Walking through invisible uncanny landscapes in kanji

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Abstract / Description of output

This paper explores the cultural heritage and landscape of Kyoto with an aim to find a spatio-temporal synergy between language and cultural memory. It is interesting to look into the toponyms of Kyoto, which has historical street names, unlike most Japanese streets, which are just empty unnamed spaces between blocks. In addition, a city map of present-day Kyoto, overlaid on an old map, such as one of Heian-kyo, clearly shows street names and place names, which appear on a grid pattern based on the jo-bo city system of Heian-kyo. This remains largely unchanged over 1000 years from the start of the Heian period in 794.

Toponyms are linguistic or symbolic labels for particular places or landscape features (Mark & Turk, 2017). A group of recent toponymical researchers have been working on new themes, such as the landscape conceptualizations (e.g. beliefs about landscape) of a speech community (Turk, 2011), arguing that place names form an ‘intangible cultural heritage’ that is produced by complex interactions between language, mind, culture, environment and history (Taylor, 2016). This paper takes the same direction, and we will scrutinize the intersection of language and culture-specific shared knowledge, looking at how this applies to kanji that are linked to five notions of ‘water’, ‘field’, ‘road’, ‘ritual’, and ‘border’. Together, these form a symbolic reference to cultural memories of Heian-kyo landscape. A post analytical report will demonstrate to what extent encapsulated cultural and histo-geographical concepts of a given kanji differ from the conceptual domain of the same kanji in everyday use.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages108
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2019
EventThe 3rd EAJS Japan Conference in Japan - University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan
Duration: 14 Sept 201915 Sept 2019


ConferenceThe 3rd EAJS Japan Conference in Japan
Internet address

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Toponyms
  • symbolic labels
  • culture-specific shared knowledge
  • landscape conceptualizations
  • Kyoto


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