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Kozo's Thoughts
Random, Weird, and 100% 石黒光司
Quick Life Recap and Some Stuff for the Archives 
Friday May 19th, 2006 0:35
Ohta Kouzou
I there was any doubt I was back in Montreal, the Purple Haze I had last night with the "Art Crew" certainly cleared it up quickly. That doesn't happen in Hamilton... I was great to see Em and her gang of friends again.

Quick Recap:
-I spent most of last week with Josh and Alex. Basically goofed around in the house playing poker and watching random stuff before setting off to DDT. I came away with the overwhelming feeling that there was an unresolved/unidentified tension between the three of us.

-DDT was fun. Mike and I have great chemistry and I didn't have the same kind of partner issues I had with Josh the previous 2 years. We came out of all but 1-2 rounds satisfied. We ended up with an 8-1 record before the break, but we lost the semi (which was sort of a relief). I was probably more satisfied with my Texas Hold'em split win with Tim O (who is one of my favorite people in debate, and incidentally is my new housemate's brother). So I actually made some money over the weekend ($5 net).

- If you didn't see Jon Stewart's interview with Ramesh Ponnuru, you should.

Now the archival stuff. I was recently searching Google for more information on Tsurumi Shunsuke (鶴見俊輔). Tsurumi is easily the most important/respected intellectual who is aware of my existence. What I found was an interview conducted 8 years ago for a bilingual internet journal between Tsurumi and Muro Kenji (who apparently was a classmate of my mother in school). The interview puts into clear words my own thoughts on language and communication. Unfortunately the website hosting the interview is gone and I was only able to save the interview through Google cache. The interview is entitled 文化の壁をこえて心にとどく言葉 (Language that Crosses Cultural Barriers) and it gives great insight on the nature of language, and also gives the reader a look at Tsurumi the man. For archival purposes, and to enrich my readership (all 2 of you) I'm posting both versions of the interview below.

Interview : Tsurumi Shunsuke
Language that Crosses Cultural Barriers

Seventy-six year old Tsurumi Shunsuke is one of the most influential philosophers and intellectuals in Japan today. I visited him at his home in a suburb of Kyoto to discuss the complexities of cross-cultural communication. The interview began with Shunsuke's comments on the disastrous history of English language education in Japan. We were soon soaring from one topic to another in an animated freeform punctuated by Shunsuke's great laughter and lively hand gestures. He confided to me that he couldn't use the Internet without the help of his wife.

During his long career, Shunsuke has taught in Kyoto, Tokyo, Mexico City and Montreal. He was a central figure in the Japanese Peace Movement during the 1960's and 70's and for 50 years was the editor and publisher of Shiso-no-Kagaku, a respected journal for Japanese intellectuals. He now spends his time reading, writing and receiving visitors. His curiosity and intellectual energy are exactly the same as when I met him for the first time 32 years ago.

(Muro Kenji)

A Complete Disaster

To make our journal accessible to as many people around the world as possible, we decided to make it bilingual in English and Japanese. Bilinguality, however, means more than simply replacing text written in one language with text written in another language. Just how effective is English as a tool for communicating the essence of things between two speakers of different languages?

If you're going to put a magazine on the Internet and intend to use English as your lingua franca, you'd be making a mistake to rely on contemporary American English as your model. This magazine is a test case for seeing what happens to English when it is used as a common language by the Japanese, for seeing how Japan's own English-language culture works on the Internet.

If we simply try to follow America's lead, a global culture is not going to come about. The most we could gain from that would be a clever imitation of American culture. Not only would we fail to earn the respect of people from other countries, we wouldn't even earn the respect of the Americans.

English language education has a 130-year history in Japan, and it's been a complete disaster. Before World War II, a Japanese child would study English for three years in middle school and three years in high school. If he majored in English literature, he would get another four years of university study, for a total of ten years of English. Yet after all that, Japanese with this sort of background were utterly incapable of expressing themselves in English.

Author Shiga Naoya, who wrote in plain, powerful Japanese, told a story about how he once struck up a conversation with an Englishman. "Are you a college student?" he was asked. Shiga managed to reply, "Yes I am," but that was it. When asked "What's your major?" he mumbled something unintelligible and quickly fled. The answer was "English literature" [laughter] He couldn't bring himself to admit it. That story is emblematic of the whole problem.

My father, [politician and author] Tsurumi Yusuke, was chairman of the English Law Department at First High School [Japan's most prestigious prewar college preparatory school] and therefore thought of himself as the most cultivated man in Japan.

When he visited America for the first time, in the entourage of the Christian educator Nitobe Inazo, he was left alone in his hotel room. He wanted to phone Professor Nitobe's room, but didn't know how use the telephone -- that was something they hadn't taught him in college. My father could read the works of Carlyle, the 19th century British philosopher, but he couldn't make a phone call, he couldn't even say "hello." He told me he felt utterly humiliated. The English he had learned proved useless as a communication tool.

Has any other country experienced such a colossal failure in English language education? Now there's something I'd like you to research on the Internet. If you compare the histories of similar failures in other countries, you could come up with some solid data. If Japan turns out to be the worst disaster of all, I'd like to see that evidence rubbed in the face of the Education Ministry.

A Bunch of Hackneyed American English Cliches

It seems to me that Japanese education has not only produced people who can't say "hello" on the phone, but people who speak English with perfect diction but no meaning. Can you comment on that?

Seventeen years ago in London, they held an international conference on the Edo Period [1600-1867]. The conference was sponsored by the Japan Foundation in conjunction with an Edo exhibit at a London museum. It was a nice hotel, and they threw a fantastic banquet for 100 Japan scholars from all over the world, complete with a speech by the Japanese consul.

The consul was educated after the Second World War, so his English pronunciation was good, as was his intonation. But he had nothing to say. Because his English was so clear, the emptiness of his speech was all the more glaring. It was as if he'd studied solely for the purpose of passing his college exams, and hadn't really learned anything of substance.

Better he should have given a little greeting in Japanese, something like "Thanks for coming, all of you. Please relax and enjoy your dinner" -- and then sat down. That would have shown much better taste on his part. Do you think anyone was impressed with the consul's fine command of English? No! All he did was string together a bunch of hackneyed American English cliches.

Before the war, the Japanese had a harder time pronouncing foreign languages properly. The story goes that Ishii Kikujiro, the politician and diplomat, gave a speech in French to the League of Nations, but was crestfallen when a Frenchman told him afterward, "That was a fine speech. I had no idea the Japanese language was so similar to French." Ishii was a man of some historical significance; his name is on the Ishii-Lansing Agreement of 1917 between Japan and the U.S. But his linguistic ability still left something to be desired.

There were exceptions. Komura Jutaro, who was Japan's ambassador plenipotentiary to the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905, could speak English. So could Shidehara Kijuro, who participated in the Washington Conference in 1921.

I once stayed at the home of Saito Hiroshi, who was Japan's ambassador to the U.S. His English was incredibly good. When a Japanese Navy plane erroneously blew up the American gunboat Panay, he had to give a speech in English to apologize and explain what had happened. This was in the midst of Japan's war with China, and relations with the U.S. weren't good, but his apology was sincere and beautifully expressed. It must have had an effect, too, because when Saito died in the U.S. in 1939, the American government returned his remains to Japan aboard the warship Astoria.

After the war, the Foreign Ministry of Japan did a complete about-face and its envoys were suddenly capable of comprehending and speaking English. But they no longer had anything to say. That was made painfully clear to me when I heard the speech by the Japanese consul at the London conference.

Necessity is Crucial to Communication
During the first half of the 19th century, Japan was still a closed country. But sometimes, as a result of storms at sea, people were marooned outside of Japan and then returned later. I know you've written extensively about one of these experiences -- John Manjiro. What was it like for him?

Manjiro lived in the days before Japan had a formal education system. They were better off then, before English was taught in the schools. Manjiro [1827-1898] was the son of a fisherman who was born toward the end of the Shogunate era. In 1841, he was shipwrecked on an uninhabited island in the Pacific.

When an American whaling ship appeared offshore, how do you suppose Manjiro communicated with them? He was just a 14-year-old fisherboy and had never been to school. His means of communication consisted of body English -- big expressive gestures. When the ship's crew got close enough to see him, he gestured that his stomach was empty. Hunger gave rise to urgent necessity, and necessity is a crucial ingredient of communication.

Manjiro's gestures told them he was a castaway, and that he was starving. They took him aboard the ship, and fed him some kind of thin rice gruel. Manjiro got angry because he thought they were ignoring his hunger. But it was on the captain's orders: the captain knew that Manjiro shouldn't be fed any solid food at first. After a few days, they started giving him solid food.

Once Manjiro had recovered, he was given work as a ship's hand. In the course of his chores he'd pick up a few words at a time; in fact he learned English very quickly. Captain Whitfield realized Manjiro was a clever lad and brought him home with him to Fairhaven, Massachusetts. In Fairhaven, Manjiro went to school but he also learned the cooper's trade.

Manjiro was a great man. After school, when he first found work on a ship, the captain treated him like an ignorant Oriental and tried to cheat him. Manjiro wouldn't take it and left the ship. In a few years, he'd not only learned English, he'd learned the ways of America. Later, when he joined the crew of an American whaling ship, they chose him to be first mate. That was how much they trusted him.

Later, he went to California for the Gold Rush. At first, he dug for gold by hand; then, when he'd made some money that way, he invested it in a gold-digging machine. Most of his fellow forty-niners spent their earnings on liquor and women, but Manjiro bought a boat with his savings. He took the boat with him aboard a whaler and had them drop him off the coast of Japan. So he returned to his isolationist homeland, knowing that he might well be put to death for leaving the country. Long after Manjiro returned to Japan, they were still talking about him in Fairhaven.

The letter he wrote to Captain Whitfield when he got home is wonderful. The first line is, "Dear Friend." The English in this letter eloquently expresses both the depth of his feelings and his attitude of equality toward the benefactor who saved his life, took him home, and gave him an education. Manjiro had truly mastered the English language.

The problem is that each of us is transmitting our messages from our own little hole. Our message has to reach another person some distance away in his own hole. Then that person transmits back to us. That's communication.

With English or with the Internet, the question is the same: how do we send our message from our own hole to another's? Manjiro knew how. The challenge for you is, can your online journal communicate in English as well as Manjiro did?

The challenge for the Internet is the same: like the starving and marooned Manjiro, users have to feel an urgent necessity to communicate. Otherwise it will just be another "new age" media novelty and that will be that.

Messages from Orwell's Hole in India
Like John Manjiro, you travelled to the United States to learn English. What was your experience like?

In 1937, when I was 15, I left Japan for America. I didn't understand a word of English at first, but I learned it quickly, and was attending Harvard when war broke out between the U.S. and Japan.

When the FBI interviewed me, I told them I supported neither the American nor the Japanese government, so they arrested me for being an anarchist. I wound up writing my graduation thesis for Harvard on top of a toilet seat in a jail cell. My Harvard professor was kind enough to make a special trip to the jail to give me my oral exam. In August 1942, I finally arrived back in Japan aboard a prisoner exchange ship.

When I entered the Japanese Navy, I told them I could speak English, so I was assigned to produce a daily newspaper at the naval base in Jakarta. My commanding officer ordered me to "make the same kind of newspaper the enemy reads." I'd stay up all night listening to shortwave broadcasts in English and taking notes, then hurry to the office first thing in the morning and prepare that day's paper.

I could pick up Australian radio, ABC from America, and even Indian radio. The broadcasts from India were a project of George Orwell's, and they were fascinating. An hour-long show might begin with the announcement, "Tonight we will hear T.S. Eliot talk about James Joyce's Finnegans Wake." I could hear E.M. Forster talk too. That was the ultimate pleasure. I had no idea Orwell was behind these broadcasts; I only learned that later. But somehow these messages from Orwell's hole in India reached my hole at a Japanese navy base in Jakarta. I wonder if the Internet can be like that.

I've never done as much translation as I did to produce that newspaper. Actually, it wasn't translation so much as adaptation. I hadn't gone to school in Japan, so I used different brain circuitry than what they train you to use to produce my Japanese characters. Then I'd cover up my deficiencies with lots of military jargon. My writing was awful. I'd been reading and writing English in the U.S. for the past five years, so I'd forgotten how to write in my native tongue.

But I wanted to continue my studies somehow, and I remember reading the Japanese translation of a book titled The Function of the Brain. The Japanese word for "brain" is written with two rather complicated kanji characters. Try as I might to keep notes, I couldn't write those characters correctly. It was easier for me to write "brain" in English. So I wound up taking notes in English on a Japanese translation of a book that was originally written in English.

After the war ended, it took me more than a year or two to regain my mastery of Japanese. It felt more like six or seven years. Professor Kuwabara Takeo, who convinced me to go to Kyoto University, knew how much this bothered me. When Professor Kuwabara met the novelist Shiga Naoya, he asked Shiga on my behalf, "We have this fellow here with this problem. What should we do about it?"

Shiga's reply was, "He doesn't have to mimic the great works of Japanese literature. Let him flounder around in the gap between Japanese and English. Through his struggles he'll develop his own style of writing in Japanese." It was good advice.

So, little by little, I learned how to write in Japanese. That I've been able to make a living as a writer for several decades since then is something of a miracle.

Floundering in the Gap between Languages
Shiga refers to letting people "flounder around in the gap between languages" to achieve their personal writing style. Can you give me some examples?

In America, when I was 16 or 17, I was given a copy of Seldon Rodman's Anthology of Modern Poetry. The book contained a speech by the Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti -- one they gave in court declaring their innocence after being arrested as anarchists and sentenced to death. Their English was anything but fancy. It was full of flaws, but incredibly powerful.

A special power emerged from the struggle of Sacco and Vanzetti to express themselves in English. That may be what Shiga Naoya was trying to tell me. Struggle gives birth to language that is full of life.

Why are children so expressive with language? Because of the power of their struggle. Their language is far more powerful than the bland language of adults. Perhaps on the Internet, struggles of this sort will give birth to language with a new vitality.

Let me give an example of a man I've actually met: the Korean poet Kim Chi-Ha. Kim's English isn't very good, and he can't speak Japanese at all. I went to South Korea in 1972 and was able to visit him in the hospital room where he was being held under house arrest. When I showed him all the signatures on the petition I had brought, protesting his death sentence and appealing for clemency, Kim stood up and said, "Your movement cannot help me. But I will add my name to it to help your movement."

What forceful words! There was so much power in Kim's limited English. You can't even begin to compare it with the English speech by the Japanese consul to those 100 scholars in the London hotel. Kim's English was the real thing. English on the Internet should be the same way.

Joseph Conrad, the British novelist, wrote English that was full of flaws. Yet Conrad is considered one of the greatest writers in the history of English literature. His grammatical slips were not serious errors, of course. His mother tongue was Polish; his second language was Russian, and his third was French. English was number four.

At age 17, Conrad worked on a French freighter and later got work on a British ship. Apparently, he was thrilled to hear English spoken. It just so happened that the Nobel Prize-winning English writer John Galsworthy was a passenger on that ship. Conrad got Galsworthy to edit his writing, and he also collaborated with Ford Madox Ford.

In his autobiography, American writer George Santayana says he left Spain and came to the U.S. when he was eight. His father left him with his mother in America and returned to Spain. That's why all of Santayana's work is in English. But until he died in his eighties, he retained the feeling that English was not his mother tongue. In fact, his English is a little different than American English.

So you have a choice. You can pay heed to the mother tongue you have retained inside you since childhood and utilize it in the language you use today -- or you can completely forget your mother tongue sensibility, your childhood sensibility, and if you're an American now, speak the language of Americans, conforming to their rules of language. The difference between these two approaches is significant.

Unorthodox but Powerful Speech
What you just said reminds me of English speeches I have heard by two individuals, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. Their speeches were the most moving I have ever heard in English.

The Dalai Lama gives his speeches and sermons in English, but he keeps a young interpreter beside him. At some point, he may suddenly switch into Tibetan, then continue his discourse in Tibetan for a while. When this happens, the interpreter smoothly steps forward and translates what the Dalai Lama is saying until he switches back to English. I heard him give an entire sermon about the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in this manner, moving easily between English and Tibetan. It seemed downright miraculous.

Nelson Mandela is also a powerful speaker in English. When I heard him he had just been released from prison and was not yet president of the Republic of South Africa. Both of these men speak English with their own distinctive pronunciation, intonation, and vocabulary.

It's important to recognize the power that comes from having several languages overlap with one another.

Lafcadio Hearn, who was known for his English adaptations of Japanese ghost stories, took an interest in Creole dialects before he came to Japan. One of his earliest works, Gombo Zhebes, was a Creole dictionary. Hearn's parents were Greek and Irish, and he was educated in France before he came to America.

By the time he got to Japan, Hearn was already well along in years, and he couldn't read or speak Japanese very well at all. The things he wrote in his minimal broken Japanese were referred to as "Hearn-san's language." You can still see the postcards he wrote to his Japanese wife. They're written in awkward Japanese that wouldn't have won him any literary prizes. But that same Hearn-san's language was the soul of the ghost stories he put in his book Kwaidan.

At night, Hearn would have his wife tell him ghost stories she knew in Japanese, over and over again. Then he would write them down in English. The English of Kwaidan is quite orthodox. But it is English rooted in the recollection, formed in his mind in "Hearn-san" Japanese, of those Japanese words his wife repeated to him in the dark of night.

Among my contemporaries, someone I admire for her spoken Japanese is [actress and writer] Edith Hanson. I think she's one of the finest Japanese speakers of her era. And then there are the Japan-born Korean writers Kim Shi-Jon, Kim DalSu, and Ko Sa-Myon, all first-rate Japanese wordsmiths.

One of the finest Japanese writers of English I've met is the Zen Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki. After the war, when my teacher Charles Morris, the philosopher, came to Japan, I went with him to meet Suzuki. Morris was interested in Zen and asked Suzuki many questions. Suzuki answered him in incredibly slow English. His speech was like the slow stage movements of a Noh actor.

Nowadays, English language study tapes force you to speak English at an incredibly fast pace. But you shouldn't try to speak faster than the speed at which you're comfortably in command of the language. If you speak a foreign language any faster than that, you'll only sound like some idiot trying to imitate a native speaker, and what you say will be nonsense. Suzuki, with that slow speech of his, had a tremendous influence in both England and America. When you speak at your own pace, your thoughts go into the words you speak.

If the Internet is infused with respect for the power of unorthodox language -- Hearn-san's language, Creole language, the English of Sacco and Vanzetti, of Kim Chi-Ha, Santayana, Suzuki or Conrad -- then that can be a force in preventing the Internet from becoming just another part of the America-centered global media juggernaut.

So what is the genius loci, the guardian spirit, of the Internet? Will it put down roots in Japan and at the same time will this spirit fly away from here? That's the question you have to resolve.


















 万次郎が日本に戻ってから、ホイットフィールド船長に書いた手紙もすばらしいんだ。書き出しに、「Dear Friend、懐かしき友よ」と書く。自分を助けてくれて、家につれていってくれて、教育を受けさせてくれた恩人に向かって対等な立場で呼びかける、真情にあふれた手紙なんだ。かれは英語の達人だった。対等なコミュニケーションの文化を理解していたんだね。



 BBCのインド放送はジョージ・オーウェルが企画していたんだけれど、これがものすごく面白かった。T.S.エリオットの話はあるし、E.M. フォスターの話はあるし、最高の娯楽だった。でも私は、オーウェルがつくった番組だなんてことはぜんぜん知らないで聞いていた。あとになって知ったんだ。でも、インドにいたオーウェルの穴から発せられたメッセージは、ジャカルタの日本海軍の基地にいた私の穴にとどいていた。







 Your movement can not help me. But I will add my name to it to help your movement.






Friday May 19th, 2006 6:18 (UTC)
I was annoyed in Hamilton because poker wasn't initially my thing and I felt ignored during the pizza/breadstick thing. Nothing beyond that, really.

Well, that and stop making fun of me for not drinking or smoking or snorting. But that's more Josh.
Friday May 19th, 2006 17:26 (UTC)
oh, I think there's more than that...
Wednesday May 24th, 2006 4:32 (UTC) - re poker
YES. Chips good.
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