The Japanese language had no written form at the time Chinese characters were introduced, and texts were written and read only in Chinese. Over time, however, a system known as Kanbun emerged, which involved using Chinese text with diacritical marks to allow Japanese speakers to restructure and read Chinese sentences, by changing word order and adding particles and verb endings, in accordance with the rules of Japanese grammar.
Chinese characters also came to be used to write Japanese words, resulting in the modern Kana syllabaries. A writing system called Manyoogana (used in the ancient poetry anthology Mayooshuu) evolved that used a number of Chinese characters for their sound, rather than for their meaning. Manyoogana written in cursive style transformed into Hiragana.
Katakana emerged via a parallel path: monastery students simplified Manyoogana to a single constituent element. Thus the two other writing systems, Hiragana and Katakana, referred to collectively as Kana, are actually descended from Kanji.
In modern Japanese, Kanji are used to write parts of the language such as nouns, adjective stems, and verb stems, while Hiragana are used to write inflected verb and adjective endings (okurigana), particles, and miscellaneous words which have no kanji or whose kanji is considered obscure or too difficult to read or remember. Katakana are used for representing onomatopoeia, non-Japanese loanwords (except those borrowed from Chinese), and for emphasis on certain words.
I can say “Remix” culture is not a new concept and not limited to digital technology. As you can see from the Japanese writing system, we didn’t simply grab or use those of characters; we modified and recombined Chinese characters, and created a new writing system. Not only the writing system, our culture has been enriched by other cultures; besides we are still building something new upon something already exist.
At the beginning of the year, I post the essential questions to make the students to think the course goals.
1. What is the value of learning about other cultures? Why should I learn about Japan?
2. What can we learn about our own culture from studying another? How does Japanese culture affect me?
3. How did Japanese culture grow? Why did it grow differently than mine?
4. What motivates me to learn about my country / other countries?
I’ve been trying to make my students to understand how closely our cultures are connected to one other and affect each other. Geography (climate, physical landscape, the environment), history, politics, economic activities, society and faith influence the development of culture, and at times, cultures have different perspectives. I want my students to identify ways how people can work together for mutual benefit.
I would like to incorporate aspects of “Remix” culture to make them think our mutual benefit in the 21st century.