Journal

 

Friday
Jul082016

Officer Friendly

 

   I'm old enough to remember a time when cops really did look like the bumbling Deputy, Barney Fife, on The Andy Griffith Show. So, how the hell did we go from that ⤴︎ to this ⤵︎ ? Where did Officer Friendly go?

 

Wednesday
Jul062016

Once Upon a Time in Edo

From ancient times in Japan, time was expressed by the duodecimal system introduced from China. The hour from eleven p.m. to one a.m. was the Hour of the Rat (子の刻, ne no koku). From one a.m. to three a.m. was The Hour of the Ox (丑の刻の刻, ushi no koku); three a.m. to five in the morning was The Hour of the Tiger (虎の刻, tora no koku); and so on.

 

Moreover, in the Edo Period a bell was rung to announce the hour, so the hour of the day was also known by the number of times the bell was rung. At midnight and noon, the bell was rung nine times. The clock was struck every koku (刻), about once every two hours or so: nine times at noon (九つ, kokonotsu), eight times around two in the afternoon (八つ, yattsu), seven times around four-thirty in the afternoon (七つ, nanatsu), and six times at sunset (暮れ六つ, kuremutsu, lit. “twilight six”). An interesting vestige of this former system, snacks and snack time are still called o-yattsu (お八つ) and o-yattsu no jikan (お八つの時間) today. Around nine in the evening, the bell was rung five times (五つ, itsutsu); at about ten-thirty at night, it was rung four times (四つ, yottsu). And at midnight, the bell was run nine times again. In this way, the bell was rung every two hours or so, first nine times, then eight, seven, six, five, four, and then nine times again.

 

Another vestige of this the former system is the use of the kanji for “horse” in telling time today. Twelve noon is called shōgo (正午, lit. “exactly horse”) because eleven a.m. to 1 p.m. used to be the Hour of the Horse. Anti meridiem, or a.m., today is gozen (午前, lit. “before the horse”) and post meridiem, or p.m., is gogo (午後, “after the horse”).

 

Another peculiarity of the former time-telling system was that although night and day was divided into twelve koku or parts, with six always referring to the sunrise and sunset. The length of the koku or “hours” varied throughout the year, such that the daytime koku were longer in the summer months and shorter in the winter months.

 

Because one koku was on average two hours long, each koku was divided into quarters, lasting an average of thirty minutes (Ex.: 辰の一刻, tatsu no ikkoku; 丑の三つ, ushi no mitsu) or thirds (Ex.: 寅の上刻, tora no jōkoku; 卯の下刻, u no gekoku). Night and day was also divided into 100 koku. On the spring and autumn equinoxes, day and night were both 50 koku long. On the summer solstice, daytime measured 60 koku and night 40. On the winter solstice, the opposite was true.

 

One last interesting factoid: each domain kept its own time with noon being the time that the sun was highest in the sky. When trains were first introduced to Japan, it was not unusual for a train to leave a city in the east at say eight in the morning and arrive at a station in another prefecture in the west, say an hour later, but it was still eight in the morning. Trains not only helped industry spread throughout the nation of Japan, but also brought about the first standards in the way time was told.

Thursday
Jun232016

A month by any other name

Different names for the month of June:

水月 (Mina Zuki, lit. “water month”), the month during which rice fields are full of water.
水無月 (Mina Zuki, lit. “water without month”), the month during which rivers run dry because of the heat.
伏月 (Fuku Getsu) The month of sanpuku (三伏). There are three fukuShofuku (初伏) which is the third konoe (庚) after the summer solstice, Chūfuku, the fourth konoe (庚) following the solstice, and Mappuku, the first konoe (庚) after Risshū (立秋), the traditional start of Autumn which falls on about the eighth of August. These are all tied to the traditional Chinese calendar, which divided a year into 24 solar terms. 
青水無月 (Aomina Zuki, lit. “blue water without month”), the month in which trees grow thick and water becomes clean and healthy.
季月 (Ki getsu, lit. “season month”), the month the season ends.
鳴雷月 (Narukami Zuki, lit. “roll/strike thunder month), the month in which thunder increases. Also written 鳴神月 (lit. “Roaring gods month")
常夏月 (Tokonatsu Zuki, lit. “endless summer month”) Another name for kawaradenashiko (Dianthus chinensis or China pink) is tokonatsu, which blooms from spring to mid summer.
松風月 (Matsukaze Tsuki, lit. “pine wind month”), the month when a “comfortable pine wind” blows.
風待月 (Kazemachi Zuki, lit. “wind wait month”), the month one waits for a cool breeze.

 

Tuesday
May242016

Ippe Kanasando

   The other day, my wife and I took a sanshin (三線) lesson. Big fans of Okinawan music, it was something the two of us had been meaning to do for many, many years, but, well, kids have a way of putting those kinds of things on hold.

   If I can find the time—don't hold your breath—I will try to explain a little—the very little I know, that is—about the instrument. The shamisen (三味線), which is used to accompany kabuki or bunraku puppet plays and Japanese folk songs, has its roots in a Chinese instrument called the sānxián (三弦) that was introduced through the Ryūkyū Kingdom (modern-day Okinawa) in the 16th century. The sanshin and shamisen can be considered distant cousins, if you like. One major difference in how the two instruments are played is the "plectrum". The shamisen is strummed with a flat, fanlike bachi made of wood. The sanshin is plucked with the horn of a water buffalo. The sanshin in Amami Ōshima, just north of Okinawa, is played with a long bamboo stick.

  The song we learned was not a difficult one, but we succeeded in butchering it all the same: Ippē Kanasandō (いっぺーかなさんどー)

 

 

いゃーが するくとぅ なすくとぅや

(あなたがする事 成す事は)

The things you do, the things you make

 

わんねーいっぺーきにかかてぃ

(私はとても気がかりです)

I can never stop thinking about them.

 

かなさんどーや かなさんどー

(好きだよ〜 好きだよ〜)

I love . . . I love . . .

 

わんねーいっぺーかなさんどー

(私は、君が とても好きだよ〜)

I love you so very much.

 

 

Notes:

いゃー

 

いゃー“Iyā” and うんじゅ “Unju” mean “you” in Uchinaguchi (うちなー口), the dialect of Okinawa. In Japanese, it can be translated as anata (あなた), kimi (君), or o-mae, (お前).

 

A word similar to いゃー (汝, nanji, meaning you, thou, or thy) is やー (家, ie, meaning home, family). The younger generation, under fifty, use the two terms interchangeably.

 

For someone in a lower position (a junior, a younger person, or one’s inferior) use:

 

いゃー (Iyā)

いったー (Ittā) is the plural form

 

For someone in a higher position (a senior, an older person, or one’s superior) or people you are not familiar with use:

 

うんじゅ (Unju)

うんじゅなー (Unjunā) is the plural form

 

The meaning of unju, incidentally, is御所 (Gosho, an ancient imperial palace).

 

 

We have seen するくとぅ (suru-kutu) in an earlier post. The Okinawan dialect lacks the “o” sound, and many Japanese words that contain お (o) are pronounced as う(u). 事 (koto) becomes くとぅ (kutu).

 

 

わんね (Wanne)

Wan (わん) is a common way to refer to oneself not only in Okinawa but also in Amami Ōshima. (わー) is also fairly common.

 

私が    Wanga (わーが), used when I is the subject of a clause

私たち   Wattā (わったー), plural form of “Wan

私は    Wanya (わんや)

私は    Wannē (わんねー)

私も    Wannin (わんにん), Wānin (わーにん)

私の    Wannu (わんぬ), Wānu (わーぬ)

私には   Wangā (わんがー), Wāgā (わーがー)

 

 

いっぺー

Ippē (いっぺー) means “very, a lot, terribly”. I may be wrong, but I think ippē comes from "ippai" (いっぱい) which can mean "a lot" or "full", among other things.

 

きにかかてぃ

The てぃ(ti) ki-ni kaketi is pronounced like a “ch”

 

 

かなさんどー

Kanasandō (かなさんどー) sounds a lot like the standard Japanese word kanashii (悲しい, “sad, unhappy, pathetic”), but actually means “cute” (かわいい) or “dear, beloved, precious” (愛しい). Today’s kanashii and the Okinawan word kanasandō actually share a common etymological root.

 

Kanasandō (かなさんどー) can be interpreted to mean “I love you” (愛してるよー), “I’m crazy about you” (大好きだぞー), “I’m always thinking about you” (いつも想っているぞー). I think we have all had that kanasandō feeling some time in our lives.

 

There was a hit in 1983 called かなさんどー (Kanasandō) by Maekawa Shuken (前川守賢, 1960~). Here's a bad recording of the song performed by Maekawa:

 

 

Friday
May132016

Bad Christian Art

  Englishbooks.jp e-mailed me this morning with a recommendation for a "tracing dictionary" for kids. Curious, I clicked the link and found pretty much the same thing that I have been doing for my own sons (but not as nice to be quite honest). The "dictionary" looked handmade--in a bad way--so I checked out the publisher and learned that Beacon Hill Publishing "publishes resources for the diverse Christian community".

  Ugh.

  Now, I have nothing against Christianity, but, let me be honest here: many of them are in desperate need for some straight-talk when it comes to design and art.

  There was an article on Facebook a month or so ago that I meant to read, but didn't have the time. The title was something like "Why Christian Movies are So Painfully Bad". Yes! Yes! Yes! (Found it!)

  My working theory is that many good Christians are incentivized to not be artsy because artsy-fartsy is the purview of the Left and the Gays. I could be wrong. I often am.

  I take it that Beacon Hill is publishing "educational" material mainly for home-schoolers. I don't agree with home-schooling in general, but I must admit I am in debt to the home-schooling movement because they provide so many teaching materials online for free which I download with abandon.

  My main concern with homeschooling, though, is that it robs kids the opportunity to have to deal with people different from themselves. If you surround yourself only with fellow travelers throughout your childhood and adolescence, you may find you have difficulty dealing with society at large later on in life. I'm sure there are exceptions. There always are.

  The other problem I have with home-schooling is its half-arsed approach to education. I have met several home-schooled kids here in Japan. Most of them are the sons and daughters of Christian missionaries. While they are very nice people, really sweet, when you talk to them, you find yawning chasms in their knowledge of the world.

  Why? Because many of them did not partake in standard education, they weren't forced to learn subjects they weren't interested in, or simply weren't taught because their parents couldn't or didn't want to teach them.

  Again, there are exceptions, but those exceptions are exactly that: exceptions.

  This is getting too long. What I meant to be a joke has quickly become a sermon. Bless me Children for I have sinned.

  Anyways, seeing that crappy "tracing dictionary" has given me ideas. I'm sure I could put one together that doesn't rely as heavily on Microsoft Word clipart.

Sunday
May082016

Little Boys' Dreams

   Japanese boys were asked what they wanted to become when they grew up. Their dreams have changed considerably over the years.

Whereas the most popular occupations in 1962 were salaryman, baseball player, driver, and salesman (yuck), in 2016, they were soccer player, doctor, YouTuber (God help us), and, ugh, civil servant. Engineer came in 6th, researcher in seventh, and game creator tied for ninth.