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Course summary – books and Japanese culture

Summary of the course
7
Sasaki: “For our last meeting of the course we have come to a traditional Japanese-style room.”
11
Ichinohe: “This is the kind of room where the people of old would read their books.”
16
S: “Fewer and fewer houses these days have a Japanese-style room. As I am sure you will notice immediately, in this room there is something that was once a book.”
26
I: “You mean that hanging scroll over there.”
29
S: “That’s right. Books were cut and mounted as scrolls in order to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the calligraphy.”
36
I: “In Europe, too, it was common to frame and display illustrations from good quality books.” S. “Absolutely. I don’t know how far the two cases resemble each other, but it seems that in Japan it was usually books that because of damage could no longer be read that were cut. You can say that the practice embodies the Japanese dislike for waste which is captured in the phrase ‘mottai nai.’”
57
I: “Books were also used as decorative objects, weren’t they? In the West, for instance, the tradition is to buy large sets of books with the same cover to display them in one’s study.”
67
S: “One can say that few other things offer as much insight into Japanese culture as books do. It is because books were so loved and appreciated that a larger quantity of them has survived than of any other kind of old artifact.”
85
I: “Indeed. There are so many and from all periods. They kind of transport you back to the time they were made, don’t they? Like time capsules of sorts.”
93
S: “Yes. Not only do they reflect the thinking of bygone ages, they tell us about the technology, aesthetic preferences, and economic situation of the time.”
104
I: “Which is why we included the words ‘Japanese Culture’ in the name of the course.”
110
S: “Yes. Traditional books come in a great variety of binding, size, shape, and cover style but one thing they all have in common is the fine craftsmanship. This may well be a characteristic of Japanese culture as a whole.”
126
I: “It would be nice if what people have learned about books in this course will inspire them to further explore Japanese culture.”
133
S: “It certainly would. There are many Japanese books in Japan of course, but there are also many in North America, Europe, China, and Korea. It is not at all uncommon to find Japanese illustrated books in museums across the world.”
151
I: “I hope people will go to see them and, why not, come to Japan and visit Jimbōchō to touch them and have a first-hand look. I trust that many people will come to like Japanese books and gain a finer appreciation of Japanese culture as a result of this course.”
167
S: “Three of our colleagues at the Keio University Institute of Oriental Classics are already preparing a follow-up course on the history of Sino-Japanese interaction. I hope that many of those who have taken this course will also take that one and learn even more about Japanese culture by comparing it with that of China.”
186
Sasaki and Ichinohe: “We would like to thank you for being with us for the past three weeks.”

Thank you very much for joining us for the past three weeks. Please watch the video for a brief wrap-up by professors Sasaki and Ichinohe from the quiet comfort of a traditional Japanese style room.

As introduced in the video, Keio University offers a related course “Sino-Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books” on FutureLearn. You’ll enjoy learning how Japanese culture has been influenced from Chinese culture by looking into rare books in Japan written in Chinese text. Please join us if you have not taken it yet!

If you enjoyed this course, you may also be interested to know that we newly offer a course on “The Art of Washi Paper in Japanese Rare Books”. This course focuses on the history, production and design of papers used inside Japanese rare books. The course starts from 13 Jan 2020.

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Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

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