An app that takes a scholarly, yet playful, approach to studying calligraphy is helping students learn to read classic Japanese texts.
Michael Emmerich, a UCLA associate professor of Japanese and well-known translator of Japanese fiction, joined forces with scholars at one of Japan’s top universities, Waseda University in Tokyo, to develop and launch the Hentaigana App, now available for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS systems.
It’s just one of the many projects Emmerich has worked on since leading an initiative to help transform UCLA’s Department of Asian Languages and Cultures into a world-class center for the study of Japanese literature and culture, propelled by a $2.5 million gift from the President and CEO of retail holding company Fast Retailing Tadashi Yanai in 2014.
On screen, students can study a handwritten Japanese syllable taken from a manuscript from the 15th to the 17th centuries. Then, they can “flip” the letterform to see the Chinese character from which it was derived. On the same screen, they can see how the syllable appears in a modern typeface.