Tuesday, September 29, 2009

tide of history – reflection on century old primer from Kyoto

Found this text book in Kyoto in a box of old books placed outside the book shop selling old books located in the north-eastern part of the city.

The date of publication - the 25th year of the Meiji Era, entitled – 帝国読本 - Teikoku dokuhon - An Imperial Primer - is 1892. It was the 8th in a series of reading text from Imperial Japan, dated

At 1 ¥00 (S$1.158) and for a 107-year old text book which is in a relatively well-kept condition – it is a memorabilia well worth its price. A good pick from this ancient but modern capital city, for someone who loves to old books.

For a item of similar item with this age, it would cost 20 times more at the Sunday Flea Mart in China Square.

Well, come to think of it – for a city with a continuous history of 1300-years, a 107-year old text book is but just a tiny pebble in her river of time . What it a century when time is flows in the millennium.

The owner of the text book had written his name Okunishi - in neat Victorian style English alphabet on the cover of the text. Inside the text is found the seal - 奥西 - in vermillion, stamped on a number of pages - to attest ownership.

Reminiscing the era in which this book was printed -

Since the start of the Meiji Era in 1868, it was a period of learning from the West, and writing one’s name in the English alphabet must be in vogue, then.

Within the contents of the primer, there were short chapters on geography of the world & modern sciences – explaining the cause of earthquake, and introduction to anatomy. It was a text to introduce western science and technology to the Japanese students.

By then, the Meiji restoration - 明治维 - was already into its 25th year of modernization. The foundation of a new society build on western science & technology was well on its way to enable Japan to - 脱亞入欧 – datsu A nyuu O – tuoya ru ou - that is - to literary pluck itself out of Asia and enter into the European sphere of civilized nations.

Interestingly, inter-woven into the text, were also short chapters embodying the essence of the Japan bushido spirit – on Japanese history, geography and Shinto-ism – the native religion of Japan.

Flipping thro the text, one could feel the flow of history on the fingertips.

One got a first hand glimpse of the teaching material that put Japan on the modernization path. In it the ideological essence of that era - 和魂洋才 - wakon-yōsai- meaning - Japanese spirit and Western knowledge & techniques - were written on its chapters. That was the part that Japan took to rise to be a world economic and industrial power.

Close to a century and a half have since passed, since the Meiji Restoration -

In between, the waves of militarism & pacifism have washed her rugged shores. In the rise and fall of nations, other Asian nations have been coming of age, since.

Would perhaps the Land of the Rising Sun come home to to roost again with her Asian neighbors, in the aftermath of the 2009 genreal election . . . and the spark to the begining of a new primer.

Postscript -

1. Kyoto – Old Book Fair -古本祭り

Old book festival @ Shimokamo Kyoto held thrice yearly in May, August & November


2. 帝国読本 券之八 学海指針社編輯



第 一 課 三種の神宝
第二  課 八岐の大蛇
第三  課 日本の武尊
第四  課 日本ノ三景
第五  課 日本ノ工藝
第六  課 雪舟
第七  課 地震
第八  課 奥貫友山
第九  課 蟻ノ話
第十  課 節儉
第十一 課 山下禅尼
第十二 課 日用晝類
第十三 課 世界
第十四 課 支那
第十五 課 支那歴史
第十六 課 三韓征伐
第十七 課 弘安の役
第十八 課 朝鮮征伐
第十九 課 食物の行方 其一
第二十 課 食物の行方 其二
第二十一課 飲食
第二十二課 日用晝類
第二十三課 仁徳天皇
第二十四課 醍醐天皇
第二十五課 國體
第二十六課 國史大要  其一
第二十七課 國史大要  其二
第二十八課 國民ノ大義務 其一
第二十九課 國民ノ大義務 其二
第三十 課 國民ノ大義務 唱歌

明治二十五年九月十八日 仰刷
同年    九月十八日  出版
明治二十五年九月十八日 仰刷
同年    九訂正  再発行

編者 學海指針社
發行者 小林八郎
仰刷者 小林清一郎
發賣所 集英堂本店
仰刷所 集英堂活版所

定價 券八金十銭o五厘

Contents of text printed in 42pages of thin paper .

3.Wakon-yōsai (和魂洋才)  -Japanese Spirit Western techniques


- Poster of - Sunday Flea Mart @ China Square -