A little while ago the Japanese department was taking applications for a new professor. One step of the process was giving a public presentation of their specialty. I was lucky enough to be able to make it to the Mr. Frydman’s speech, who as it turns out was the one the department would choose. There were actually two meetings: one open to public and one just for Japanese students to ask questions. The head of the department had previously revealed to us that Mr. Frydman was interested in manga and anime, so that naturally dominated the meeting with the students. It was quite nice to talk to a teacher who had an obvious passion in something that is usually seen as exclusive to young people. The actual presentation covered a somewhat more particular niche: ancient Japanese poetry. Recently some wooden tablets had been found uncovered at a dig site in Japan. The poems on the wooden block show some connection with how the modern writing system of Japan developed-specifically how Hiragana formed. They also have some relationship with early Buddhist rituals. What’s really cool is how rare studying this is: Mr. Frydman said only 3 people in the English speaking world are interacting with these objects. If you search for Asakayama mokkan, the first result is a webpage talking about his dissertation on the subject.