Tokyo lecturer's book for Japanese Welsh learners

Image caption,
Some 30,000 copies of the book have been printed, says Yoshifumi Nagata

A passion for RS Thomas's poetry has inspired a lecturer from Tokyo to co-author a coursebook in Japanese for those wanting to learn Welsh.

Yoshifumi Nagata, 41, teamed up with accomplished Welsh learner Takeshi Koike to produce the book, which has been published this summer in Japan.

His interest developed while studying at Meisei University in Tokyo.

"When I was in graduate school I came across the poetry of RS Thomas and I liked it very much," he said.

"Some of his poetry was political and I got interested in the Welsh culture and language."

RS Thomas was a poet and clergyman with a passion for the Welsh language. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature and died aged 87 in 2000.

Dr Nagata, who gained an MA and then a PhD in English literature in his home city, said that he met a dead end when he decided to start learning Welsh at home in Japan.

"I was frustrated that we didn't have any textbooks for Japanese Welsh learners," he said.

As a beginner in Welsh he started to work on a guide to the language, and decided to collaborate with a compatriot who he knew had published two publications on aspects of the Welsh language.

"Takeshi Koike writes in the Welsh language and can speak Welsh like a native Welsh speaker, and I knew him well," said Dr Nagata.

"So I spoke to one of my editors and raised the idea with him and he accepted it, so we produced the book."

Example dialogues

Mr Koike picked up Welsh during his stay as an exchange student at the University of Wales, Lampeter - now Trinity Saint David - in 1992-3, explained Dr Nagata.

The coursebook picks up on his memory of his time in the west Wales college, featuring example dialogues between Welsh and Japanese students living in the Ceredigion town.

Dr Nagata teaches Welsh culture at a number of Japanese universities and has penned a number of essays on Welsh culture.

These include critiques of popular culture in Wales after the miners' strike of 1984-85.

Image caption,
Yoshifumi Nagata teaches Welsh culture at universities in Japan

He has visited Wales eight times since 2000, most recently this summer when he attended the National Eisteddfod at Wrexham.

"I like everything in Wales, especially the poetry and culture," he said. "I enjoyed the eisteddfod which was the second one I had been to after 2007."

Dr Nagata said he was unaware how sales had been going since the book was released in June, but insisted: "There are some people who will want to learn the Welsh language in Japan.

"There are quite a few people interested in Wales - people, perhaps, such as those who may go to Wales to work.

"I would say that not so many people in Japan know about Wales, but many Japanese people like the UK.

"A lot confuse England with Scotland and Wales, but people will begin to like Wales through my book."

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