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For the student lost in the midst of memorizing kanji, it’s easy to forget that languages are molded not just by the sharp corners of reality but also by the careful caressing of poets. What a joy it is then to have this window into the poetic beauty behind some “quintessential words.”

Susumu Nakanishi is one of the nation’s foremost experts on Japanese literature and was last year revealed to be the scholar behind the choice of “Reiwa” as the name for the current era. Who better then to guide us into the forests of layered references, classical allusions and cultural signifiers that can make the Japanese linguistic landscape so daunting.

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