JAPAN: What I learned when I was Grade One, 1938

The Japanese writing system has two streams: one using Chinese characters called Kanji, and the other,  phonetic signs called Kana.  The latter could be seen as an counterpart of the European alphabet.  It has 51 characters.  One eleventh century genius in Japan, probably a Buddhist monk, wrote a poem using all phonetic signs without repeating even one character, describing the whole of Buddhist philosophy.  We used to sing it in the grade one class, not so much to learn the Buddhist teaching but to learn alphabet.  I have come to love its depth and simplicity.

“Colours fragrant but fade.
Is anybody unchangeable in our world?
Today, I shall overcome the jungle of hustle and bustle,
Without getting drunk by their shallow dreams.”

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