In a long and interesting TLS review (not paywalled) of Minae Mizumura’s The Fall of Language in the Age of English, Jay Rubin, a professor of Japanese Literature at Harvard and translator of Haruki Murakami, says this:
Even now, after some seventy post-war years of attempts to simplify and rationalize the Japanese writing system, its “appalling” mixture of Chinese characters and two supplementary phonetic scripts remains the single greatest stumbling block to foreigners who wish to become literate users of the language (to become literate in a language, you have to know its literature). Not even those few of us who survived boot camp and went on to read a good part of Japan’s literary canon in the original have it easy. As Minae Mizumura accurately (if somewhat ungraciously) observes in The Fall of Language in the Age of English, “Foreigners, even those who teach Japanese literature at a university, cannot read novels written in Japanese with any ease”.
Is that really true?