Debrecen Day of Ancient Japanese Literature and Culture

By learning about traditional Japanese verses and poetry of the 11th century, those attending the events comprising the program of the Day of Ancient Japanese Literature and Culture, which were held on Saturday by the Foreign Language Center of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Debrecen, could indeed participate in a “real” time travel.

Although it is the English courses that make up the bulk of the Center's program offer, students can also learn here the basics of the following languages: Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, German, French and Japanese, to name a few.

The teaching of Japanese was launched at the University of Debrecen (UD) in 1995 within the framework of the Japanese government's program and, since 2011, the institution's own native speaker, Ms. Sato Aya, has been responsible for teaching the language practice courses. These courses are currently attended by as many as 60 students in the second semester of the present academic year.

"Although the thematic fiber of these courses is woven primarily around the teaching of language at beginner and advanced levels, it is also a priority in our classes that students should also learn about Japanese culture and gain insight into our customs," said Sato Aya. The Japanese language teacher at the Foreign Language Center of the Faculty of Humanities (BTK) who has been living and working in Hungary since 2004.

"One of the most popular languages offered by the Center is Japanese, mastering which is not an easy undertaking, but the love of culture and language assists all our students to tackle the initial difficulties," said László Pete in his opening speech.

The director of the Foreign Language Center of the Faculty of Humanities, UD, also emphasized that it is essential that, in addition to learning different languages, students should also get acquainted with the culture of several different distant countries, such as Japan. Therefore, the Center will provide all the support for the continuation of these courses in the future.

The central topic of the program offered on March 4 was the impromptu verses of 11th-century Japanese poetesses, about which Áron Fittler, a professor at Waseda University, gave a lecture entitled "Éles elme, ékes szavak" [Sharp Mind, Eloquent Words].

“In the imperial court of Japan, there was a large number of educated ladies serving alongside the female members of the ruling family. The duties of these court ladies and the social customs of the time required that they should be able to compose a 31-syllable poem, or waka, in just a few minutes,” explained Áron Fittler in his presentation. In addition to the original Japanese poems, the professor also presented their Hungarian translations.

Orsolya Károlyi, a researcher at Doshisda Joshi University in Kyoto, attended the event online and gave a presentation entitled Legends about Ono no Takamura.

Two Hungarian literary translators who have long been committed to classical Japanese literature published a richly illustrated volume in 2022 entitled One Poem by Each of a Hundred Poets, which presents the most significant traditional Japanese poems in a collection spanning six centuries.

The program also featured a mini-exhibition of poetry cards and printed publications from the period between the 18th and 20th centuries, while the additional events included a waka poem-writing contest, a poetry card game presentation, light kimono dressing and origami folding sessions.

Press Center – BZs