Study Sessions on Kuzushiji 「くずし字を読む会」 by Kyoto University Librarians

This presentation reports on 「くずし字を読む会」(Kuzushi-ji wo yomu kai / the study session on くずし字*1 reading) which is held privately among the librarians of Kyoto University.
This session started in September 2003 and has been held about 50 times ever. It is intended to help the members get reading skill of くずし字, mainly 変体仮名(Hentaigana *2), on early Japanese materials. Once or twice a month, some of the librarians join to the session for learning how to read くずし字 and how to use reference resources.
Many participants majored in neither Japanese literature nor Japanese history, and had never studied くずし字 before coming the session. After several months, most of them acquire basic skill of reading 変体仮名. Additionally, I asked some questions and gave short tests to the participants. The responses gives some difficulties and hints for learning くずし字.

*1「くずし字」 (Kuzushi-ji) are characters in cursive style on early Japanese materials, not only in handwriting but also in printing. Most of them lose their original forms.
*2「変体仮名」(Hentaigana) are alternative characters of Hiragana. For example, "no" as standard Hiragana(「の」) is adapted from the Kanji「乃」, and there are many kinds of "no" as Hentaigana which are adapted from the Kanji「能」,「農」, etc.
They had been used generally until Meiji era, but in modern days most Japanese can't understand them.