Japanese text help Since this is all about Japan and Japanese people, there is probably going to be quite a bit of Japanese text sprinked here and there. If you are seeing question marks or this sort of random rubbish instead of kanji (Chinese characters, 漢字) and kana (syllabary characters, ひらがなとカタカナ), please follow the advice given by Wikipedia on viewing these characters correctly. The Wikipedia seems to be very comprehensive so I didn’t think there was any point in repeating it all here.

If you are using Firefox, you can also install a handy Japanese dictionary add-on, Rikaichan, which will give the meanings of the characters and words under the mouse pointer above them. (You have to turn it on using the ‘Toggle Rikaichan’ option in the Tools menu to get it to work.)

Name conventions

In Japan, surnames are written first, which leads to the tricky problem of whether to maintain this order when transcribing names or swap them round to conform to the usual custom in English. My attempt at avoiding confusion will be to write the surname in uppercase the first time the name appears, and thereafter use the name by which the person is usually called, e.g. ‘KAWABATA Yasunari’, then ‘Kawabata’, ‘NATSUME Sôseki’ then ‘Sôseki’.


I have used the same system as on Wikipedia (explanation here), except that I use circumflexes instead of macrons for long ‘a’, ‘o’ and ‘u’, simply for my own convenience in entering the text.

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