Building a Bridge between Japan and Egypt / A Dream Born at the Pyramids

Click here for the Cairo University Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature Commemorative Essay on Receiving the Japan Foundation Award (2)
"A Dream Born at the Pyramids"
Dr. Saleh Adel Amin

Building a Bridge between Japan and Egypt--Cairo University Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature

Walid Farouk Ibrahim

The term "inter-cultural dialogue" has been a buzzword since the beginning of the 21st century. I believe that the Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature, the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University, is one of the institutions whose efforts, while modest, have quietly played a role in realizing that dialogue.

Since its establishment in 1974, many passionate students have studied at the department, overcoming the geographical and cultural distance between Japan and Egypt through courses in Japanese language, literature, history, and philosophy.

I was one of those many students, although when I entered the Department of Japanese Language, I had only common knowledge about Japan: that it was an island country, had a lot of earthquakes, and most of all, that it was an economic superpower, and that the "Japanese smile" had achieved rapid development in a short period of time. Even the slight amount of information I had at the time was enough to spark a stronger interest in Japanese language and literature. So I had the motivation to learn Japanese, but as for my goals after completing my studies, that is, how I was going to use what I'd learned in my work, at the time the only job I could think of was being a tour guide. However, during my first four years of university, I acquired a lot more knowledge of Japan, its language and literature, thanks to my Japanese teachers and friends, as well as textbooks and visits to Japan. As a result, my thinking began to change, and my desire to continue studying grew stronger and stronger. For example, being able to participate in the Japan Foundation Program for Outstanding Students of Japanese Language in 1989, the summer between my third and fourth year at university, was a stimulating experience. Furthermore, when I became able to read Japanese novels and other literature, especially after fourth year, I was attracted by the marvelous depiction and delicacy of expression of Yasunari Kawabata, and decided to pursue studies in language.

I think that the Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature, Cairo University has fulfilled its role in building a bridge between Japan and Egypt since its establishment. The task ahead is to think of how to make that bridge function effectively. That is, in its next stage, the department is expected to not only train Japanese language students and researchers, but to function as a base encompassing the abilities of those students and researchers, where their comprehensive strength can be displayed. For example, we could increase our efforts to translate books that present the literature, way of life, thought, and sense of value of our respective countries to each other. Or, with the cooperation of Egypt's Ministry of Education we could send volunteers to introduce Japan to students at elementary, junior and senior high schools.

As the situation continues to change in Egypt, the Arab countries, and the entire world, the Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature has an expanding role to play. In order to fulfill that role in the current circumstances, it is not enough to just work hard. It is vital to think about where and how we want to direct our efforts.

cairouniv01.jpgWalid Farouk Ibrahim
Associate Professor, Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University
Field of study: Lexical semantics. Subject: Comparative study of vocabulary in Arabian and Japanese
Walid Farouk Ibrahim graduated from the Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, in 1990 and came to Japan as a government sponsored international graduate student. He completed an M.A. degree at the Graduate Course in Japanese Language and Literature, Graduate School of Humanities, Gakushuin University, in 1997, and received his doctorate in Japanese Language and Literature from the same university graduate school in 2001.

2010 The Japan Foundation, Basic Japanese-Arabic Dictionary, joint translator
2007 Japanese Grammar for Arabic Speakers
2006 Chichi to kuraseba, Hisashi Inoue, Arabic translation
2005 Asakusa torigoe azumadoko, Hisashi Inoue, Arabic translation
2003 Arabic Thesaurus, published by Junbunsha
He is currently in Japan as a Japan Foundation Japanese Studies Fellow

Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University
The Department was established in 1974. As the first major center in the field of Japanese language and Japanese studies established in the Middle East and Africa region, the department has for many years worked to train scholars of Japan's language and culture, and to promote the spread of the Japanese language. Numerous books on Japan have been written and translated by graduates of the department, on topics ranging from literature to politics. The department continues to contribute significantly to smooth and effective understanding of Japanese culture in the Arabic speaking world, and produces many graduates who apply their outstanding Japanese language skills in activities around the globe.
In 2011, the department was awarded the Japan Foundation Award for Japanese Language.

Lecture by Karam Khalil (Head of the Department of Japanese and Japanese Literature, Cairo University)

"The History of Japanese-Language Education in Egypt and Achievement of Cairo University" PDF

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