Table Speech

Rebirth of the Written Language (Bungo )

June 23rd,2004

Former Japanese Ambassador to Kuwait
Former Executive managing director of the Sony Corporation

 When I speak of Bungo, you in audience can understand what I mean, but I doubt if our younger generation can.

 According to statistics of the year 2002, there are 17 million Japanese who are in their twenties. Other Studies tell us that by 2025, this number will fall to 12 million. This means that our most productive generation will decline by 5 million.

 As recent news tells us there is no sign of improvement in our birth rates, so closing this gap becomes a major problem.
When you think of our population in their thirties and forties, an even greater gap becomes evident.

 Such development will mean that we face an economic disaster, and if we maintain our prohibitive rules against immigration our economic system will face collapse.

 If we change our policies in the manner of Australia or the U.S., we will face problems such as our people have never faced before. It will become a problem of identity for the Japanese, when we accept several million non-Japanese as immigrants as we will no longer be able to claim our purity of blood.

 The Japanese today accept Brazilians who do not speak Japanese, if their grandparents were Japanese. On the other hand, we do not accept Koreans who have lived here for generations and speak Japanese fluently, winning literary prizes as Japanese.

 We must therefore, depart from our belief in the purity of blood, and thus must rely on purity of language.

 In the world today, be it France, or the Arabs, it is language which is the common bond and proof of their identity. When we reflect on Japan today and see how the Japanese language is being administered we feel sorely disappointed.
During the post war Occupation, our language tradition was severed.

 The historic use of pronunciations was denied, our ideograms reduced, and our Bungo style was severely restricted and only just survives in our curriculum.
Thus, friends who share the same thoughts and anxieties gathered two years ago. We felt that a language which had lost its classics was no longer a world class language. In order to preserve what we have we decided to construct a Bungo website.

 The purpose of the website was to attract the interest of persons 40 years or younger to Bungo and have them contribute articles written in this language. This project was started by persons knowing little about computers and language, but we have already had more than30,000 accesses to our website.
The Bungo form of our language has a rhythm which can be called spiritual which strongly appeals to the Japanese soul.

 Recently, voices have been raised from academic circles deploring the low grades college students are receiving in their Japanese language studies and asking that the study of classical Japanese and Chinese be reinstated.
Some persons misunderstand our movement as one in which the purpose is to replace current usage with classic written language. The use of our modern language is fine but it should be based on a culture formed with an understanding of Bungo.

 The Bungo from of written language is concise, and it is excellent for keeping diaries, recording one’s travels – the terse from in which it is written can be used as a substitute for photographs.
If you recall history at the time Japan opened its doors the cultured class who formed the governments of China, Vietnam, and Korea all had a basic knowledge of the Chinese classics. If IT and Internet had been available at the time, it would have been a different world.

 Today, the youth of China cannot read their classics as their ideograms have been simplified. Southern Korea has abolished the use of Chinese ideograms and started the use of their indigenous written language.

 When the prospering nations of East Asia regain their pride through economic development and recall their glories of the past at the same time serving their past by losing the means to communicate with their ancestors is certainly a matter to be deplored. When our movement succeeds in Japan we should attempt to influence our neighbors in order that they will be able to communicate with traditions and ancient cultures.

 Lastly, our Bungo-no-sono is registered with Yahoo, and can be seen on Internet by clicking Bungo-no-sono on your computer.