The overwhelming majority of spam I get is Japanese. I think some address harvester (or whatever they’re called) in Japan must have happened upon this site a couple months ago or something, because it’s seriously pretty much all I get to the address linked in the sidebar. I delete all the messages without opening them, because I can’t read Japanese.
I do have some friends who can read (and speak) Japanese, at least to the extent that college-level foreign language classes impart such ability. Which, in this case, is apparently quite a bit; the Japanese classes here are famously intensive, and as far as I can tell they work quite well. My friends who take Japanese certainly seem to learn it pretty well, even though most of them have at this point dropped out of the program because it gets to be too much work along with all the other classes they have to take to fulfill requirements.
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that a big part of the reason the Japanese program here is so intensive and effective is due to the efforts of one woman, the wife of one of my linguistics professors, a senior lecturer in the Asian Studies department and the main coordinator of the introductory course sequence. Whether or not the overall structure of the program was her doing, she clearly had a major impact on the way Japanese is taught here.
This summer, shortly before classes began, she passed away after a long struggle with cancer. There was a memorial service yesterday, which I attended along with what seemed to be almost all of the departments of Linguistics and Asian Studies. It was held in the Victorian masion that originally belonged to the first president of the university and bears his name, which is now used mostly by the Society for the Humanities for lectures and such. The place was packed; speeches were conducted in one room, in front of her family, colleagues and close friends, and broadcast via wireless in two other rooms. I was in one of those two rooms, along with most of the linguistics faculty and grad students. Some people had to stand because they ran out of chairs.
The ceremony was very nice. There were speeches by her colleagues, students, friends and relatives. The speeches were in a mixture of Japanese and English; some were in both, others were entirely in one or the other. At one point there was a video of her demonstrating to her students how to make sushi, something she apparently did at her house every year. The whole ceremony was very nice, and really showed what she was like to those of us, like me, who had never met her. It seemed like a fitting way to remember someone who made such a big impression on those who knew her. I’m glad I went.