The Kanji Museum

September 17, 2017

by Miyabi Saeki and Natsumi Awa

In 2016, the Kanji Museum was established in Kyoto. It looks like a modern building, but it suits the scenery of Kyoto because the basic color is black. At the Kanji Museum, you can learn about the origin, history, and development of kanji, as well as become familiar with many different kinds of kanji. There are also a few small collections related to Kanji. For example, you can see the original types of tools used to write Kanji in its early days, like sand and bones, to the present day, such as computers and smart phones.

What are Kanji?

Kanji are ideographs which were made to represent the Chinese language in China, over 3,500 years ago. An ideograph is a picture which has a certain meaning. For example, the Kanji 馬 (uma). This Kanji was made based on the shape of a horse. Therefore, the meaning is ‘horse’. Kanji was introduced into Japan about 1,500 years ago via China. Currently Kanji is used in China, Japan, and Korea. Kanji was originally made by changing the shape of what was a picture. It is said that it is only kanji that is still used from that time. In other words, the most historic writing system in the world is Kanji.

The advantages of Kanji are that it is easy to understand and express short words briefly. In addition, there are many coined words in Kanji, so it enriches the Japanese vocabulary.

The disadvantages of Kanji are that Kanji have many stroke counts and complex shapes. Also, Kanji is not suitable for expressing sounds, so it is difficult to learn to read and write. Therefore, hiragana and katakana (phonetic writing systems in Japan) are used to help people read kanji and for transliteration of loanwords.

Floor guide

The 1st Floor

On the first floor, there is a theater, a café, a gift shop and some historical exhibitions. For example, there is a time line of the history of kanji on the wall. Kanji has a long history, and you can learn about it by looking at the time line. Furthermore, when you enter the Kanji Museum, you will receive a pamphlet, which is a kind of activity in which you learn about the origin of the Japanese writing system. You compare stamps of old and recent kanji and kana which are characters made in Japan that represent sounds. Sometimes the same kanji looks very different.

         

The 2nd Floor

There are many activities on the 2nd floor. For example, there are kanji quizzes, a kanji photo studio, a place where you can make your own kanji, and so on. The kanji quizzes can be a little difficult even for Japanese native speakers, but there are many kinds of quizzes and the levels are different. Some are like written exams, but others are like games that you can play. For example, you can match different parts of kanji together with cards, or put the correct words onto pictures. You will see many kids and adults taking these quizzes together.

Also, the kanji photo studio is fun, because you can pose in the shape of different kanji. This activity is fun even if you know almost no Japanese. You only have to know the shape of the kanji, and try to make it with your own body. In addition, you can make your own kanji, and also you can see many kanji which were made by other people.

        

If you don’t know any Japanese, you may not find it interesting, but if you know even just a little Japanese, you should try the stamp activity to see what your name looks like in old kanji.

Events at the Kanji museum

There are many events at the Kanji Museum for people to learn about kanji while also having fun. The events change every month. You can see what events are taking place on the museum’s homepage. For example, one recent event was making kanji with clay. Kids and adults could learn about the different meanings of kanji by making them with clay.

         

There is also a Kanji fair. The meaning of kanji changes over time. Here, you can learn about those changes. Some words that are now used were used very differently in the past. Many Japanese native speakers also don’t know the old meanings of kanji that they currently use.

If you don’t know a lot of Japanese, the arts and crafts events can be a lot of fun and you also get a souvenir. Or if you want to learn more Japanese, events like the Kanji fair may be more interesting.

At any rate, feel free to check out the Kanji Musuem in Kyoto. You won’t be disappointed.

Basic information about Kanji museum

Established June 29th, 2016

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (last admission 16:30) Closed: Mondays

Admissions: Adults: ¥800

University and high school students: ¥500

Junior high and elementary school students: ¥300

Preschool children: Free

Handicapped visitors: Free

Address: 551 Gionmachi Minigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074, Kyoto Prefecture

Access: Keihan Line, Gion-Shijo Stn, Exit 6, 5-min walk.

From Kyoto station, city bus number 100 or 206. Stop at Gino Bus Stop. 3 min walk.

Das Kanjimuseum

von Rin Sakai und Moe Murakami

 

Interessieren Sie sich für Japanisch? Japanisch besteht aus den Silbenschriften Hiragana und Katakana und aus den chinesischen Schriftzeichen Kanji. Diesmal stellen wir Ihnen ein Museum vor, dessen Thema Schriftzeichen sind.

Es ist das erste Kanjimuseum in Japan und wurde am 29. Juni 2016 in Gion in Kyoto errichtet. Von Groß bis Klein können alle in diesem Museum etwas Interessantes entdecken.

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Das Museum von außen

An der Anmeldung bekommt man einen Prospekt und zum Andenken einen Bleistift. Im Erdgeschoss kann man das „Kanji des Jahres“ sehen, das jedes Jahr am 12. Dezember am Kiyomizu-Tempel feierlich verkündet wird.

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„Kanji des Jahres“

Und es gibt eine Wand mit einer langen Schriftrolle, welche die Geschichte der Kanji erläutert. Ebenfalls im Erdgeschoss gibt es Kanji zum Sehen, Hören und Berühren, und ein Theater, das die Bedeutung der Kanji erklärt. Die Schreibweise der Kanji in verschiedenen Ländern wird anhand von Stempeln erklärt.

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Die Wand mit der Schriftrolle

In der Mitte des Gebäudes gibt es einen Turm, auf dem etwa 50.000 Kanji zu sehen sind.

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der Turm

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Im ersten Stock gibt es verschiedene Erlebnisstationen. Zum Beispiel gibt es eine Station, an der man durch Quizfragen die eher unbekannten Schriftzeichen für verschiedene Pflanzen und Insekten lernen kann. An weiteren Stationen kann man Kanji in einem Wörterbuch nachschlagen oder sie mit dem eigenen Körper nachstellen. Manche Stationen sind eher für Kinder gedacht und manche eher für Erwachsene. Daher lohnt sich der Besuch im Kanji-Museum für die ganze Familie.

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die Erlebnisstationen

Je nach Jahreszeit gibt es verschiedene Workshops und Sonderausstellungen, etwa eine Ausstellung mit altem chinesischem und japanischem Geld (in Nachbildungen). Eine andere Ausstellung zeigt Kôkotsu-moji, welches die älteste Kanji-Schrift ist.

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Chinesische Geldmünzen

 

Vor dem Empfang gibt es ein Café mit einem typischen Kyotoer Speiseangebot. Es ist auch möglich, nur das Café zu besuchen, ohne ins Museum zu gehen.

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das Café

Und gegenüber dem Café gibt es eine Galerie für Bilder vom Gionfest.

Die Galerie bietet sich auch für den Einkauf von Souvenirs an, weil es dort verschiedene Waren zu kaufen gibt.

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Galerie für Bilder vom Gionfest

 

 

Öffnungszeiten: 9:30-17:00

Das Museum ist montags und zum Jahreswechsel geschlossen.

Eintritt:             Erwachsene 800 Yen, Studierende/Oberschüler 500 Yen,

Mittelschüler/Grundschüler 300 Yen, Kleinkinder kostenlos

Adresse:      551 Minamigawa Gion-cho Higashiyama Kyoto 605-0074

TEL:                   075-757-8686

Anfahrt:           Mit den Buslinien 12, 3, 46, 80, 100, 201, 202, 203, 206 oder 207 bis zur Haltestelle ‚Gion‘

Mit der Keihan-Bahn bis zur Station Gionshijo

Mit der Hankyu-Bahn Kyoto-Linie bis zur Station Kawaramachi

Mit der U-Bahn Tozai-Linie bis zur Station Higashiyama

URL http://www.kanjimuseum.kyoto/

Daimonji-yaki

by Miho Hosotani, Keita Kitagawa, & Takuma Osawa

What is Daimonji-yaki?

Daimonji-yaki is original Japanese culture, and one of the most famous events in Kyoto. In this event, kanji characters are marked on the mountain side and illuminated by fire. This ceremony is held during Obon, on the 16th of August. Obon is one of the Japanese national holidays, and according to Buddhist legend, is when the souls of dead people return and we receive them.

Daimonji-yaki is set on the sides of five mountains in Kyoto, and the burning proceeds in order from East to West: Daimonji → Myoho → Funagata → Sadaimonji → Torii . They continue to burn for about one hour.

1. Daimonji

Daimonji is a kind of opening ceremony to kick off Daimonji-yaki, and its origins date back between 300 years and 500 years.

It is also called Joseigata, which in English means female style, because of the slender and beautiful character used.

Light up starts from 20:00.

 

 

 

2. Myoho

Myoho, the second one, comes from Japanese religious belief. People dance a bon-odori (Japanese traditional dance at the top of the mountain, and the character is lit 10 minutes after Daimonji, at 20:10.

 

 

3. Funagata

Preparation for Funagata, the third one, starts from early morning on the 16th. At night, accompanied by the sound of a temple bell, people light it 5minutes after Myoho at 20:15. Once the ceremony is finished, the chief priest and other workers talk about it inside the temple.

 

 

 

4. Sadaimonji

The fourth one, Sadaimonji has a shorter history than Daimonji, Myoho and Funagata. It is called Otokogata, which in English means male style, because it is thicker and stronger than Daimonji. If we compare it with Daimonji, Funagata, and Myoho, Sadaimonji it is newer, but it still has more than 300 years of history. The light up time is the same as Funagata, from 20:15.

 

 

 

5. Torii

Preparation for the last one, Torii, starts from 20.00 on the 16th. It is said to be the grandest and most beautiful of all five. Originally, Torii is the gate that marks the territory of the gods. It is the fastest burning of the five, so it is called the ‘Fire runner’. People call these five stages of the burning ceremony Gozan Okuribi.

Daimonji-yaki is well known to foreigners, so Kyoto is frequented by tourists every summer looking to view it. Originally, ”Daimonji-yaki” took place as a memorial service for ancestors during the Bon Festival. The Bon Festival is a ceremony to welcome spirits, a bit like Halloween. Daimonji-yaki is made using the Chinese character 大, which is composed of three lines. The first horizontal line measures 80 meters; the second, 160 meters from the top down to the left; and the last 120 meters from the horizontal bar down to the right. As it is so large, we can see it clearly even from far away on a summer’s night. The local people call it Daimonji-San, and through this, we can see how much it is loved by local people. During World War Ⅱ it was cancelled, but thanks to the strong mind of Japanese people and their actions, an understanding was reached to revive it and continue the beauty of its form to this day. From now on as well, we hope to see every year this beautiful flame as part of Japanese traditional culture.

The interesting modern history of Daimonji-yaki

Due to fears of making Kyoto an easy target for Allied bomber planes during the Second World War, Daimonji-yaki was cancelled in 1943. However, with the Japanese spirit of ganbari, the ceremony, was continued by using local school kids as a substitute for the flaming markers. They climbed the mountain to make a giant white 大 wearing white T-shirts. This was repeated the following year in 1944; however this was to be the last Daimonji ceremony until its official revival in the year 1946, following the end of the Pacific war.

For several years leading up to 2011 pine trees from Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture had been imported and used in the okuribi ceremony. However, due to fears of radioactive contamination stemming from the 2011 Eastern Japan Great Earthquake Disaster the organizers of the event put a ban on the use of Iwate pines on the 6th of August. The decision to cancel was met with severe protest and the organizers of the event were flooded with phone calls demanding the decision be overturned. Caving to this pressure, the organizers of the 2011 event decided that they would use the imported pines until a test definitively proved the presence of the radioactive material cesium, which solidified the organizers’ resolve to ban the use of Iwate pines.

Access to Daimonji

There are two ways to access the best viewpoints for Daimonjiyaki:

1. Kyoto City Bus: From Kyoto Station Bus Terminal catch bus number 17, and get off at the “Demachiyanagi” stop. It takes about 20 minutes, depending on the traffic and costs 220 yen.

2. JR Kyoto: From Kyoto JR Station, take the Nara line, train to Tofukuji Station and change to the Keihan line, take the north bound train and get off at Demachiyanagi terminal. It takes about 30 minutes, and costs about 480yen.

From our experience, we recommend you to take the train, because during this season a lot of tourists come to Kyoto, from inside Japan, as well as from all over the world. Last year, we went to Daimonji-yaki ceremony separately and planned to meet there, but it was impossible and we couldn’t find each other until the ceremony had finished and most people had disappeared. We hope you like it and enjoy your summer vacation in Kyoto!

Thank you.

References:

Asahi Shinbun, 2011, Cesium detected in Daimonji-Yaki firewood – usage of Iwate pines to be discontinued, accessed 5th December 2013, <http://www.asahi.com/special/10005/OSK201108120098.html>

The Second Kyotoism Blog, Daimonji: gozan okuribi sono futatsu, 2011, accessed 5th December 2013 <http://2ndkyotoism.blog101.fc2.com/blog-entry-319.html>

Kioto-shi Kankou Kyoukai, accessed 5th December 2013 < http://www.kyokanko.or.jp/okuribi/>