How Japanese Went From Illegible To Legible In 100 Years

At the core of Japanese there’s hiragana, the basic Japanese alphabet (or syllabary, if you want to be pedantic about it). But it wasn’t until pretty recently that hiragana was standardized. Until the 20th century, people could basically write hiragana however they wanted to. Those different ways of writing hiragana were called hentaigana (変体仮名).

Yamato Kotoba: The REAL Japanese Language

A lot of people don’t know this, but the Japanese language is actually a big mishmash of several not-Japanese languages put together. At one time though, a long long time ago, the Japanese language was a slightly less mishmashy combination of several languages. This is what’s known as “Yamato Kotoba” ー the real Japanese language from a time when there wasn’t so much outside language … [ Read more ]

History’s 100 Most Influential People: Hero Edition (Video)

Further confirmation, if any were needed, that we all have a firm sense of our own place in the world is the release of “History’s 100 Most Influential People, Hero Edition,” a survey conducted by the Nippon Television Network, Japan’s largest broadcast system. Thirteen of the top 20 slots on the list, and about half overall, are occupied by Japanese people, an impressive(f somewhat ethnocentric《prinkling … [ Read more ]

Sadako and the Paper Cranes

Companion to an exhibit about Sadako Sasaki, who was “born in 1943 and experienced the [Hiroshima] bombing at age two [and died in 1955]. She was healthy and athletically gifted growing up, but ten years after the bombing, she was suddenly hospitalized. The diagnosis was leukemia. One day, a thousand paper cranes arrived at the hospital. … This inspired her to begin folding her own.” … [ Read more ]

Famous Cases: Iva Toguri d’Aquino and “Tokyo Rose”

Background about Iva Toguri d’Aquino, who died in September 2006 and was most identified with “Tokyo Rose,” a “fabricated name given by soldiers to a series of American-speaking women who made propaganda broadcasts” in the South Pacific during World War II. Includes a description of her early life (she was born in Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA) and of her presidential pardon in 1977. … [ Read more ]

Samurai Archives

Find all things Samurai on this site.

Japanese Historical Maps

Access to more than 100 images and books from the collection of over 2300 Japanese historical maps dating back to the fifteenth century. Includes a view of the data which is an overlay of historical maps with current geospatial data. Viewing maps may require downloading special software, depending on your computer. From the University of California at Berkeley, East Asian Library.

A Nagasaki Report

On-the-scene reporting of Nagasaki, written in September, 1945 by American George Weller, “the first foreign reporter to enter Nagasaki following the U.S. atomic attack.” Copies of these stories, originally censored by U.S. occupation forces, were discovered after among Weller’s effects after his death in 2002. From the Mainichi Daily News, Japan.

Japanese in the Age of Technology

This multimedia series describes how the Japanese people have struggled to adapt their language to the demands of modern society over the past 140 years.

Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire

This site is a companion to a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) program about “commanding shoguns and fierce samurai warriors, exotic geisha and exquisite artisans all [of whom] were part of a Japanese renaissance between the 16th and 19th centuries.” The site features a timeline, a map and images of travel along the Tokaido road, information about characters of the period, and interactive activities. Also … [ Read more ]

Black Ships & Samurai

This exhibit features “some 200 Japanese and American graphics depicting the 1853-1854 mission by Commodore Matthew Perry that led to the opening of Japan to the outside world.” It also includes related visual narratives and “an innovative recreation of a 30-foot-long Japanese ‘Black Ship Scroll’ painted in 1854.” Developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors.