LINGUIST List 15.2089

Sat Jul 17 2004

All: Obituary for Haruhiko Kindaichi

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. oebel, Obituary for Haruhiko Kindaichi

Message 1: Obituary for Haruhiko Kindaichi

Date: 17 Jul 2004 07:44:01 -0000
From: oebel <>
Subject: Obituary for Haruhiko Kindaichi

Haruhiko KINDAICHI, who happened to be as well-known among linguists
as his late father Kyosuke Kindaichi died on May 20, 2004 at the age
of 91 in Kofu near his vacation home.

Kindaichi graduated from the department of Japanese literature at
Tokyo University, and worked as a professor at the Tokyo University of
Foreign Studies and later on at Sophia University. During his academic
career, he empirically analyzed changes in the historical system of
word accents in Japanese for the first time nationwide. In addition,
he investigated the dialects of different regions, thus shedding light
on the accent systems of eastern and western Japan. Furthermore,
Kindaichi was known for his study of the history of traditional
Japanese music and nursery songs. In 1983, he even won both the
Mainichi Shuppan Culture Award and the Minister of Education's Art
Encouragement Award for his book on a nursery song titled "Juugoya
otsukisan - Motoori Nagazo hito to sakuhin".

Besides being a member of the national language Council and the NHK
committee on terminology, he became renowned for compiling numerous
dictionaries including the Shin Meikai kogo jiten (Concise classical
Japanese dictionary), a dictionary on archaic Japanese vocabulary.

Kindaichi gained popularity with frequent appearances on television
quiz shows. In 1977, he was awarded the NHK Broadcasting Culture
Award, and two decades later, he eventually was named a Person of
Distinguished Cultural Merit.

Among his many authored works were "Nihongo onin no kenkyu" (Research
of Japanese phonology) and "Nihongo" (Japanese). 1n 1963, Kindaichi
helped trace and identify the hometown of a kidnapper who made
threatening calls in the so-called Yoshinobu-chan abduction-murder
case that shocked the entire Japanese nation, by analyzing the words
the culprit used. In his book "Nihongo wo Hansei Shitemimasenka"
(Shall we reflect humbly on the Japanese language?), Kindaichi
explained: "Just when flowers are in bloom in spring, spring winds
blow them away. Just when the leaves are ablaze with colour in autumn,
autumn rains spoil their beauty. This is to say there are many things
that are beyond your control." This is a typical expression for
Kindaichi who was indeed a master of self-expression in simple

Regarding recent changes in colloquial Japanese usage, Kindaichi took
the view that this was nothing new, since language is a tool of human
communication bound to change over time: "Rather than be angry at
today's young people for mutilating the language, I wish you'd look
upon them kindly and with patience", he commented. In 2000, Kindaichi
wrote his own obituary in Watashi-no Shibokiji (My obituary): "During
his life, Haruhiko was notorious for misplacing things", he
wrote. Cited among those 'lost items' were important research
materials and his finished manuscripts: "Haruhiko used to say he must
have been destined for a life of perpetual quest. He could not have
said it better."


The Mainichi Newspaper, May 20, 2004
Asahi Shimbun, May 21, 2004
The Japan Times, May 20, 2004 
Kyodo News Agency, May 20, 2004
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