Research at AIIT

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 21st Installment“Study is play. That’s why it’s fun!”

by Yosuke Tsuchiya,
Assistant Professor, Masters Program of Information Systems Architecture

The title is a phrase I learned from my mentor that I also want to pass on, so I’d like to take this column to introduce it to you.

Until I met this professor in college and heard the phrase, studying was what I did to prepare for entrance exams for high school or college, or about how I simply kept feeding myself knowledge that I would “likely need” in future work. In other words, I had felt that studying was what I “had to do” in order to live and what society and the world was “making me do.” But hearing the above phrase from my professor changed that notion. By treating study as play, I began studying what I loved with passion and without relevance to my survival. It’s play, so you do what you want. And bring those results to use in work. That’s how I now think.

Of course, studying for your own future or for work is important. It is something that you “have to do” to live. But if you’re going to do it anyway, wouldn’t you rather have fun with it? That’s why you consider it play.

As Johan Huizinga stated in his book Homo Ludens (Man the Player), humans are essentially players. Academia probably would not have developed into what it is today if it weren’t for the playfulness of our ancestors. They all pursued their studies eagerly because it was play; if it were a penance, most people would have given up. Play is also important in the engineering field. For example, if a steering wheel of a car didn’t have some “play,” it would create extreme fatigue in your driving experience. That’s because you would have to be hyper-cautious in your steering, since even the slightest movement would turn the car.

Going off the subject, studying is essentially something you do yourself and not something you are made to do. That’s quite an obvious fact.

When you look up study in a dictionary, the Japanese term means “to learn or to make an effort,” but its original Chinese word has the meaning of “to force difficulty onto someone.” Benkyo (“study”), in other words, meant forcing yourself to acquire knowledge. No wonder people can’t enjoy study. By the way, the term benkyo as used when negotiating prices at a store comes from this origin.

But when you look up the root for “study,” the English translation for benkyo, you’ll find that it comes from the Latin “studium” which means “passion” or “eagerness.” Thus “study” means learning voluntarily and with passion, the exact opposite of the root for the Japanese benkyo.

Wasn’t play fun when you did it intently as a child? It’s the same with studying, and when you study intently in a field that interests you, it gives you excitement that you never experienced as a child. In my case, whenever I understand something that I hadn’t understood or find out something new, it clears my feelings; should I go on to discover something greater, I can get carried away. I urge you to study passionately – not as in the Japanese benkyo but as in the English “study” – something that interests you! It should be fun.

That passion you had for play when you were a child – why not direct it to study now?

Back to index page

  • The 22nd Installment

    “Thoughts on Amazon Kindle’s Landing in Japan”

    by Junfu Chen,
    Assistant Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering
  • The 21st Installment

    “Study is play. That’s why it’s fun!”

    by Yosuke Tsuchiya,
    Assistant Professor, Masters Program of Information Systems Architecture
  • The 20th Installment

    "The Redo-able World of Digital Engineering"

    by Toshitake Tateno,
    Associate Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering