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Shinichiro Toyama

Noboru Nakamura [profile]

Emotional and surprising education

Noboru Nakamura
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Modern Western Philosophy, Linguistic Theory and Time Theory

Toshihiro Tokushige, poet

I think that education is emotional and surprising. It was the first term of my second year at junior high school. The new Japanese teacher came into the classroom. He was about 180cm tall and slender like a crane and had a dark complexion. His clothes and appearance were, at worst, like a homeless person, Jesus Christ at best. He suddenly climbed on the teacher’s desk and stared at us while standing erect. After a few moments of doing nothing, he climbed back down, handed out some paper he had brought with him and said, in his relaxed Kagoshima accent, “Please write down what you just thought.” That was when I met Toshihiro Tokushige.

Since then, for me, who left my parents to attend a combined junior and senior high school oriented toward college-bound students, Mr. Tokushige became my only support in life. And this is not an exaggeration. Homework for the summer vacation in my second year was to write a book report. I read all of Osamu Dazai’s book collection which was out at the time and wrote a 4000 character book report for only Mr. Tokushige to read. During my time at junior high school, it wasn’t only Dazai, but I was also absorbed in Mishima, Oe and Kobo Abe, and would always tell the teacher my impressions.

When I was at high school he lent me Takaaki Yoshimoto’s Syomotsu no Kaitaigaku (Deciphering Books), and being a poet himself, taught me about many things such as his own poetry composition, literature, and even about Christianity and God (because he was a Christian.) There was a time when we coincidentally met on the bullet train, and in the dining car, which no longer exists, from Hakata to Tokyo, together we held our breaths and fixed our eyes fervently on each page of a Picasso collection. To me, education was Toshihiro Tokushige, poet.

In the classroom, if something that is totally predictable occurs, not even the slightest impression will remain. When a teacher talks about ordinary contents like a teacher, it will never be interesting. If you can read those things in books at home, you can grasp the ordinary contents. Because we, everybody, don’t know the meaning of why we are living here in this way, if we don’t have surprises or emotions, we can’t carve anything into our spirits.

Traveling to study on Saturday

The Faculty of Letters has been running Bun Café since last May. When Faculty of Letters Dean Tsuzuki first talked about this, the first thing that came to mind was Seigo Matsuoka’s Yuugaku suru Doyoubi (Traveling to study on Saturday) 35 years ago. When Kosakusha was in Shibuya’s Shoto district, Matsuoka would invite professionals from different areas on Saturdays and talk with them in public. He would freely talk about any topics with a diverse range of guests such as then unknown Hiroshi Aramata, folklorist Hiroko Yoshino, and dancer Min Tanaka. No matter what questions those gathered threw at him, Matsuoka replied with amazing extensive knowledge.

That was the time when legendary magazine Yu (editor: Seigo Matsuoka, of course), which was also read by Akira Asada, was gradually becoming a major publication. Recently I have happened to read Kousakusha Monogatari (The Story of Kousakusha) (Sayusha), and at that time there were close to 200 people in Kousakusha who practically worked without sleep or rest. Undoubtedly, if I went to Yuugaku suru Doyoubi, I would sense a strange energy, and the talks within the magnetic field overflowing with that energy was extremely interesting.

Of course it would fall short of Matsuoka, but on consulting professors from the 13 majors in the Faculty of Letters, I thought maybe we could create a place for undergraduate students, graduate students and other professors to enjoy. At any rate, there are professors majoring in 13 different areas, and on top of that, each individual within each area is researching their own unique field, so there must be almost an unlimited range of topics. And at that place, even if there is just a hint of surprise and emotion, then it is the most fitting for the name “education.”

Bun Café

At the first session of May, we talked with Doctor Mitsuru Yamashina (Psychology). I hadn’t thought much of the relationship between “psychiatry,” “psychoanalysis” and “psychology.” Of course I knew they were all areas dealing with “heart” and “mind,” but I wasn’t sure how doctors in the field (psychiatrists, psychologists and psychoanalysts) differentiated the knowledge in the three areas. Dr. Yamashina is also a psychiatrist and also conducts psychoanalysis and psychological research, and was consummate when faced with this question. More students and teachers came to listen than expected, and because they couldn’t all fit into the classroom, we had to prepare seats in the hall. We also went well over the time limit, and the end became a psychology counselling session by Dr. Yamashina for those asking questions.

In June, on the topic of “language,” I invited Professor John Matthews (English and American Literature), Professor Fumi Karahashi (Western History), Professor Hiroshi Ishimura (Chinese language and Culture), and Professor Yumi Fujiike (Japanese Literature). The talk from the four professors was actually stimulating because their focused languages and methodologies are different, and I believe, presented from a certain viewpoint the various sides of language that we humans possess. The event was crammed with endless interesting topics such as the characteristics of verbs that defy understanding in Chinese, the deep riddles of Sumerian, or the strangeness of Heian period vocabulary and the maze-like structure of the brain of bilinguals. Even though I, myself, am majoring in Western philosophy language theory, there were many things I did not know, and I was continually awakened to the truth.

In July, at the end of the first semester, the title was “the period called Edo,” and our companions were Professor Kei Yamazaki (Japanese History) and Professor Toshiyuki Suzuki (Japanese Literature). They belonged to different departments, but because they dealt with the same period, they spoke freely about the Edo period from the position of their specialty. To me, an avid fan of Shincho Kokontei, this era and lifestyle is fascinating. With topics such as the state of publication at the time and detailed descriptions of the prostitute quarters, or the relationships between feudal lords and their people, and questions and answers regarding unfair local magistrates, a truly productive time was spent.

Two sessions were held in October and November in the second semester. Theme music of each session was played at the venue. This made the atmosphere of Bun Café brilliant and cheerful. The first session was “love and beauty.” Professor Miwa Ota (English and American Literature) and Professor Shigeki Abe (French Literature) competed with each other. Professor Ota, who is also a poet, added her own tanka to a painting chosen by Professor Abe majoring in art history. After that, we received comments and questions from the audience. There were sharp questions from French Literature Professor Ushio Ono, and with many professors from other faculties in attendance, it was a highly enjoyable session for me. However, I made a mistake of completely forgetting to introduce the poem that Professor Ota had prepared for this event. Professor Ota, I am truly sorry!

For last year’s final Bun Café, I called upon Professor Toshimichi Matsuda (Oriental History). Professor Matsuda began with a cello performance (Pau Casals’ The Song of the Birds, and also Kojo no Tsuki (The Moon over the Ruined Castle)), then spoke on a (safe) topic about Islam, finishing with an Arabic lesson, so I think everyone in attendance was totally satisfied with the contents. I felt unlimited mysterious charm of Arabic in which Language master and Islamic expert Toshihiko Izutsu had felt resistance the most.

Turning Bun Café into composite art!

With the number of sessions piling up, it felt like music, paintings and tanka etc. naturally became part of the Professors’ specialist talks. I think this is a very good thing. The philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who I hold in high esteem, once said that “education must be an artistic activity.” In Steiner Education, when teaching mathematics and the mother tongue, he taught them in the painterly method of using colored pencils. There is also a great focus on music and drama. In that sense, hasn’t Bun Café moved toward education as composite art? Or have I said too much?

There is always one question which is asked of the Professors who come to speak. They are asked about their high school and university days. That is probably because the students who come to listen really want to know what kind of thoughts and ideas their teachers had at the same age. Of course I am also very interested, too. Various topics fly around from everyday talk to highly academic debate.

There are also many visitors who attend every time. Professor Tsuzuki is always there, and I often also see Professor Karahashi. Students from a diverse range of majors gather, such as Graduate School of Policy Studies student Tsuji, Murayama, who went on to be a graduate student at Hitotsubashi University after taking my Western History Department, part-time teacher Kojima (French Literature), and Takenaka (Philosophy). Of course there are also many undergraduate regulars.

Of course it is also important to thoroughly research your specialty in the classroom. However, in the background there has to be emotion and surprise. If there isn’t, then you probably cannot do the slow and steady work called research. Study starts because there is surprise at the beginning. Didn’t someone in ancient Greece also say that?

Postscript: I forgot to write something important. Starting with everyone in TBC (Team Bun Café) (Motegi, Morita, Iijima, Sawada), the staff in the Faculty of Letters office have been a huge help. From planning, publicity and preparation to cleaning up afterwards, they have done everything cautiously. I am truly grateful.

Noboru Nakamura
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Modern Western Philosophy, Linguistic Theory and Time Theory
Noboru Nakamura was born in Nagasaki Prefecture in 1958. He completed his doctorate at the Graduate School of Letters, Chuo University in 1994. He assumed his current position in 2005 after working at Chuo University as a full-time lecture and assistant professor. His current research includes Wittgenstein’s linguistic theory, and Whitehead, Bergson, and Kitaro Nishida’s time theory.
His major publications include Ika Ni Shite Watashi Ha Testugaku Ni Nomerikonda No Ka (How Did I Become Absorbed in Philosophy?) (Shunjusha, 2003), Kobayashi Hideo To Wittgenstein (Hideo Kobayashi and Wittgenstein) (Shumpusha, 2007), Whitehead No Tetsugaku (Whitehead’s Philosophy) (Kodansha, 2007), Wittgenstein Nekutai Wo Shinai Tetsugakusha (Wittgenstein – The Philosopher With No Tie) (Hakusuisha, 2009), Bergson = Jikan To Kuukan No Tetsugaku (Bergson – The Philosophy of Time and Space) (Kodansha, 2014), and Wittgenstein “Tetsugaku Tankyuu” Nyuumon (Introduction to Wittgenstein’s ‘Philosophical Investigations’) (Kyoiku Hyoron Sha, 2014).