Department of Japanese Kanbun Instruction and Research Program, Nishogakusha University

An International Research Project Based on Kanbun Sources to Reconstruct a View of Japanese Culture

Program Introduction Overseas Activities Education Program Others Kanbun Database

Kanbun Courses and Activities at Ca' Foscari University in Venice

Program Members: Machi Senjuro, Yamabe Susumu

In the interim assessment made public in September 2006, the aims and achievements of this COE Program -- "the positioning of Japanese kanbun studies within Japanese studies" and "enormous efforts, starting with a database of Edo-period kanbun" -- met on the whole with approval, but it was also pointed out that "the meaning and content of a 'world organization' remain unclear," and we took this very seriously.

In order to communicate the importance of kanbun studies within Japan and abroad, both theory and practice are necessary, and in response to encouragement from the 21st Century COE Program Committee, which pointed out that the importance of kanbun kundoku should be impressed upon overseas Japanologists and that there was a need to actively communicate with people both inside and outside the University, we decided that the top priority was to respond with action.

As has already been reported in issue no. 7 of this newsletter, at the 17th EAJRS annual conference held at Ca' Foscari University on 27-31 September 2006, Machi Senjuro, who attended the conference, reported on progress in the COE Program's research, with a focus on databases, and also spoke of plans to conduct onsite courses in kanbun for overseas institutions of Japanese studies. In response, there were questions from several institutions and participants, and the proposal was met with interest.

Subsequently a request for the dispatch of lecturers was received by the Program from Ca' Foscari University in the name of Guido Samarani, head of the Department of East Asian Studies, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature, and so it came about that as the first such experiment by the Program a kanbun course was conducted at Ca' Foscari University of Venice.

Viewing this "Kanbun Course" as part of instruction in classical Japanese, Machi and Yamabe Susumu divided the lectures between them in the following manner. Yamabe first gave lectures and practical exercises on the basics of kanbun kundoku, while Machi led readings of actual Japanese kanbun materials. The course timetable was as follows:

30 April: 14.30~17.30 -- Yamabe; 17.30~18.30 -- Machi.
2 May: 14.30~17.30 -- Yamabe; 17.30~18.30 -- Machi.
3 May: 14.30~15.30 -- Yamabe; 15.30~18.30 -- Machi.
4 May: 16.30~18.30 -- Machi.
(14 hours in total, corresponding to approximately 10 lectures)

Our course was attended by seven first-year master's students and two second-year master's students (two male students and seven female students), and in addition Associate Professor Aldo Tollini and full-time lecturer Laura Moretti also attended the entire course, making a total of eleven attendees. Tollini has been asked to serve as an overseas centre leader of the Programme. Tollini's speciality is medieval Buddhist thought, while Moretti's is kanazoshi, and they are primarily in charge of graduate classes in Japanese classics.

From what we have heard, the Japanese Department at Ca' Foscari University is one of the best in Italy in terms of both its level and size. The students attending the course had more or less mastered classical Japanese grammar to the level of Japanese high school students, and their Japanese listening comprehension was also extremely good. Consequently we were scarcely conscious of the fact that we were lecturing to non-Japanese.

On the final day we conducted a survey on the attendees for future reference. We are currently preparing a report which will summarize the actual content of the course and the students' views, and reference should be made to this for further details.

Because this was the first overseas kanbun course conducted by the Program and was also a first experience for both of us too, we were initially somewhat apprehensive, but with the cooperation of Tollini, Moretti, and all concerned and assisted by excellent students, we believe that we were able to bring the course to a successful conclusion. We wish to add that, prior to our departure, both Tollini and Moretti mentioned continuing the course next year and, since our return, we have been contacted to the effect that the Japanese Department wishes to consider measures for the continuation of the course.

Before the start of the course, we made use of a free day to spend some time visiting the information-processing facilities in another building and observed how conferences and lectures were conducted over the Internet. The facilities themselves are extremely simple, and it would seem possible to implement them. It was thought that, if such facilities were used, it would become possible to conduct periodic lectures after the conclusion of a course and to apprise ourselves of the students' level and wishes before a course, and that they would be useful for ensuring that the content of the lectures was fully absorbed. Furthermore, in light of the comment in the interim assessment that international symposiums are ending up as "general lecture meetings," there is an urgent need to be continually conducting "international joint research" so as to make the symposiums more productive, and we thought that this type of infrastructure would be indispensable in this respect too.

Lastly, Tollini and Moretti did everything to make sure that the course became a reality and took place. In particular, during our stay Moretti saw to it that we were able to freely use her own office. We offer our sincere thanks to both of them.

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Department of Japanese Kanbun Instruction and Research Program, Nishogakusha University