IN THE NEWS / User-friendly kanji漢字 dictionary popular
Katsumi Kokoma had always been dissatisfied with conventional kanji dictionaries. The reference works, he said, generally exclude some characters, such as nabe-bugyo--describing a person who is bossy about how to eat a nabe stew--despite their frequent use in Japanese novels.
Kokoma, who works in the proofreading section of Shinchosha Publishing Co., came up with the idea of publishing a user-friendly kanji dictionary for Japanese people. Completing the tome took more than 10 years, with all the work done without help from scholars.
Titled Shincho Nihongo Kanji Jiten, the dictionary was published at the end of September with an initial print run of 10,000 copies. But it turned out to be so popular that the publisher ordered a second printing--unusually soon for such a work.
Kokoma, 53, has been a kanji aficionado for as long as he can remember. Even before entering primary school, he asked his parents to buy books written with kanji. When he entered the school, he was given a kanji dictionary. He perused the dictionary so much that it soon became worn out.
As a college student, he began taking part in kanji reading and writing competitions, on one occasion winning a national championship.
"I never get bored of the way kanji organically combine meaning and form," Kokoma said.
He joined Shinchosha in 1989, after working at several other publishers. In 1996, he submitted a proposal for a kanji dictionary and got approval from the publisher.
He began compiling it in 1998 in a two-story wooden building behind the company's main building.
Many people were puzzled about what he was doing there.
"Now that I've completed my work, I feel that I can die happy," he said emotionally, cradling a copy of the dictionary.
Last month, Kokoma took a long vacation to visit China for the first time. He was excited about viewing the Stele Forest in Xian, Shaanxi Province, which features thousands of stone stelae carved with Chinese characters. 碑林
- also ste·la (stē'lə) pl. steles also -lae (-lē). An upright stone or slab with an inscribed or sculptured surface, used as a monument or as a commemorative tablet in the face of a building.
- stele (stēl, stē'lē) The central core of tissue in the stem or root of a vascular plant, consisting of the xylem and phloem together with supporting tissues.
[Greek stēlē, pillar.]stelar ste'lar (-lər) adj.