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By Robert Weissberg, Suzanne Buker

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Kindaichi was determined to explore all facets of his forbidding subject. To do so, he drew not only on the resources of the literature but also on Japan’s numberless dialects and professional jargons, about which he is the acknowledged expert. No one can emerge from this book without a feeling for the richness and complexity of the language spoken today throughout the world by over 130 million Japanese in all fields of human endeavor. Foreword to the New Edition Nippongo (The Japanese Language) was originally published in 1957 in Japan, and translated into English and published in 1978.

For instance, some poets referred to tetsud (railroad) as kurogane no michi (a road of black iron) and denshin (telegram) as harigane dayori (communication through wire), each of which was quite a mouthful. In this respect, too, we are grateful for Chinese character words. In the third place, the Chinese character word strongly influenced Japanese through its own characteristic sound system. Literary critic Kamei Katsuichir (1907–66) says, quoting from Hagiwara Sakutar’s writings: Although the Yamato words are exceedingly elegant, they are too weak to express strong emotions like anger, distress, and jealousy.

Ridiculously enough, the use of Chinese character words up to now reveals the feeling in Japan that names should look diffcult and important. What we call mugen-kid (endless track; a Chinese character word) in Japanese is Raupenkette in German, which, if translated literally, means imomushi-gusari (caterpillar chain; a Yamato word). The coiner of mugen-kid will probably not be satisfied if we use the term imomushi-gusari. We do not expect to go so far, but we would like to coin new words with popular connotations in the same spirit.

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