Journal

 

Friday
Nov252016

Inhaling Water

I am often asked why I came to Japan. I usually reply: “It’s a long story." Here's part of that story.

"Inhaling Water", a prequel to A Woman's Nails, offers a look into how one might forsake the Devil ye know for one ye don't.

Thursday
Nov242016

Curse of the Fire Horse

Painting by Uemura Shōen (1918)

Like me, Haruka was born in 1966. According the Chinese calendar, this was a once-in-six decades Year of the Horse, called the Hinoe Uma, or Fire Horse.[1] Superstition had it that people born in this year have “bad personalities” . . .

Those Chinese have certainly got your number!

Listen. The superstition is even less flattering for women born in that year: the Japanese believe that women born in the Year of the Fire Horse are so headstrong that they will end up driving their husbands to an early grave, a concern widespread enough that the birth rate actually plummeted in Japan in 1966.[2] Haruka used to tell me that thanks to the superstition, it was a breeze getting into the schools of her choice. There was never much competition. The same was true when she started job-hunting: no shortage of work for a cute, young woman with big tits. If only I . . .

Had large breasts?

If only I had been a Japanese girl born in 1966. Anyways, whether you want to believe it or not, Haruka fit that stereotypical image of the Fire Horse perfectly—stubborn, overbearing, selfish. I often joked that sooner or later she was going to kill me. So, it wasn’t all that surprising to me that she would one day decide she was going to take it easy and become “a housewife”. What did surprise me, though, was when she told me she was going to visit Mexico.

 


[1] Hinoe Uma (丙午、ひのえうま). In addition to the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar there are five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—bringing the total number of years in the Chinese calendar to sixty (12 animals x 5 elements = 60 years). Those of you familiar with Asian cultures may have heard that the sixtieth birthday is a special one. It signifies the completion of the cycle and a rebirth of sorts. In Japanese, where a baby is called akachan (赤ちゃん, lit. “Little Red”), those who become sixty are usually presented with something red.

   In the 20th century, 1906 and 1966 were Hinoe-Uma years. According to the theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements, Hinoe and Uma are characterized as being on the Yin side of Fire. It was commonly believed that more fires occurred in those years than in other years. There was also a widespread belief that women born in Hinoe Uma year were unyielding, and henpecked their husbands to death. For more, go here.

[2] The number of births dropped some 25% in 1966. The figure was so low that it was not matched again until 1989 when the effects of Japan’s dwindling birthrate started to be felt. 50.9% of the children born in 1966 were, like Haruka, the first son or daughter, the highest rate ever. For more, go here.

Wednesday
Nov022016

Ishiganto

  Walking down a cobbled slope in the Kinjō-chō neighborhood just south of Shuri Castle in Naha, Okinawa, I spotted a sign usually overlooked by tourists who can't read kanji: 敢當

  Ishigantō are ornamental tablets or engravings placed near or in buildings and other structures to exorcise or ward off evil spirits. Shí gǎn dāng, as they are called in Mandarin Chinese, are, according to Mr. Wiki, "often associated with Mount Tai [north of the city of Tai'an in Shandong province] and are often placed on street intersections or three-way junctions, especiallyin the crossing."

  Ishigantō were introduced to the Ryūkyū Kingdom from China and can be found throughout Okinawa Prefecture, where they are called Ishigantō or Ishigandō and to some extent in Kagoshima Prefecture, where they are called Sekkantō.

Wednesday
Oct122016

My Darling

  This morning, I came across the results of a survey conducted by the Fujiya Company, maker of Milky, a kind of milk-based taffy which the company has been selling for over sixty-five years.
  According to Fujiya’s survey the most common ways that Japanese women without children call their husband are:

By their name with -kun added, 31%
By a nickname, 29%
By their name without -kun or -san added, 14%
Another 11% call their husbands “o-Tō-san” (father) or “Papa
The remaining 15% call their husbands in other ways
 
  Once children are born, things change considerably:
    

The most popular way by far to call one’s husband is “o-Tō-san” (father) or “Papa”, at 50%.
The next most common way is by their name with -kun added, 18%.
Another 9% call their husbands by their given name, but without -kun or -san.
 14% call their man by a nickname.
And the remaining 9% call him in other ways.
  I conducted a quick survey of my own on 16 first year students between the ages of 18 and 24. The results were as follows:
  I have written in the past about the different ways Japanese men refer to their wives. I will try to write about how they call their wives in the coming days and post it below. 
Now, how do men call their wives in Japan?


If they haven’t got kids, 46% call their wife by her first name.
19% by her name plus -chan.
Another 19% by her nickname.
6% of “men” call their wife o-kā-san or mama (Ew)
10% in another way.
  When children come into the picture, things change as we saw above.
39% now call their wife o-kā-san or mama
 22% by her first name alone
13% by her name plus -chan
 9% by a nickname
17% in another way
  One reason for the change is that once a child is born, everyone’s role in the family shifts, from wife to mother, from father to grandfather, and so on. People are often called by a name reflecting their relationship to the child. This is especially true the first or an older child is a boy. He will be called o-nī-chan or o-nī-san even by his parents. A wife will call her husband o-tō-san or papa, her own parents o-bā-chan (Grandma) and o-jī-chan (Grandpa).
  Although we use our first names in our family—my younger son seldom if ever calls his brother o-nī-chan (“big brother”)—my wife now calls her own mother Grandma.
  Cosmetics maker Pola looked into this phenomenon and its unexpected, and perhaps unwanted, consequences.

 

Sunday
Oct022016

Deciphering the Lanterns of Kyoto

  The red lanterns hanging from the eves of machiya in Gion and neighboring areas of Kyōto indicate the five hanamachi (花街, lit. “flower town”) or geiko communities containing o-kiya (置き屋, geisha houses) and o-chaya (お茶屋, teahouses).

   Centurally located Gion Kōbu, through which the main thoroughfare Hanami Kōji Dōri runs, has red lanterns with a white kushi dangō design, i.e. linked circles in a horizontal line around middle of the lantern. The lanterns of Kami-Shichiken (上七軒), the oldest of Kyōto’s hanamachi and located near Kitano Tenmangū shrine in the northwestern part of the city, are the inverse: linked red circles on a white background. Across the Kamo River in Pontochō, the lanterns feature two red birds, and so on.

Gion Kōbu 祇園甲部

Gion Higashi 祇園東

 

Miyakawa-chō 宮川町

Ponto-chō 先斗町

Kami-Shichiken 上七軒

 


Hanamachi Map

Wednesday
Aug312016

Losing myself in Translation

For the past several weeks I have been translating the university's website into English. It's a thankless task and I slowly losing my mind over it.

One thing people who don't understand or read Japanese probably can't appreciate is how different the syntax of the two languages is. Where English is, of course, Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), Japanese is SOV, but more often than not O-V, with the subject "understood" from context (though not always). Independent clauses or descriptive phrases usually come afterwards in English ("the house across the street", "the man I work with"). In Japanese, they come first ("the street across the house"; "I with work the man"). Cause or reason is usually given first in Japanese. ("Because it is going to rain, I'll take an umbrella.") In English, the result or consequence is emphasized. ("I'll take an umbrella because it's going to rain.")

Anyways, check the following out:

 

 

Sample of Original Japanese text

「子ども発達学科は、子ども学の学問体系の元、キリスト教の教えに基づく幅広い教養と心理学をベースとした子ども発達の理解・人間理解によって保育技術や教育技術を習得することによって、子どもと豊かに接し援助することのできる幼稚園教諭・保育士・小学校教諭の育成を目指します。」

 

 

 

English written in Japanese Word Order

 

The Childhood Development department the study of children learning system of learning of originating Christianity of teaching upon based a wide learning and psychology base as child development of understanding human understanding through nursery technique and or education technique the acquisition of which through children abundantly contact and support can kindergarten teachers daycare workers and elementary school teachers of cultivation (we) aim.

 

 

Rough, direct translation:

 

The Childhood Development department . . . we aim to train/cultivate/educate kindergarten, nursery school and elementary school teachers . . . who can come into contact with and support/assist/attend to/give abundant and loving care to children by/through the acquisition/mastery of nursery school and educational technique/skills/arts by understanding child development and understanding humans with a broad education originating in the system of learning of the study of children and based on the teachings of Christ/Christianity and psychology as its base.

 

 

Original Japanese text

 

「子ども発達学科は、子ども学の学問体系の元、キリスト教の教えに基づく幅広い教養と心理学をベースとした子ども発達の理解・人間理解によって保育技術や教育技術を習得することによって、子どもと豊かに接し援助することのできる幼稚園教諭・保育士・小学校教諭の育成を目指します。」

 

 

Japanese rewritten in English Word Order

 

子ども発達学科は . . . 目指します  . . . 育成を . . . 幼稚園教諭・保育士・小学校教諭 . . .  できる . . .  豊かに接し援助することの . . . 子どもと . . . によって . . .  習得すること . . .  保育技術や教育技術を . . . によって  . . .  理解 . . .

子ども発達の . . . 人間 . . . 幅広い教養 . . . に基づく . . . 元 . . . 体系 . . . の学問 . . . 子ども学 . . . に . . .  教え. . . の . . .キリスト教 . . . と . . . 心理学 . . . とした . . . ベース.

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