Public Release: 

Learning Japanese ancient characters with your smartphone

Osaka University

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IMAGE: Usage examples for a character shown in the Learn section. view more

Credit: Osaka University

A research group at Osaka University has developed an application which is designed to allow anyone with a smartphone or tablet device to study ancient Japanese characters Kuzushi-ji. By using this application, those who are unfamiliar with pre-modern Japanese books or learning Japanese historical and classical literature outside Japan may obtain ability in reading hentaigana and cursive-style kanji, which will promote utilization of Japanese classical books and historical materials by a wider range of people.

KuLA - the Kuzushi-ji Learning Application has three sections: Learn, Read, and Connect. The Learn section allows users to study 278 different hentaigana and cursive-style kanji and features images taken from Japanese historical books. Study progress can be checked with the included kuzushi-ji test feature. The Read section lets users test their ability further by reading images of Japanese classical texts written in kuzushi-ji. The Connect section allows users studying kuzushi-ji to interact with one another. Users can take pictures of difficult characters and ask others for help, or share their study progress with other users.

Databases holding images of pre-modern Japanese books and other historical materials are currently in rapid development. The National Institute of Japanese Literature plans to make 300,000 images of historical materials available online over a 10 year period starting from 2014 as part of its Project to Build an International Collaborative Research Network for Pre-modern Japanese Texts. However, whilst researchers in Japan outside of the field of literary studies and researchers of Japanese studies outside of Japan are able to access pre-modern materials more easily, there is still a lack of knowledge as to how to utilize these materials. This application was developed as a tool to aid researchers in fields outside literature and researchers outside of Japan to use these image databases more effectively.

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The application KuLA can be downloaded from the following sites:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=yuta.hashimoto.kula (Android)
https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1076911000 (iOS)

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