Did you know that aside from other institutions, Urdu is taught in three major Japanese universities : Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), Osaka University and Daitobunka University ?
The two learned men to whom Urdu owes most of its popularity in Japan are Prof Gamou Reiichi and Prof Suzuki Takeshi and both are rightly called `Japan`s Baba-i-Urdu`. If Prof Reiichi and Prof Takeshi were alive today, they would be proud to see Urdu blooming in Japan. They were the gardeners who had planted an exotic sapling, namely Urdu, in their Japanese garden and tended it for decades.
Prof Reiichi was the first Japanese to teach Urdu in Japan and rose to the status of professor in 1934. As Urdu books were then hard to come by and teaching material in Urdu was even scarcer in Japan, Prof Reiichi decided to compile some basic books for Japanese students of Urdu. So, in 1938, he wrote `Urdu ke ibtedai qavid`, or Basic Urdu Grammar, a book that has guided generations of Japanese students and there would hardly be any Japanese who began learning Urdu without reading it. Prof Reiichi died in 1977 and his personal collection of books now adorns TUFS`s library.
Prof Suzuki Takeshi, a pupil of Prof Reiichi, joined TUFS in 1963. He adored Urdu so much that in his room nobody was allowed to speak any language other than Urdu. He began translating modern Urdu fiction into Japanese and he untiringly worked on his 20,000-word `Urdu-Japanese Dictionary` till he breathed his last on January 14, 2005.
The scholars associated with these institutions have carried out commendable and original research work on Urdu language and literature. Some of them have rendered many masterpieces of Urdu literature into Japanese, thereby making it available to Japanese readers. Thanks to these efforts, a considerable amount of modern Urdu literature has been translated into Japanese and Urdu language and literature are not alien to the people of Japan.