If you want to analyze Japanese texts digitally, the first problem you might run up against is that Japanese does not use spaces between words. A computer needs those spaces to know when one word ends and the next begins. So, you first need to be able to “tokenize” those words, that is determine the words. Deciding what is a word and what is not is difficult to decide. Is a verb ending a word or a part of a word? Linguists discuss these kinds of questions for us literary scholars and have created the necessary tools so that we don’t have to insert spaces manually into a text. Imagine how much work that would be!
One way to see how computers can tokenize words (without installing anything on your own computer) is to use WebChamame. This site was built by researchers at the National Institute of Japanese Language and Linguistics. To get started, type a Japanese sentence into the left window on the WebChamame site.
I was in Germany for the winter holidays when I wrote this. I do not remember the winter thunder storm. I do, however, remember visiting these monuments in Eguchi, Osaka. This play became the topic of my Master’s thesis. (Last edited on January 27, 2022.)
Tübingen, Germany This morning, from the window in the living room, the rising sun could be seen just above the mountains in the distance. Above the sun, dark clouds, their undersides faintly lined in gold. Then suddenly snow started falling in sheets like rain, lightning flashed, and thunder followed. Today is not a day I want to be outside, walking through the changeable weather.
In the Shinkokin waka shū (c. 1205 New anthology of Japanese poems past and present), a pair of poems exchanged by Saigyō and a courtesan (yūjo in Japanese) on a rainy evening comes to mind. Or rather, these poems, as incorporated in the nō Eguchi, have been on my mind for the last few months, since they comprise a core component of my thesis, but for now I’ll set the thesis aside, because I really just want to tell you the story of these poems as I see it.
Saigyō gave the first poem to a courtesan who had refused him lodging on a rainy evening.
Yo no naka wo itou made koso katakarame kari no yadori wo oshimu kimi kana
To hate the world is hard, but you deny me a moment’s shelter?