Friday, December 31, 2010

Bhagavad-Gida and Kana Shodo

My Taiwanese friend was the first to say to me, “Happy New Year!” In Taiwan, they are celebrating their 100th year. Happy 100th year, Taiwan! Happy New Year to Japanese, Indian, and other friends. And Happy New Year in advance to the rest.

A few days ago, I found another great bargain. A used book like new. An English translation of Bhagavad-Gita was only 50 cents at San Dimas Library. I own a Japanese version. But, if I could own an English version for only 50 cents, how could I pass this opportunity?

The book is thick. It always amazes me to see English translation books. They tend to be huge. My Japanese version is a thin, small book with a larger Japanese font. It includes some explanation and references. I page through my new purchase here and there.

The page in the second photo above appeared before me. I thought it a scribble at first. After all, it is a used book. I know I can’t compare it with Kana Shodo because western signatures are not Kana Shodo. But because of the cultural differences, I needed time to adjust. Soon enough, I realized it was the author’s signature, and later on, I appreciated the seemingly very complicated but free flowing signature. How wonderful the difference is! It’s always a challenge to my hidden prejudice.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kyrgyzstan and Umut

I copied this Facebook exchange below with Umut’s permission.
Thank you, Umut! 

Keiko Amano December 28 at 7:14am


I'm the mother of Mikki Sulan. She told me your name means hope. That's great. In Japan, a novelist named Tusihima Yuuko talks passionately about your culture. I'm interested in it also. I haven't read it, but Tsushima has been studying and writing about Manus (SP maybe wrong), poetry. I guess Manus is your ancient hero.

Umut Kakeeva December 28 at 10:19am Report

Hi Keiko nice to hear from you! In my culture almost all names have meanings. My dad really hoped have a girl for the first child. This is why my names is Umut. I always tell my Peace Corps volunteers through learning the meaning of names they can build their Kyrgyz vocabulary. However I have noticed Americans are not interested in name meanings as we do:) Probably Mikki remembers my names meaning cuz she has Asian background and I know in Asia it is acceptable. Yes, Manas is our ancient hero and the longest epic in the world. What is unique of Manas is Kyrgyz people saved it by orally because they didn't know to write. A person who tells Manas called Manaschi mean Manas teller. In the past when Kyrgyz people didn't know how to write Manaschis told among crowd of people as telling poetry for a long time. Some Manaschi could tell for all the night without stopping. Nowadays Manaschis don't tell such long because we have Manas books now and people can read:) Also, Manas epic describes Kyrgyz culture. Even Kyrgyz people didn't leave about their history and culture in written form but it kept with Manas.

I am very interested in Japanese culture. Just yesterday watched about Kyto (SP might be wrong) on TV. I heard Japanese people are so hard-working. accurate and punctual. One of my American friend's mom told the she impressed the public transportation in Japan comes on time than in the States. I really respect the Japan people are so modern and at the same time follow their traditions. BTW, I loved Japanese cuisine. Recently Peaco Corps training officer invited us to the dinner his home. His wife is Japanese. We felt like we were in Japan cuz they showed real Japanese dinner and culture. I think we ate 11 kinds of food and tried some Sake:) Food was so delicious and healthy! Unfortunately, I forget their names except sushi. Also, we had fun using chopsticks. OK, I guessed I talked a lot. If you are interested in to know about our culture I can tell you more. Just let me know. Also, you have a great daughter! She is my best American friend!

Keiko Amano December 28 at 2:50pm


Thank you for your response. This is great. And I'm glad to hear that my daugher is your best American friend. I'm also glad to know that Mikki paid attention to the meaning of your name. You probably taught her your language more than you think. Making friends is the best way to learn target languages.

So, Manas epic is the longest in the world, and it used to be an oral tradition. If it was oral, there must be many versions. I hope some young people keep such unique tradition going. I'd like to know more about Kyrgyz culture and language. Mikki was lucky to have had the opportunity to learn the language.

About punctuality in Japan, longer ago, we were more punctual. Lately, we have more small accidents on rails, and passengers often must wait. I think one of the reasons is that younger people push emergency buttons more easily than older folks.

Below are my blogs about my name.

Umut, can I copy this exchange to my blog spot? I want to introduce you and your culture to my fellow bloggers. It will be very meaningful. Please let me know.



Keiko Amano's Blog: Names and Preference

Vincent is fine by me. Now we must find a name for you. How about an Italian suffix?"To indicate smallness or express affection or endearment, add the common suffixes such as -ino/a/i/e, -etto/a/i/e, -ello/a/i/e, and -uccio, -uccia, -ucci, -ucce."Keikina? Keikella? Keikuccia? (the ending in a signif


Umut Kakeeva December 28 at 6:45pm Report

Yes, of course I don't mind at all. Thanks for your blog link.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

ZACL and Ashok in Kana Shodo

Last April, I wrote a blog titled “Hiragana in Ballpoint Pen.”
To my surprise, I had good feedbacks.  That was the reason I decided to take up a Kana Shodo class. 

This morning I was inspired.  So, I got my calligraphy utensils out and wrote two more names in kana, ZACL and Ashok.  To draw ZACL was a challenge because it isn’t like Mary or Elizabeth. 

In Kana Shodo, we write in kana, but we include some kanji which is called chowatai (the balanced form.)  So, for ZACL, I picked (otu) in kanji for Z.  甲乙means primary and secondary.  So, means secondary.  But, when we say, “It’s 乙(おつだねぇ、or おつですね), it means “It’s subtle, but good” or “It’s surprisingly good.”  The meaning has depth in aesthetic or goodness, and the proportion to kanji vs hiragana depends on the calligrapher’s sensibility.

I also chose and .  is pronounced “a” of “a chair.”  is pronounced similar to “n” or “m.”  According to Sanskrit, is the beginning and is the end.  And I thought looks like alphabet L dancing.  あうん means “Ohm,” and it came from Sanskrit. 

For C, I let it remain as alphabet, but I made it like a wind.  When I see ZACL’s photos, I sense a wind and the sea in the background even if the photos are taken indoors.  So, I depicted a wind and the sea by drawing; the last two letters.

ZACL, if you don't like it, I can always come up with other design.  So, please let me know.

For Ashok, I simply used hiragana only. Ashok isあしょっく!
I always think of Ashok, “A Shock!”

So, it sounds somewhat logical but also idiosyncratic, right?  But I think a number of ancient Japanese scholars went through this kind of process over and over and reached the stability in the Japanese written language.  Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) set 50 kana based on Sanskrit.  He and Ueda Akinari fought on the concept.  This is very interesting.  I hope to read more about it later.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Kana

む (mu)

The origin of  a hiragana む is 武.   武者(musha) and 武士(bushi) mean samurai, but the meaning wasn't so important when developing Japanese letters from Chinese characters.   無 is also む which means nothing.   In one of Nishida Kitaro's books, he wrote that 無 is love when he compared with the western concept.  I agree.  
無 holds everyting else.  

Talking of love, I fell in love with the letter Iida Kazuko Sensei wrote for one of Basho poems.  I asked her to draw that particular む in the same way.  She brushstroke in red ink right then and there a few times and gave me that as you see above photo.  It is just a む.  But it has characters.  Don't you think?  They are, in fact, two kanji characters,  and the character, in other sense,  is nothingness but in a samurai way.   We call this kind of arts, playful.  Yes!  Playing is the key.  You can interpret your own way, and choose your own brushstrokes.   I've uploaded kana shodo blog spots again because my past "Kana Shodo" blog spot is the most popular so far.   Thank you for appreciating our traditional art!  

Below is my Japanese blog, and the second photo shows the old pond and a frog poem by Basho in which that same む appeared. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kana Shodo Part 2

I've uploaded the models that were written by my teacher in my other blog, Books and Talks.
  Her name is Iida Kazuko Sensei.   But in this blog, I'll show you my effort in copying her design.   They are not quite there, but I'm excited.  In her design, she chooses different letters to gain overall balance and uses less ink to achieve a rustic feeling.  I just love her む、mu.

This is my Kana Dictionary.  There are more む than you see in this page.  Also, you can create your own if you want to.  I love Iida sensei's む so much.  So I asked her to write only that.   She did.  I'll show it to you in my next post.

I'm pretty peased with this piece, especially む (mu).

old pond
a frog jumps in
the sound of water


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fat and Old and Ugly

Some of you have already read this story in one of my Red Room blog spots. But, it is now translated into Romanian and Spanish with the title of "Fat and Old and Ugly" in Contemporary Literary Horizon magazine. Here is the site.