“There are more than 500 Tamil words in Japanese,” Tsutomu Kambe, a retired Japanese professor, said. He used his name to illustrate this claim. He wrote down his name on a paper and then separated the second part using a vertical line.
“See, you can find the relation between Tamil and Japanese even in my name. Kam means Kama in Tamil,” the professor said. (Kama is god of desire in Hindu mythology).
To support Kambe’s argument, Chennai-based Institute of Asian studies (IAS), with the help of a professor couple from Sri Lanka, recently brought out a resource guide called ‘Tamil-Japanese Relationship’ as part of its silver jubilee celebrations. The book has hundreds of Tamil and Japanese words that bear phonetic and semantic resemblances.
A Shanmugadas, emeritus professor, University of Jaffna, and his wife Manonmani, retired lecturer in Gakushuin University, Japan, who compiled the book, said they got the idea way back in 1981 when they attended a lecture on Japanese-Dravidian languages in Madurai by veteran professor and linguist Susumu Ohnu from Tokyo.
“We were curious and soon I applied for a senior fellowship grant. We went to Gakushuin University in March 1983. By the time Ohnu had already published his ‘Sound Correspondences between Tamil and Japanese’, a thesis analysing in detail the 500 corresponding words in both languages. But some Japanese scholars severely criticised Ohnu’s theory. This is where we stepped in. We wanted to know whether it was true and worked with Ohnu for long years. And this book stands testimony to Ohnu’s findings,” says Shanmugadas.