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Top>Opinion>Chuo Hyoron Feature: "Japan Who Thinks"


Tohru Yoshida

Tohru Yoshida [profile]

Chuo Hyoron Feature: "Japan Who Thinks"

Tohru Yoshida
Associate Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: History of thought

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About Chuo Hyoron

Chuo Hyoron (The Chuo University Review) is a general education journal published by the Chuo University Press since 1949. Currently, faculty members-one member selected from each faculty-participate on the editorial board to plan and administer the feature of the quarterly journal.

The feature of this journal covers a wide variety of topics including one that cuts deep into an ongoing event which either Japan or the whole world are now facing, sheds new light on past incidents that should not be forgotten, introduces cutting edge academic studies, newly addresses past and present issues that human beings of all times and regions have continued to question, and the like. Seeing is believing-please have a glance at the back number list on our website ( window). You might be surprised by this menu. If you are interested-even if only slightly-you might want to pick up copies and flip through the pages. I also guarantee that you will "never cease to be amazed by the wide variety of content," as our editorial board head Professor Yoshimi Akiyama wrote in this column last spring ( window). In addition, you can read back numbers anytime in the magazine section of the Chuo University libraries. Of course, it would be even better if you bought one at a co-op store.

The aims of the feature "Japan Who Thinks"

In the current issue, we edited a feature entitled "Japan Who Thinks [Shiso suru Nippon]." Another possible title would be "Introduction to the History of Japanese Thought [Nippon shisoshi nyumon]," but we gave it a small twist because it sounded unpolished indeed. As this issue is published during the London Olympics, it will be delivered to you just when the voices cheering Japan cover the entire nation. Needless to say, the encouraging cheers of Go Japan! for Japanese Olympic athletes must have something common with the voice of encouragement Hang in there, Japan!, since the East Japan Great Earthquake Disaster and the nuclear power plant accident last year.

However, the feature in this issue seeks to stop and take a step back from those cheers for a while to reflect calmly. But please do not misunderstand it: we do not mean that we will not cheer Japanese athletes or cooperate for restoration. It's just that we intend to attempt in our argument to perceive again the depth of something called Japan that we are taking for granted in our argument, and in particular, to look back again over the aggregation of thought generated in the Japanese language at the place called Japan-the history of thought in Japan.

In other words, after cheering for athletes in front of your TV set broadcasting the heated atmosphere in London, when you lay down in bed and glance at this feature only for a few minutes until you fall asleep, arousing the simple question of, "what country is Japan, in the first place?" or feeling a small surprise that "there was a person in Japan who thought such a thing!"-that is our humble wish. Those seeds of question and surprise might take root in your mind and bear large flowers as a year, or five, or ten go by. Or, someone might receive a new seed of thought, such as "I would think like this about this issue." This feature is a tiny capsule full of seeds that might germinate and then flower years later in such a way.

Overview of the feature "Japan Who Thinks"

Finally, I will briefly introduce articles contributed to this feature.

Hiroshi Tsuchiya (Researcher, National Archives of Japan), "Visit the Historic Sites of Razan Hayashi, Gaho Hayashi, and Hoko Hayashi: Walking with Old Edo Maps [Hayashi Razan, Hayashi Gaho, Hayashi Hoko no kyuseki o tazunete: Edo no kochizu o aruku]"
The Hayashi family was a family of scholars who served the Tokugawa Shogun clan in the 17th and 18th centuries. The traces of their achievements still reside silently in the town of Ueno, Tokyo. You can also enjoy this article as a guide to walking in Ueno.

Tomoko Kishida (Professor, Faculty of Letters), "Japanese People and Chinese Letters, Classical Chinese Writings, and Chinese-Origin Words [Nipponjin to kanji, kambun, kango]"
This article explores what Chinese letters, Classical Chinese Writings, and words of Chinese origin have meant to Japanese people, and how the Japanese language including Chinese letters, Classical Chinese writings, and Chinese-origin words would look like in the future. Even a single Chinese letter may contain the history of Japanese thought.

Morihide Nozaki (former Professor, Faculty of Letters), "About the Word Natsukashisa (Nostalgia): An Aspect of How the Sentiment Stands Cut Out by the Japanese Language [Natsukashisa toiu go o megutte: Nihongo ga kiritoru kanjo no tachikata no ichimen]"
Using poems in the oldest Japanese poetry anthology Man'yoshu as a clue, this article highlights the content in the sentiment of Natsukashisa-or nostalgia-that is also familiar to us living today. Please witness the site of excavating the base layer of sensitivity concealed in the Japanese language.

Kohki Ogata (Part-Time Lecturer, Musashino Art University), "Vision That Sees the Morning Sickness of a World [Sekai no tsuwari o miru shikaku]"
"Seeing the Morning Sickness in the World" means capturing a sign of new life. Looking into ideas regarding morning sickness, this article goes through Essays in Idleness, The Pillow Book, Man'yoshu, and even Sakutaro Hagiwara and Yayoi Kusama in one stroke.

Tohru Yoshida (Associate Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering), "Toward a Reason Like Weeds: About the Theory of Marginal Art by Shunsuke Tsurumi [Zasso-teki risei no tameni: Tsurumi Shunsuke no genkai geijutsu ron o megutte]"
This article explores the concept of Marginal Art as suggested by Shunsuke Tsurumi-amateur arts such as the songs we hum and the graffiti we write/draw casually in our daily life-and attempts to derive from these arts new concepts of reason called reason like weeds.

Ryusuke Takeuchi (Instructor, Kawaijuku Cosmo), "Heart and Intelligence [Kokoro to atama]"
Shigeo Miki was a unique anatomist who was active in Showa Japan. Using this poetical scientist's thought as a clue, this article interprets poems by Tao Yuanming, a 5th century Chinese poet.

Shigeru Nitta (Professor, School of Economics, Senshu University), "Introduction to the Theory of the Imaginary Southern Court: Why Can Japanese Not Have Thought? [Nancho genso-ron josetsu: Nipponjin ha naze shiso shienainoka]"
In what may appear to be a comment on this very feature, the problem raised by Professor Nitta is also an argument on the conditions for creating robust thought in Japan.

Masataka Birukawa (Part-Time Lecturer, Faculty of Letters), "Avoidance of Classics = Generation of Classics [Koten no kaihi = Koten no seisei]"
Along with Professor Nitta's article, this is an argument that fundamentally problematizes the possibility of establishing Japanese thought, and furthermore, questions the way Japanese thought is studied in Japanese universities today.

Tohru Yoshida
Associate Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: History of thought
Born in 1964 in Kanagawa Prefecture. Withdrew from the Philosophy Course, Graduate School of Letters, Chuo University in 1993 after completing the required course work. Withdrew from the Department of European Cultural Studies, Graduate School of International Cultural Studies, Tohoku University in 1995. Became a Research Assistant, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University in 2010 after serving as a Research Assistant in the Department of European Cultural Studies at Tohoku University and a Part-Time Lecturer at Tohoku University and Tohoku Gakuin University. Currently Associate Professor. His publications include Hegel: Philosophy of Concrete Universality [Hegeru: Gutaiteki fuhen no tetsugaku] (Tohoku University Press, 2009). Currently studies modern European thought focusing on Hegel, and post-war Japanese thought centering on Shunsuke Tsurumi.