Hiroki Kanda and Other Armenian-Speaking Japanese

Hiroki Kanda and Other Armenian-Speaking Japanese


Posted: 2016-05-26


One of the Syrian Armenians has learnt Armenian from Japanese.

Recently the ambassador of Japan to Armenia announced that approximately three hundred people in Armenia study Japanese. And how many people study Armenian in Japan? From time to time, we meet and hear about the Japanese, which are engaged in different spheres of Armenology (the first one was the legendary scientist Kumagusu Minakata, who still at the end of the 19th century in London has learnt some Armenian). But today we can mention five Japanese scientists from average and young generations, who master Armenian quite well.

The first one is the Japanese Akiko Hiki, who studied at Yerevan State University in the Department of the Armenian Language and Literature of the Faculty of Philology in 1998-2002. She has defended a graduation paper with the subject “Historicity in Kostan Zaryan’s novel “Ship in the Mountains”. She has done some translations from Japanese into Armenian and vice versa.

The name of the lecturer of the Armenian Language and History of Armenia at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa Takayuki Yoshimura is familiar in the scientific circles of Armenia and Beirut. In 2001-2003, he studied in Yerevan and he speaks Armenian fluently. The subject of his research is the Armenian Question, the early period of Soviet Armenia and the repatriation of Diaspora Armenians in 1946-47. Yoshimura has published the scientific articles “The Armenian Question in Paris Peace Conference”, “The International Politics about the Armenian Massacre”, “Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Soviet Armenia in 1920-1923”. In a separate book, he has published “Guidebook of Modern History of Armenia” (2009), as well as a textbook of Eastern Armenian in Japanese. In 2013, due to his efforts at the Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa was organized a course on the Armenian Language.

One of the students of Takayuki Yoshimura, a graduate of Tokyo University Daishaku Vatanabe attended lessons of the Armenian language in Tokyo, Venice and Yerevan. He has written a graduation paper with the title “The Armenian Society in Raffi’s Novel “The Fool”. In 2011-2013, Vatanabe continued his education in Armenia. In 2015, he translated from English into Japanese the work of the American-Armenian historian George Burnutyan “A Concise History of the Armenian People”.

The Japanese Karen Hamada, who has studied Armenian in Tokyo and Venice, appeared in the Armenian scientific media with the work “Nerses Shnorhali in the 19th Century Russian Theology”, written in English.

And the fifth Armenologist Japanese is Hiroki Kanda, who is 24. He has also studied Armenian firstly at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, then, in 2013-2014, he studied at Yerevan State University. At first, he studied Persian and has done translations from Persian into Japanese. Having linguistic education Hiroki has written a graduation paper about the absolute indefinite of verb aspect. He has translated into Japanese the guidebook of Yerevan Spendiaryan house museum. And despite the fact, that for some reason today he works in the company of electrical construction tools, not a single day passes without the Armenian language and Linguistics. And if there is a chance, he visits Armenia, which has become so dear to him…

- What do you like most in Armenia and what do you dislike most, Hiroki?

- I mostly dislike the city transportation in Yerevan. You have to wait for the minibuses for a long time. They don’t come frequently. After waiting for a long time, you get on and then you are stuck in a traffic jam. But in the city transportation of Yerevan you can see an interesting phenomenon. When a person gets off the bus, he gives the fare to the strangers and they give him back the change. I like it very much.

- The Japanese are very sensitive to music. Do you like Armenian music?

- Yes, I do. I like especially Komitas. Not only his talented musical works, but also his whole life. I respect very much traditional Armenian music collected from different villages.

- Unfortunately, during years the last years there is not a careful attitude towards Armenian in Armenia. Have you noticed it?

- I have noticed that young people don’t write in Armenian in the internet. They say that there exist approximately five to six thousand languages in the world. Few of them have their own letters and the letters of very few languages are special. They should attach importance to writing in Armenian letters.

Yes, I remember, you had to write me a letter in Latin letters for two times and you apologized for it beforehand. Do you read Armenian books?

- Yes, I read, especially professional, linguistic literature. I read the works of the Armenian linguists Gevorg Jahukyan, Manvel Asatryan. Sometimes I also read fiction; I read the Armenian classics, for example Muratsan…

- In recent years the interest towards the Japanese language and everything Japanese has increased iArmenia. But unfortunately, there are not almost any translators translating from Japanese into Armenian. And what is the interest towards the Armenian language and culture in Japan? How many people learn Armenian in Japan?

- I cannot tell the exact number. Unfortunately, the Japanese don’t know much about Armenia. Of course, there are people, who know about Armenia and have started to learn Armenian at the university, in cultural centers or due to tourism. And the number of those, who continue studies, doesn’t increase, as they cannot find any economical incitements.

- What funny incident can you remember from your life concerning knowing Armenian?

- One of my friends has introduced me to a Syrian Armenian. He didn’t know Armenian at that time. But associating with us, he got interested in Armenian. Now he has started to learn Armenian…

the material is taken from  http://azg.am/AM/culture/2016052706

translated from Armenian into English by M.Vardanyan