WITH all respect to Campbell Thomson (Letters, July 7), I would strongly endorse the suggestion that Japanese language and culture should be available for study in Scottish schools.

We regularly hear talk of the usefulness of Mandarin Chinese as a subject: precisely the same arguments regarding the commercial and political importance of the country could be applied to Japanese. Which of the two languages is actually easier to learn is a moot point (I have some knowledge of both), but certainly Japanese is easier for a learner to pronounce, and the standard Romanisation system more clearly related to the sounds of the language than is that of Mandarin.

Another argument is that the historical links between Japan and Scotland are closer than many people realise. Thomas Blake Glover, who is far more celebrated in Japan than in his native country, is only one of several Scots whose contribution to the modernisation of Japan was of fundamental importance. Contemporary cultural interactions are productive and indeed fascinating: Alan Spence and Kevin MacNeil are two important figures on our literary scene whose work shows the inspiration of their fondness for Japanese culture; and in the other direction, new translations of Burns's poems and Waverley have recently appeared in Japan. (And Japanese is the only language into which A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle has been translated in its entirety.)

Mr Thomson is of course justified in referring to Japan's conduct in the Second World War and the period leading up to it. But nobody suggests that German language, history and culture should not be studied because of that country's record in the Nazi era. There is every case to be made for our children to have the opportunity to learn about one of the most individual and fascinating of the world's cultures; and I hope this opportunity will become more widely available.

Derrick McClure,

4 Rosehill Terrace,


I MUST take issue with Campbell Thomson's attitude concerning the current Consul General of Japan's comments. I am sure no attempt at "airbrushing history" was involved.

However much one may abhor atrocities that occurred during the Second World War , I find the views expressed by a previous Consul General, that the right way forward to promote world peace was through friendship and greater understanding, much more persuasive. Nations will never draw closer if we cannot consign history to history when we have the chance.

Anyone who heard the well-researched, thoughtful and generally impressive lecture delivered recently at Stirling University by Hajime Kitaoka, the current holder of the post, can be in no doubt about his commitment to this kind of future.

Should one not prefer hope over bitterness?

P Davidson,

Gartcows Road,