talking good or bad.  But we ought to know this ongoing growth under our consciousness.  And this habit is infectious, and we tend to forget the original logic.
So, what am I suggesting to you?   This is my recommendation to high level writers and readers.  The people who do not care about this matter do not count for obvious reason.  Think of this issue deeper and try not to use many articles like a and the, and subjects and objects as much as possible to experiment in your poems or creative writing.  You won’t know the result right away, but if you try a number of times over certain period, you might discover something; worthwhile. 
We are habitual animals.  We can stop and think what's under our consciousness.  For instance, I think your readers' minds will work harder to figure out what you write if they really care to read your interesting contents.  It enhances our and their imagination.  Try it and find out and let me know. 
Of course, this is not recommended in writing a critical manual to save people’s lives and so forth.


Rebb said...


This is great; very interesting and thought provoking. I often become aware and frustrated at how many articles there are in the English language—I think I’ve become more aware since I started reading your blogs on language because it made me curious about the Japanese language and though I barely scratched the surface, I can see how imaginative and interchangeable the Japanese language is. It’s interesting how one character alone represents something, but alone doesn’t form a complete thought; and also, how the same character combined with other characters completely changes the meaning. I like your suggestion about writing a poem without using so many articles.

Hello Kitty! Pink.

Rebb said...


I looked at the book on Amazon. It sounds very interesting and that you enjoy his books, I feel that it's worth me buying a copy. I see a used copy for reasonable price. I love memoirs and I'm intrigued. What's interesting is the English title is translated as "Between different Cultures." Your blogs are always full of interesting information and inspire me in some way! Thank you!

keiko amano said...


Thank you, Rebb for your comment. You are familiar to this subject. Maybe I'm repeating myself, but the needs to express this came up again.

Thank you also for checking the internet. I forgot to do that. Yes, I'm curious about the English title, "Between Different Cultures."

The last chapter of the book is titles 「二つの文化の中で」which means "Within two cultures." This is probably the source of the book title. Many authors pick the name of one chapter out of their book. But I think the publisher wanted more catchy title.
「異文化のはざまで」is the Japanese title. Three consecutive kanji such as 異文化 looks and sounds a bit more authoritative than 二つの文化, and はざま means "narrow space between." So, this title gives the tone of hardships. I think Japanese readers like this kind of tone, image and title, but I don't think this is the choice by Roggendorf. It doesn't seem to be his style.

If「二つの文化の中で」was the original phrase to the title, and the English title became "Between Different Cultures" with his approval, then I think either "Between Two Cultures," or "Among Different Cultures" is better. What do you think?

Rebb said...

Keiko, I love hearing you talk about the subject. It doesn’t seem like you are repeating yourself at all. If anything only reinforcing, which is good.

Interesting about the last chapter title and how that’s probably the source of the book title. It makes me think of a Spanish poem I was reading and the translator decided to name the title of the poem the first line of the poem, rather than the actual title. That seems strange to me. But that’s a bit different from this example, but made me think of it.

I can see what you mean; three consecutive kanji does look more authoritative. I like your suggestion of “Between Two Cultures.” You spoke about precision of language in your previous post. I haven’t read the book yet, but my sense is the focus is on the two cultures. That’s why I’d pick that title. On the other hand, I also like “Among Different Cultures.” Also Between and Among have such subtle differences in meaning. Language is so fun and fascinating and I love reading your blogs about it and other interesting ideas.

Now, I’m torn. I like both your title suggestions. Do you have a preference?

keiko amano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
keiko amano said...

If you add “the” as “Between the Two Cultures,” which two cultures do you think Roggendorf implied in the book? The Eastern and Western cultures? If it is, he could as might as well name it as “Japanese and English speaking cultures” or something more specific. What do you think?

But come to think of it, that’s not appropriate because Japanese is not a sole representative of the Eastern culture. China has much higher in population and their land much bigger, and worldwide, I’m sure more people speak Chinese than Japanese.

In the book, he talks about Japanese, German, British, French, and other cultures. And he was the first to start the comparative literature program at Sophia University which was also the first in Japan, and in the program, two literature are compared.

He also talks about the difference in cultures which includes such as the culture in the monastery and outside, and so on.

So, “among” is definitely out because it gets complicated if we compare multiple cultures all at once. I thought more about it. We want to see “two” after “between” for simplicity, but now I see why he named the title, “Between Different Cultures.” How about that! What do you think?

Also, I want to add to what I wrote before that for being exact depends on the needs and ability of writers, but I think also it depends on the needs and ability of readers, too.

By the way, I checked “The Two Cultures” and saw the following site.

Thank you, Rebb for your contribution to this cross cultural discussion. You're definitely from the Western culture! You and "the" have love relationship because it doesn't come up to my brain!

keiko amano said...


I just reread your last comment, and I think I misread it before. I thought you suggested "Between the Two Cultures." I don't know why.
I'm sorry about that.

Rebb said...

Keiko, After reading your comment, now I see what you see and why the title is named “Between Different Cultures.” It makes sense.

I tend to agree with you about how exactness of language depends on needs and ability of readers also.

I pasted the link…I think it was the right one talking about the cultures of humanities and science.

Thank you, Keiko, for enlightening me further. Yes, you are right…”the” is ingrained in me whether I like it or not : )

About your last comment…no worries. : )