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Richard Medhurst
  • Richard Medhurst 
  • By this author: 42 Latest posted: 2018.11.22
Translator and editor, Received a master’s degree in modern and contemporary poetry from the University of Bristol in 2002. First came to Japan in the same year and taught English for three years in Chiba Prefecture. He has also lived in China and Korea. Worked in Imizu City Hall in Toyama Prefecture for five years until 2013, when he moved to Tokyo and started full-time translation. Joined in 2014.
Getting Started with Kanji2018.11.22

With thousands to learn, kanji can intimidate a newcomer to the Japanese language. But you can discover the appeal of kanji by learning a few basic examples.

Murasaki Shikibu: A Thousand Years of Anonymous Fame2018.11.07

A millennium ago, Murasaki Shikibu’s keen observations of the Japanese aristocracy and court bore fruit in her literary works, including the masterpiece The Tale of Genji.

“The Tale of Genji”: Japan’s Literary Heavyweight2018.08.08

Japan’s great literary classic, The Tale of Genji, was written more than 1,000 years ago. This article gives an outline of the complex plot and suggests ways to approach the work.

Katakana: Studying Japan’s Second Script2018.06.20

Katakana is a part of the written Japanese language used for foreign terms and names. Learn this script to recognize many familiar words from other languages.

Hiragana: The First Building Block of Written Japanese2018.04.26

Get started with reading Japanese by learning hiragana. Knowing this essential script lets learners take their first steps of recognition in a Japanese-language environment.

“Onigiri” Rice Balls: Kings of the Convenience Store2018.01.26

Japan is known for its fine cuisine and Michelin-starred restaurants. For many visitors, however, fond memories are associated with more humble and accessible fare—a bowl of ramen at a dimly lit yatai food stall, colorful plates of sushi revolving around a conveyor-belt restaurant, or the cheap and easy sustenance of a convenience store breakfast. Onigiri rice balls are perhaps the most represe…

Character Assassination: Successes and Failures of Kanji Reform2017.12.01

In 1866, as the Edo period drew to a close, the statesman Maejima Hisoka submitted a proposal suggesting that Japan abolish kanji to the last shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. Maejima, who had both learned and taught English, bemoaned the amount of time students spent memorizing Chinese characters, which could have been used for other study. He was just one of many would-be reformers and abolitionists…

Bridging the Gap to Early Japanese Literature: Translator Peter MacMillan2017.09.12

If you had to pick one book to introduce Japanese culture, what would you choose? For the translator and poet Peter MacMillan, it would be the thirteenth-century anthology Hyakunin isshu, which he rendered in English as One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each. “These hundred short poems tell us almost everything we need to know about the Japanese,” he said in a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club …

Puns, Poetry, and Superstition: Japanese Homophones2017.07.15

Wordplay is not always welcomed openly in Japan. Make a weak, but harmless pun—observing that there is “no ginger” (shōga nai) at the sushi restaurant and saying “it cannot be helped” (shō ga nai), for example—and listeners will greet it with shivers, as if a chill wind has just passed through. The standard retort to a “dad joke” or another attempt at humor that falls flat is samui, “ooh, that’s…

“Blue” for Go? Exploring Japanese Colors2017.06.03

“Blue” traffic lights come as a shock to many students of Japanese. If one learns that midori is “green” and ao is “blue,” it is surprising to find that the clearly green traffic lights at Japanese intersections are described as aoshingō. This demonstrates that even common words may not have simple translations. Japanese traffic lights are not actually blue; they are ao, a word that usually mean…

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