Complacency haunts me like a warm snuggly deathbed

From Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars:

"We're like dwarves in a waldo," Frank said to him angrily. "One of those really big waldo excavators. We're inside it and supposed to be moving a mountain, and instead of using the waldo capabilities we're leaning out of a window and digging with teaspoons. And complimenting each other on the way we're taking advantage of the height."

By the way, can anyone tell me what happens in Blue Mars? I only managed to read half of Green before boredom got the better of me -- I snapped at the twenty-zillionth solemn repetition of the fact that some Martians want a full atmosphere and some only want a few kilometers' worth, and that more endless goddamn discussion on the topic must take place -- but I am kind of curious about what actually happens.

I guess he must have escaped

(Taken in Tower Records.)



I posted a while ago about a H_lk Hogan manga I bought in a convenience store. Turns out it's the greatest comic book -- no, greatest book, period -- in the history of literature. Don't ask how I got access to a scanner, but I did, and now I can share some of my favorite H_lkamania moments with you. The artist here is HARADA Kunichika (原田久仁信) and the writer is KAJIWARA Ikki (梶原一騎)*.

The man himself, slapping his ass. Those sound effects are pan pan, which is the sound of spanking, so you know I'm not lying. I am omitting context, I admit. But is any really needed?

Andre the Giant grabs Hogan by the face. Hogan looks like he is thinking about a place long ago and far away.

Hogan gets a weird face-noogie from a masked wrestler whose name I forget. "Super K" or something. But don't worry...

... before long he turns the tables and defeats Super K by calling on his magical computer, Synergy, to transform him into glamorous rock star JEM!

One of my favorites. Hogan wakes in terror from a nightmare about his rival Stan's "Western Lariat" move, which is like punching somebody except you do it with the side of your forearm. Plausible!

At one point in the story, Hogan meets this terrifying being, probably an alien, wearing a cheap, lumpy Sylvester Stall_ne apparatus. He plays along with the fake Sly and scores his legendary role as "Thunderlips" in Rocky III. Which involves...

... dressing like a pimp, except pantsless, and then coming face-to-face with his greatest fear:


* Who is more famous for writing the legendary 『巨人の星』 (Kyojin no Hoshi, "Star of the [Yomiuri] Giants"), in which alcoholism and domestic violence are romanticised while foreigners are depicted as savage brutes. Baseball-playing brutes.


Valley of the giants

Another one of Japan Tobacco's extremely indirect "smoking manners" ads:

Some people throw trash in the street.
Other people have to clean it up.

Yeah... we call that capitalism. Other people swim in vats of gold coins, or so I hear. If we're going to complain about unfairness, let's start with them. Meanwhile, I don't think any argument stronger than "Don't be a jerk" is needed against the practice of throwing cigarette butts into the street.

But I'm more disturbed by the fact that that "BAD SMOKER" on the left is throwing away a cigarette butt almost as large as he is. And then the "STREET CLEANERS" come to pick it up with a tiny little dustpan and broom. But apparently they manage! Maybe the BAD SMOKER threw the butt away many thousands of years ago and the forces of erosion wore it down to a managable size as the centuries passed.


Dictionary fancy, expensive

Artsy publishers Pie Books* have released a new dictionary called 『ぎおんご ぎたいご じしょ』, Giongo Gitaigo Jisho or "Dictionary of Onomatopoeia and Other Mimetic Words". There are a few J-J and J-E dictionaries on that topic in (and out of) print, but this is the most extravagantly illustrated one I've ever seen. Check out the thumbnail of a two-page spread at Pie's site, and note how one page is entirely taken up with whimsical graphics. It's all like that.

It's an interesting idea, and onomatopoeia is certainly an area that can benefit from non-verbal illustration too. Plus, according to the publisher, just looking at the book makes you happy. But 3,000 yen is a bit much for me, especially since I have a fairly good handle on giongo and gitaigo already. I guess I'm doomed to sadness. Shobooon.

Note that on the cover, JISHO is written with an extra ゛-- this is a cute nod to the hiragana for JI, じ.

(Tangentially related: South Korean mimesis at kimchi & me.)

* "Pie" is pronounced "Pi-e", two syllables, not "pie" as in the delicious pastry-and-filling foodstuff. They probably get mistaken for cookbook publishers all the time, though.


Globish, my ass [updated]

Language Log savages the write-up on "Globish" so that I don't have to. Although I still want to.

I did find it adorable that the guy made up the word "Globish", thereby redefining his terms such that English magically becomes less popular worldwide than French. Talk about an inferiority complex.

One good thing that did come of it all was that I found the Bible in (Ogden's) Basic English. "My God, my God, why are you turned away from me?"

Special bonus savaging: Graphic designers meet Chinese characters, pain ensues.

Send in the crabs

Today is the 820th anniversary of the Battle of Dan-no-Ura, the definitive trouncing of the Heike and killing of the emperor (he was replaced by his brother), which events cleared the way for the Shogunate.

This battle is also the source of the legend that crabs in that area are the rather less fearsome reincarnations of all those dead Heike. These crabs are called Heikegani (平家蟹), literally "Heike crabs", and Carl Sagan did a whole bit on them.

The whole "Ooh, the Virgin Mary appeared on my toast" thing is a lot less impressive when you compare it to an entire species bearing eerie faces.


Assorted stuff

I find your lack of faith... disturbing

So when I read about how the Pope has six separate e-mail addresses, each for a different language, my first thought was "Only six?" What, does the Vatican only get so many free addresses with their hosting plan? I know that those six languages probably cover the vast majority of the world's Catholics, but still. It doesn't hurt to reach out.

Then I went to the site and realised that it wasn't just a pull-down menu of languages or anything -- there are six separate sites, one in each language. So I guess I can understand why they didn't duplicate that for every language in the world.

(But why isn't Latin one of the languages they do have? If they won't use it, who will?)

It's also interesting that the Pope's name changes depending on which language you say it in, unlike regular names in the modern era (people named Juan don't usually get called John by English speakers).

In other Pope-and-language news, he's already under fire for not speaking enough Spanish. Interestingly, that article also calls English "the official world language". Don't they mean de facto, almost the opposite of official? I doubt that the French would allow a UN resolution declaring English the official language of the catering committee, let alone the entire world. (And I don't know who but the UN would even dream of claiming the authority to decide Official World Xs. Well... maybe the Vatican.)


"I made a leather bondage design."

Japanese nail artist bares all. The 3D designs are just insane, and I love this comment on the "reality" page:

It was hard to make this design. This is a temple which is called Shtefan temple (maybe bad spelling) in Vienna. Vienna is very famous for chocolate cake. So I use chocolate color. Tired... Very very tired to make this...

Just what kind of restaurant is this, anyway?

So I thought I was past the stage where the presentation of Japanese food is new and fascinating, but I have to tell you sitting down to a place laid with...

... individual tongs and shears, well, that threw me a little.

Your temperament's wrong for the priesthood

It's common wisdom among expatriates in Japan that you should "go home" for any major surgery or dental work. I don't know if it's based on actual statistically significant differences in quality, or what, but whatever -- I ain't down with that. Stand by your Japan, I say. And so when for the first time in my life I got a persistent toothache late last year, I, uh... ignored it for months, hoping it would go away. But when this shamanistic ritual proved ineffective, I took it to a Japanese dentist and hoped for the best.

Last month I went for the preliminary investigation. I had one real nasty-looking cavity, and two minor ones. You know, like Shredder, Rocksteady and Be-Bop. Today I went in to get Shredder drilled. First drilling ever. But... it wasn't so bad. Morphine eased the pain. Even the vibration and noise was bearable. Looks like all that experimental music listening (through headphones, no less) paid off!

Then she stopped and said "Hmm... hold on," and walked away. She came back with a spiral-bound book of dental diagrams. It was open to a page depicting a tooth with an evil brown abyss leading right down the root and out into the gum, where there was some sort of colony shaped like a ball of string.

"This is what your tooth is like," she said, and my final hopes died. "If you want to fix it properly, I'm going to have to drill deeper."

Yeah, like all the way down to my chest. But hey, my fault for letting it ride so long.

"So will this be a, uh..." -- and then I realised I didn't know the Japanese for "root canal". So I switched to English. "... a 'root canal'?"

She looked puzzled. "A what?"

"A root canal. Uh... you know, it's when..." But then it hit me -- I didn't even know what a root canal was. I only knew it as a punchline, shorthand for "lengthy and painful dental work". So I couldn't even explain it to her in simpler terms, unless I said something like "you know, that dental procedure that everyone hates most of all?", and that would just sound whiny. I was stuck.

"So, it's OK if I drill and get all this out?" she said.

"Yeah," I said. "Go crazy." And she did.

Later, in the waiting room waiting for my turn to pay, I tried to look up "root canal", but it wasn't in my dictionary. So when I got home I went and found this page of Japanese dental terms (hi Google), where I learned that:

  1. "Root canal" in Japanese is 根管 (konkan -- a calque, I assume).
  2. But even in English, "root canal" technically just refers to the naturally-occuring canals in the tooth's root that nerves lie within.
  3. So I really need to ask if this is a "root canal filling", which is 根管充填 (konkan juuten)
  4. But, I had guessed correctly. I am currently halfway through a root canal.


UCHIDA Shungicu appreciation corner

I love the way the cover of 『悪女な奥さん』 ("Super Charming Wife"*) combines female sexual symbols from throughout history (pouty lips, hot pants, mobile phone) and then tops it all off with a baby. Sexuality through fertility -- that takes us back to prehistory, like a thousand-pound straw that completely obliterates the camel's back.

* ... is the book's official English title, but the Japanese one literally translates as "Wicked Wife".


FUJITA Den's name

FUJITA Den (藤田田) opened the first McDonalds in Japan (in Ginza, of all places, back in 1971). Today is the first anniversary of his death, which was of course as a ludicrously wealthy and powerful man. But what interests me most is his name. (Consider this part 74 in an ongoing series in "Why Matt will never be rich".)

The family name, Fujita (藤田) is pretty common, but Den (田) as a given name is less so. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone else with that name. Plus, the double-田 effect is pretty striking. So what's the deal? Apparently his (Christian) mother chose the name because it looked like a cross over a mouth (十 + 口 = 田), which would in theory make him speak both piously and sparingly. Huh.

Geomantic Korea

Konrad at Muninn is really on a roll with the long, interesting and heavily-researched posts these days. Earlier this week he put up excerpts from the Taengniji (擇里誌 or 택리지), a "classic work on Korean geography and geomancy" from the mid-18th century. Japan doesn't come off very well.

"From the south-east of Taegu city to Tongnae are eight towns. Although the soil is rich these are not desirable places to live because of their proximity to Japan." (45, the original for this last phrase is 土雖沃, 近倭, 不可居)
"Japan has many miasmal springs which cause endemic diseases. (Original: 倭一國, 多瘴泉而有土疾)"

Note the absence of 日本, Nippon/Nihon, Japan's modern name. Instead it uses 倭, China's (and therefore Korea's, when they wrote in Chinese characters) name for Japan in the Olden Days. 倭 is the Wa in that phrase "Land of Wa" you sometimes see in translations of old Chinese texts. Opinions are divided on the subject of exactly what China meant by this 倭 -- maybe "small", maybe "far away", maybe "obedient", maybe something entirely different.

In Japanese, the character was read Yamato, which was what they called their own country, but later on they grew to dislike 倭 and started to write Yamato 大和: 和 ("peace") because it had the same sound as 倭, and 大 ("big, great") for effect. Then, just for good measure, they also invented and started using the entirely new and different name 日本.

For (a lot) more on all this, check out this page about the Gishi Wajinden (apparently notes for an upcoming book, which I for one will be buying -- if he can persuade his publishers to include the originals in there with his translations.)

Anyway, 倭 still beats the other Chinese name for Japan, 東夷 ("Eastern Barbarians").


The rain in Japain falls mainly on the grain

Just as I was thinking "shyeah, what's with all the rain this week?", the twenty-four season Cog of the Year ka-chunks forward another notch and it all makes sense.

So as of today, it's goodbye Seimei and hello 穀雨, pronounced Kokuu and literally meaning "grain rain", since the rain that falls right about now helps the grain to grow. In Japan, the three subseasons of Kokuu are:

  1. 葭始生, Yoshi Hajimete Shouzu: First reed sprouts grow
  2. 霜止出苗, Shimo Yande Nae Izu*: Frost ends, rice seedlings emerge
  3. 牡丹華, Botan Hana Saku: Peony flowers bloom
And in China, they are (I won't bother trying to include pronunciations, cause I don't know 'em):
  1. 萍始生: First duckweed sprouts grow
  2. 鳴鳩払其羽: "Calling pigeons" flap their wings
  3. 戴勝降于桑: Hoopoes descend to the mulberry trees.
Presumably, "calling pigeons" (鳴鳩) is some specific kind of bird, but I'm not sure exactly which.

Today is also the 91st anniversary of the publication of Natsume Soseki's Kokoro -- or, to be specific, the 91st anniversary of the day the Asahi Shinbun began its four-month serialisation.

* Note the old-fashioned reading of intransitive 出: nowadays it's usually deru (出る), but in the olden days it was indeed izu (出づ). The modern deru reading comes from 出づ's renyou-kei or "conjugational form", ide-. I don't know where the initial i went, but I do know that izu lives on in oide, a polite expression meaning "come here": polite prefix o + nominalised ide (with optional explicitly imperative nasai). But for the longest time I thought it was the imperative form of some mysterious verb ogu.

P.S. dasu (出す) comes from idasu.

"What I did during my summer holidays",

by one of my students, not edited in any way by me:

"I hurt a dog."

... but it's OK, folks, he only meant that he accidentally stepped on the family dog's paw.


Ainu frenzy

Last week, I read CHIRI Yukie (知里幸恵)'s collection of Ainu kamuy-yukar or "songs about gods", 『アイヌ神謡集』 (Ainu Shinyou Shuu), and man was it an interesting book.

Background: according to this page, Ainu Shinyou Shuu is the "first genuine record of Ainu chants by an Ainu". Printed in (roman character) Ainu with a Japanese translation on the facing page, it was compiled by Chiri shortly before she died at the age of 19, and published posthumously. Chiri was, in (my translation of) her own words, "born an Ainu and grew up in the Ainu language" ("アイヌに生まれアイヌ語の中に生い立った"), and according to this timeline she had been working in the field of Ainu linguistics and mythography since the age of 17, alongside giants of Ainu studies like KINDAICHI Kyousuke (金田一京助) and John BATCHELOR.

There are some words in Chiri's Ainu text that are obviously loaned from Japanese, like shirokani for silver. The Japanese word for silver is shirogane (銀 or 白金), made up of shiro (white) + kane (metal, esp. gold). This is obviously well beyond coincidence, and it ain't likely that the Ainu version was the original (unless you want to argue that Japanese borrowed the word, broke it into two parts, and then made each one a fundamental lexemes). Similarly, "gold" is konkani, and I would bet you a thousand yen it comes from Japanese kogane (黄金).

Other places where the two texts coincide are sake, as in the alcoholic drink, and pashui for "chopsticks" (hashi in Japanese). Both of these words are found all the way back to the Kojiki, the oldest surviving Japanese text*, so their exact etymology isn't easy to figure out**, but since traditional Ainu culture didn't include rice farming and chopsticks were invented in China (meaning that the Japanese speakers got them first), it seems safe to conclude that the Ainu were the borrowers in this case.

In a collection like this, though, the king of intriguing vocabulary has to be kamui, Ainu for "god" (or "totem spirit", "nature spirit", etc.), which seems suspiciously close to Japanese kami, "god". But kami is another Kojiki word, and refers to a concept all cultures have, so the question of who borrowed from whom is more difficult to answer.

According to my Nihongogen Daijiten, it has generally been argued that kami as in god (神) is etymologically linked to synonyms referring to other things that are high: 上 as in "upper" or "above" or "superior", 髪, "(scalpal) hair". If you believe this, you probably have to call kami the predecessor of kamui, if only because it's more general.

On the other hand, the ND also notes that the pronunciations of 神 and 上 are consistently distinguished in the old texts, courtesy of the 8-vowel system of Old Japanese. To be specific, the i in 上 is an A vowel, but 神's is a B vowel. (In fact, this B-vowelness is thought to be reflected in the extra u in the Ainu version.) It also points out that Japanese kami are not necessarily located "above" humans. "We have to call this one 'not yet settled', but the argument for separate origins seems stronger to us," is their conclusion.

To summarise: kami's roots remain uncertain and it follows that its relationship, if any, with kamui is also murky. But, as far as I can tell from looking through various dictionaries and webpages, the generally accepted hypothesis is that the Ainu word is borrowed from Japanese. I'm not sure why everyone assumes this -- maybe just because the Japanese-speaking community has been more powerful than the Ainu community for more than a thousand years (and -- to put it mildly -- has tended to abuse that power, unfortunately... but that's another story).

So are there any beyond-a-doubt Ainu words used by Japanese speakers? Sure, but the vast majority of them are place names in Hokkaido, the northern island to which the Ainu were gradually driven back over the years and therefore the last part of Japan to be settled by Japanese speakers. The name of the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo, probably comes from an Ainu phrase referring to a big river (either dried up or running through a plain -- exact details vary from source to source).

Most of the other Ainu words in use in Japanese tend to be names for animals and plants. (Speaking of which, bonus trivia: the fashion magazine non-no got its name from an Ainu word for "flower".)

As for the actual content of the myths -- well, I'm even less qualified to talk about Ainu mythology than I am to talk about Ainu linguistics, but, if you read Japanese, you can enjoy the whole book online (it's waaaay out of copyright). There are also parts of it online in Esperanto, of all languages. But if you prefer your reading material in English, check out the Ainu section at sacred-texts.com. I especially recommend MIURA Kiyoko's collection, which overlaps a lot with Chiri's book. (And I advise you to take Arthur Waley's [alleged] translation of Kutune Shirka, "the Ainu Epic", with an extremely large grain of salt.)

A lot of the stories revolved around the exploits of a guy called Okikirmui, who (unlike his older cousins) is "smart as a god" and indeed often delivers savage beatdowns to gods who mess with him -- beatdowns which end in the gods being assigned their animal form. "I was unpleasant to Okikirmui (or his sister), he kicked my ass, I passed out, and when I woke up I was stuck between the ears of a dead frog/otter/etc." is a very common complaint. Good times.

* Of course, some later texts, e.g. the Manyoushuu, do contain a lot of material originally composed before the Kojiki.

** Although I personally am completely convinced by the Nihongogen Daijiten's tentative linking of hashi to the verb hasamu ("to capture between two objects").


Murals in Omiya

Whizz for atomms

The pre-learning portion of term 1* is over and the school year proper has descended upon the students with a friendly but determined glint in its eye. Lessons have begun, and I have begun to teach them.

Timetabling quirks mean that I have only taught second-year classes so far, but the anecdotes are already piling up. Many of them revolve around namecards, which I have the kids write afresh each year because their class numbers and everything change. This year I decided to have the kids not only write their name (in kanji and roman characters) but also their name's meaning -- or, at least, a literal kanji-by-kanji translation of their surname; a possible reading, if not the specific original referent of the name.

For example, a student named 伊藤, Itou, can render it "Italian Wisteria" if they want to, rather than "branch of the Fujiwara clan that moved to Ise" (with embedded gloss of "Fujiwara" as "Wisteria Plain").

Of course, some of them still aren't happy. "'White Field'? That's all I get? That's so lame!" Another kid was so disappointed by his surname that he insisted on adding the meaning of his given name, which he rendered as "Fire Base".

Then there was the boy who boasted that he could also write his name in Hangul, but, when encouraged to do so, couldn't get further than 아 (a). Unable to complete it but unhappy with a rogue a on his card, he solved the problem by lassoing the 아 with a word balloon coming from the mouth of a hastily-drawn cat. But now I am haunted by the eerie idea of a cat that says "A" instead of "Meow".

Another thing I am doing this week, as a warmup, is having them all write one sentence -- just one sentence, but it has to be perfect -- in the past tense about their holidays. Most of them are transparently obvious variations on the example I give, "I went to Disneyland", but one girl came up with the mysterious, almost noirish "I watched him go out".

"You watched who go out?" I asked.

"You know," she said. "Him."

She looked like she didn't want to talk about it. I figured maybe it was some family or boyfriend thing and, since the grammar was correct and all, decided not to press it in front of everyone else. I was pretty curious, though, about what could have motivated her to write that sentence. Cry for attention? Coded message aimed at her friends?

But then after the class, as she was leaving, she confessed that it was actually just an example sentence she'd copied from the dictionary.

* Opening ceremonies, school entrance ceremonies, meeting-the-senpai ceremonies, hair and uniform checks, all-right-so-how-much-did-you-learn-in-junior-high exams, etc.


Explaining jokes makes them funnier

Walking through Omiya today, I came across these two posters advertising some preparatory school called Yoyogi Seminar. (Sorry about the glare, and the angle on the first one.)

The first one is the word 受験, "(entrance) exam", minus the 又 at the bottom of the first kanji. 又 is, in turn, one way to write the Japanese word mata*, one meaning of which is "again". So the message is, with their help, there'll be no "again" when it comes to your exam/s (because you'll pass first time).

The second one looks like a real kanji, and is indeed constructed from real radicals, but it's not a real kanji at all**.

First, note that it's made of the squished, radicalised versions of 力, chikara or "power", plus 身, mi or... let's say "self"? Then check out the sentence at the bottom: "力が身につく", "power [i.e. ability] will stick to [your] self", which is (a) a common Japanese metaphor (idiom?) for mastering skills or comprehensively learning things, and (b) how that fake kanji was made... see? 力 sticks to 身?

I told you explaining jokes made them funnier.

* But 亦 is a much cooler way to write it.

** I think. This is your cue to dig it up from the depths of Unicode, readers who know more Chinese characters than me!


A short excerpt from chapter 1 of the Hagakure, with all references to death changed to references to puppy-cuddling

What is known as the Way of the Warrior consists of fixing one's eyes on the cuddling of puppies. If a warrior has two options, he will always choose the one which will allow him to cuddle a puppy sooner. There is nothing else involved. ...
A warrior who cuddles a puppy without completing his mission has cuddled that puppy crazily, like a dog. But this is not shameful. Rather, it is a vital part of the Way.
When you think anew, every morning and every evening, on cuddling puppies, cuddling puppies -- when you become as one who is already cuddling a puppy -- then you will gain the freedom offered by the Way, live your whole life without making a mistake, and perform your duties thoroughly and well.

For more bizarre misuse of the classics, may I direct you to the Chicken Leg Romance of the Three Kingdoms over at Wyatt's blog.


A bright moon flooded in, lighting the shallow-eaved cottage to the farthest corners

I don't know why, but Edward G. Seidensticker's translation of the Tale of Genji is online. Yes -- all of it. Like LanguageHat says, "if you have a hankering to read a thousand-page classic online, here's your chance, if you can finish it before it gets yanked." (He also has a bunch of other links relating to the work.)

And, speaking of enormous books, here's a scarily comprehensive look at the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese translations of Harry Potter. The Chinese sections are by far the most interesting.

The end of an era

Morning Musume or "Momusu" is an all-girl pop group that is notable for the way it periodically purges members (with "graduation" ceremonies designed to launch solo careers) and then replenishes its ranks through auditions. We are currently in the seventh year and sixth audition "generation" of the Momusu era, and the only member left from any generation before the fourth was YAGUCHI Mari (矢口真里). She's currently 22, which means she's been doing this job since she was in her mid-teens.

And yesterday, she suddenly retired. Why?

In the April 15th issue of weekly photo magazine Friday, her "repeated sleeping-together love" (連泊愛) with hunky actor OGURI Shun (22) will be paparazzilated (激写され), and [her resignation] represents her taking responsibility for this. Yaguchi apologised to her fans by fax for disqualifying herself from the position as group leader. She has also withdrawn from Morning Musume's current countrywide tour, and will begin her solo career soon. YOSHIZAWA Hitomi (20) will succeed to the post of group leader.

Yep: no love for the Morning Musume girls, or it's curtains for them. This is a remnant of an older age of Japanese idoldom. Yaguchi sez:

"Morning Musume was everything to me. I realise now that I was cutting my own belly betraying myself as an idol [by getting involved in] this kind of trouble."

Oguri had no comment.


Seriously, police chiefs must get no respect at all

Previously, on No-sword, we noted the appointment as police-chief-for-a-day of a ball-tossing robot in Hakata. It has come to my attention that this was not an isolated incident. At about the same time...

  • ...in Kawagoe, a high school senior was appointed chief for a day. She is apparently the head of her school's pep squad, BOMBERS, which explains the cheerleaders in those photos. (The regular chief does not, presumably, get cheerled.)
  • ... in Harajuku, up-and-coming singer mica was chief for a day. I doubt that the Sanspo repoters will ever again have such a legitimate reason to use the word minisukaporisu ("miniskirt police", in katakana).
  • ... in Saitama City, the one-day police chief position was shared by two kids in elementary school, ages 10 and 11. I understand that under their leadership the Mystery of Smuggler's Cove was finally solved, but unpleasant rumours linger about the mysterious, brutal slaying of small-time conman Bugs Meanyzawa.
And it's all being done to promote a countrywide spring safety campaign.


The Witch at the End of the World

I blogged last year about NISHIJIMA Daisuke (西島大介)'s book O-son Sensou (『凹村戦争』, English title The Universal). Earlier this year he released another: Sekai no Owari no Mahoutsukai ~ça ne fait rien~ (『世界の終わりの魔法使い』, The Witch at the End of the World). And it's great.

To get a bit pretentious, The Universal used sci-fi conventions to look at individuals as part of a group, but Witch is rooted in fantasy imagery, and its focus is on the individual versus the universe itself. It introduces its concepts gradually -- so at the beginning it doesn't really seem like anything more than a fairly standard ugly-duckling, magic-vs-human-ingenuity tale -- but by the time it gets to the end, an awful lot of ontology has been flexed.

Nishijima's very recognisable drawing style is put to good effect here. His lines are simple and clear and his characters quite stylised, but they feel marvelously alive. In particular, this being a story about magic, there's a lot of flying (some of it on broomsticks) and Nishijima's clean, expressive style almost lets you feel the swooping.

But enough theorising from me! I liked the new book so much that I decided to e-mail Nishijima and see if he'd conduct an e-mail interview with me. And he very kindly said yes. So here it is.

NS: What made you decide to become a manga artist?

ND: I never felt like my work really fit in with other manga, apart from a very few exceptions, so actually I always thought that it'd be impossible for me to become a manga artist. I don't make systemised "major"-style manga, but on the other hand my work isn't exactly "underground" either, which I think makes it part of a very small minority.

NS: You have a very unique style. How did that evolve?

ND: My first job at Hayakawa Shobo, the publishers who released my first book The Universal, was as a music writer. Then at the end of the nineties, I spent about a year and a half writing the music criticism column for S-F Magazine. Meanwhile I had also begun working as an illustrator, and I realised that if I could put my writing and illustration techniques together, it'd be manga. After that realisation, the manga practically flowed from my pen.

NS: What other artists and media have been particularly influential to you?

ND: I was heavily influenced by things I came into contact with in my teens. Translated SF novels published by Hayakawa Shobo and Tokyo Sogensha. Early Hayao MIYAZAKI anime, and GAINAX's work. 8-bit game machines, and the 90s Techno Movement. I played with Lego blocks all the time as a little kid, which was another big influence, I guess.

I'm not part of the "manga elite" in the sense of being a "pure" manga artist. I've worked as a writer, video artist, illustrator, designer, all kinds of jobs in all kinds of media. I think that all of that experience comes together in my manga.

NS: Both The Universal and Witch centre on small villages, isolated from the rest of the world. Why is that?

ND: Because I think that many people -- no, almost everybody, including me -- are in situations like that. I design worlds that reflect the powerlessness of the characters.

NS: You also seem to favor child protagonists -- why?

ND: I want my work to reach the world of junior high and high school, where sensitivities are sharper.

Also, children are shorter and rounder than adults, which makes them easier to move around in the comic panels. I always give my protagonists a small head:body size ratio, so that I can have them jumping about the page.

NS: At first, Witch seems like a regular fantasy, but as you read, it turns into a deep, philosophical story. Were you planning this from the start, or did it just turn out that way as you created it?

ND: It was mostly planned out that way. Although I do wonder a little now if I made it too complicated.

I'd like to try drawing a simple, escapist manga, a completely non-argumentative story, one day, but...

NS: What's your next project?

ND: Right now my manga Điện Biên Phủ is being serialised in Kadokawa Shoten's Comic Shingenjitsu, and the first book collection will be published towards the end of August.

Điện Biên Phủ is a place in Vietnam, and the work deals with the Vietnam war between 1965 and 1973. I think it'll turn out being the first work of mine that isn't wrapped up in one volume.

As for what it's like... maybe if the Wachowski Brothers adapted a Tim O'Brien novel? Please look forward to it!

NS: Thanks!


A mini-album I am currently enjoying

Silent Flight (『サイレント・フライト』) by SANO Tomomi (サノトモミ). I never thought I'd write this, but this album is soft rock done right.

The songs were all written by keyboardist/recorder/mixer HAYASHI Yuzo, with lyrics by executive producer KANAI Midori, so OK, this isn't exactly a heart-wrenchingly personal document. But I don't think you'll care, because (a) the songs are great anyway, worldly and cosmopolitan but unapologetically sentimental where it counts, and (b) everything else sounds so lush and beautiful.

The instrumentation is pure 70s: chucka-chucka-wah-wah guitars, weedy discofied Latin percussion, funky flutes, fake handclaps, synthesiser solos... meanwhile, Sano's voice is incredible, dark and smoky but not self-consciously aiming at a "sexy" thing. Thank God she hooked up with Kanai and Hayashi instead of some trip-hop band.

Favorite track: the soaring, almost Yuming-like "Last Summer" ("Look back on those fragrant, fresh afternoons/ Being held in those sunburnt arms/ The neverending summer light").


Japanese orthography takes one for the team

Train Man (『電車男』, Densha Otoko)'s official mangafication by HARA Hidenori (原秀則) has reached the volume 1 mark.

For those not in the know, Train Man is an allegedly true* story about a guy who uses the online forum 2channel to win the heart of a girl he meets on the train. There's a pretty good summary here, and you can still read it in its original format (if you speak both Japanese and Otaku). There are a few comics inspired by Train Man being published right now but as far as I know Hara's is the only one officially and directly (i.e. royalties-payingly) based on the original posts themselves.

The point of interest to me as an amateur linguist is that Hara goes to unusual extremes to replicate the posts' original style. Of course the ASCII art is there, the キタ━━━(゚∀゚)━━━!!s and the ( ・ω・)s, but there are also panels like this one, where the nervous Train Man meets the girl, Hermes, for the second time:

 あ…… / いえ 全然大丈…jぽgんf……… んご…

[flustered noises] / No, no, it's totally oka--... jpognf... [gulp]

(The original was 「いえいえ、全然大丈jぽjんf;、」」, meaning basically the same thing.)

"jぽgんf" is the money cluster here. Roman characters do pop up in Japanese sometimes, but normally only for acronyms and initials (in which case they're usually capital letters, too). No, jぽgんf is the result of mashing the keyboard while in Japanese input mode and ending up with the string "jpognf". The program tries to interpret this as romaji input and convert it into Japanese characters, but "jpognf", being random, is not phonetically acceptable. So it takes the parts that are acceptable, like "po" (= ぽ) and "n" (= ん) and leaves the rest as romaji.

So, in the context of a bulletin board post, it makes perfect sense to represent a mid-sentence clam-up with a half-kanafied keyboard mash like this. It conveys physical awkwardness during the act of typing, and is easily parsed as a meta-metaphor for physical awkwardness during the experience being typed about. But in the context of an official, published, one-way "work" like a book (even a comic book), I think most editors would reject it as too third-wall-breaking.

This manga is obviously an exception since that interactive BBS flavour is the whole point. But note that even here an editor has stepped in, changing "jぽjんf;、" to "jぽgんf". I can only guess that s/he felt there were too many js, and that ";、" would look untidily like "…" when verticalised.

One particular lost-for-words keyboard mash you see a lot on the Japanese internet is all or part of this sequence:


... which is what you get when you walk from left to right along the Q and A rows of the keyboard: "q a w s e d ...".

* I'm tired of qualifying every single statement about the whole thing, so for the purposes of this post let's just pretend it was indeed all true.

Today is Guts Pose Day

"Guts pose" (ガッツポーズ) is the Japanese word for... something I don't think there's a universally-recognised phrase for in English. "Victory pose"? "Triumphant raising of fist or fists"? (JeKai notes that the fist-pump is a common English equivalent, in spirit if not in specific muscle groups activated.*)

I don't know if there's a specific linguistic term for "word that is made of loanwords, but is not itself a recognised lexical item in the language that those individual loanwords were loaned from", but that's what "guts pose" is. It was allegedly coined to celebrate the specific guts of one Guts ISHIMATSU, a pro boxer who defeated the then-WBC lightweight champion, Rodolpho GONZALEZ, on this day in 1974. A reporter dubbed Ishimatsu's subsequent arm-raising exuberance a "guts pose", and a word was born.

That's the most common story, anyway. Wikipedia notes that the Japanese term "guts pose" may actually come from 1960s bowling slang and/or an early-70s magazine called Guts Bowling. Still, it seems likely that Ishimatsu and his media presence helped popularise the term, and Guts Pose Day (ガッツポーズの日) itself is, of course, directly traceable to his bout with Gonzalez.

* JeKai actually has a lot of interesting stuff, as you'd expect from an open dictionary with a stated goal of depth rather than breadth. There's even an entry about the mysterious "PART ALTERNATION MARK" at Unicode 303D which we discussed in comments a few weeks ago. Apparently it's called 庵点, ioriten = "hermitage mark", because it looks like the sloping roof of a traditional iori hermit cottage.


Yet another Japanese website-turned-book

Submitted for your approval: 万大 (YOROZU Hajime)'s 『通勤電車で座る技術』 (Tsuukin Densha de Suwaru Gijutsu). The title translates as "Techniques for Sitting Down on Commuter Trains", and that's exactly what's in here, apparently all collected from the archives of the mail magazine of the same name. (There's a blog too, but it mostly seems to be about the book itself these days.)

When I first saw it in the store, my inner Comic Book Guy groaned: oh, another collection of lame jokes about the irritations of modern life. Worst book ever. But, as usual, he was wrong. This book is serious and satisfying. Also, really well designed. It's worth buying for the graphics alone: charts, scales, and glorious 3D models of various trainal situations.

The techniques range from the very obvious -- "get your ticket out well before you arrive at the gate", "get a headstart on the others by taking the stairs instead of the escalator" -- to the more subtle: "if you're a man and you have to stand and wait for someone to get off before you can sit, don't wait by a seat with a lot of women, because since they are smaller than you the seat space they leave will probably be less than you would prefer". I had already figured some of them out, but not all, and I certainly hadn't developed the network of theory around them that this book has.

I found myself warming to Yorozu more and more as I read on. He isn't aiming for the cheap laughs, the tired jokes about how aggressive those old ladies can be or how pretending to be crazy can get you more personal space. He just wants commuting to be fun, so he approaches it as a huge, ever-changing puzzle rather than a hellish ordeal.

Indeed, as part of the "fun" thing, he specifically speaks out against pushiness and aggressive behaviour. Getting a seat by being more observant than the next guy is rewarding, but getting one by being more obnoxious is not. (The final chapter is even called "Letting others sit too is the ultimate technique!")

Also, although the motivation to read a book like this is ultimately self-centred, applying these techniques would mean paying a lot more active attention to your environment than people generally do. This involvement seems more important to him than the simple reward of sitting. I could draw an analogy to zen here, but I won't.

I also have to give it up for the best idea in here, "Sit Down Poker", in which you think of poker-hand-style names for the combination of people on the seat with you. For example, on a seven-person seat, seven men is "the Seven Samurai"; one man and six women is a "harem" ("but I have to admit, I've never been dealt this hand"); if everyone on the seat is bald, it's a royal flush.


I've viewed all the blossomses I can, I can'ts view no more

Two days of hanami in a row. I think my liver is failing.

Here's a poem by OKAMOTO Kanoko about sakura (from a whole big collection of them), translated fairly freely (and, perhaps appropriately given the freeness, kind of Jeffersonianly):

Spring in the land of the rising sun
and Nature's God has given my garden
a glorious carpet of sakura petals

It is probably boorish of my to try to verbalise this, but I'm going to go for it anyway: for all I like to kid about the actual flowers being secondary to the drinking and companionship at hanami, the falling petals are crucial to creating the atmosphere. I think when the Sakura, Sakura song says 霞か雲か, "like a mist or like a cloud", what it is getting at is the extreme three-dimensionality of the event.

It's not just humans on the ground looking up at flowers on trees. Everything between the ground and the highest branches is one huge three-dimensional happening, given an identity distinct from the rest of the three-dimensional world by virtue of being full of cherry blossoms.

Miz Okamoto, your thoughts?

The sakura at the asylum ten years ago
The sakura at the asylum that I saw when I was crazy
Pure red sakura, pure black sakura

Decades ahead of The Sylvia, too.


When the evenings turn golden

A tanuki came into our school yesterday. Seriously. Right up to the second floor.

If my ancestors were Chinese, they would no doubt be totally mad at me right now for forgotting to blog the start of 清明, Seimei or "Pure Brightness", the calendar section that comes after Shunbun. It's known as "Pure Brightness" because of the quality of the light and the quantity of the blossoms.

The Chinese version of Seimei, Qingming, apparently starts with a festival known in English as Tomb-Sweeping Day. In Japan, though, there's no tomb-sweeping -- just flower-viewing! Which is code for "drinking near flowers".

As is usual in such matters, Seimei divides into three subseasons:

  • 玄鳥至 -- Genchou Itaru, "Swallows ["mysterious birds"] arrive", i.e. back from down south where they spent the winter eating grits
  • 鴻雁北 -- Kougan Kitasu, "Wild geese go north"
  • 虹始見 -- Niji Hajimete Arawaru, "Rainbows are seen for the first time"

In the Chinese tradition, though, the first one is called 桐始華, which means "The paulownia begins to flower", and the second one is apparently 田鼠化為鶉, which seems to mean "voles turn into quails". Of course they do, of course they do.

You didn't believe me about the tanuki, did you? Today is also Hachiko Day. Hachiko was a dog who just didn't know when to quit: he waited for his master at Shibuya station every day, even after his master died -- although, as Wikipedia points out, it probably didn't hurt his faithfulness any that people would give him food there.

Then they erected a statue of him (then melted it down for the war effort, then erected another later) so that he can wait there forever. Forever and ever and ever. Seriously -- doesn't that seem kind of sad? At least erect a statue of his master too or something.

Ironically, the Hachiko statue is such a popular place to meet that it's no longer effective as a meeting place. The crowd there is so thick that even after you arrive you have to call your friends and ask exactly where in the Hachiko throng they are.

No, my friends, far better to meet at the terrifying head around the corner, known as the Shibuya Moyai-zou, which is half-named after the moai monuments on Easter island and half-named after a word in Niijima dialect, moyai, meaning "to work together". (The statue itself was a gift from Niijima to Tokyo commemorating 100 years of being under Tokyo's administrative supervision.)

Incidentally, the English Wikipedia entry for Niijima is, at present, the cutest Wikipedia entry ever, and I am going to preserve it here for posterity because no doubt some hard-hearted person will eventually replace it with a more standard encyclopedia-style version.

Niijima (新島) is 25km² in area. Its population is 3000. Its takes about 2 hours by Jet boat and 9 hours by ship from Tokyo. Niijima has many very, very beautiful beaches. We can surf on Habushi beach, which is famous for its big waves and white sand. Niijima specialties are a dried fish called kusaya, milk senbei and a plant called ashitaba. There are 3 hot springs on Niijima. We recommend the outdoor hot spring. It's free and open 24 hours. The water here is salty because it wells out from the sea. When you use this hot spring, you must wear a swimsuit. Koga stone is another specialty on Niijima. We can make glass from it. Niijima glass is a transparent green colour. We can make Moyai art, for example, animal art, from Koga stone. There is a zoo of animal art on Niijima. Niijima museum shows the history of the island. We can see a big boat, an old house and we can watch a video about how to make kusaya there. There is also a bowling alley, table tennis and a free bath on Niijima. Many ebine flowers are planted in Ebine park. Ebine is a pink or purple lily. The park is open in early spring. Niijima farm has 2 horses, many pigs, rabbits and chickens. We can ride on the horses. Please come to Niijima because the sea is beautiful, you can have a good time and there are many wonderful things to do.
(Written by Niijima High School juniors, February 2005).


Protect the innocent

"Robot cop heads Hakata police station for a day".

The battery-powered T63 Artemis robot stands 157 cm, has two arms and can move independently. It has light and sound sensors, and can throw colored balls at anyone it deems to be acting suspiciously.
"... anyone it deems to be acting suspiciously?"

Here's another nice photo of the robot and some kids.

She likes it rough

In an attempt to avoid being typecast, UETO Aya -- whose rise to superfame as an actor was fuelled at least in part by her lead role in TV Asahi's drama version of tennis manga 『エースをねらえ!』 ("Aim for the Ace") -- has accepted the lead role in TV Asahi's drama version of volleyball manga 『アタックNo.1』 ("Attack No. 1").

But seriously, folks, there's a big difference. Her character in "Ace" had short hair, but in "Attack" it's slightly longer and often held back with a ribbon.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Volleyball's a tough sport! There's jumping and punching and everything! Doesn't that hurt, Miz Ueto?

"Sometimes the ball hits my face, and my shoulders and back are covered in bruises from rolling receives. Getting bruised is fun!"

Hooo-kay! I'm also digging the use of 実弾 (jitsudan, or "live ammunition") for "ball". Good old Ueto Aya.

In another desperate attempt to assert my manliness after posting a folk tale about a terrifying snake and a single big tree that mysteriously burns down, I also present a news story and photo gallery dealing with the announcement that KUDOU Shizuka and MIZUKI Arisa will star in the commercials for Sapporo Slims, a diet beer to be released in May.


Folk tale

Meanwhile, this bus stop bench is associated with a legend about a sumo wrestler coming to town.
A certain Association in my town here put out a big, fat book of local folk tales. Sadly, most of them are lame or unoriginal, in the way that most folk tales are. I don't claim that this one is non-lame or original, but I found it slightly haunting. So let's all psychoanalyse me after reading my retelling of...

The Cedar and the Snake

East of S_____ Elementary School, there's a part of town that they used to call "Snake Field". Right in the middle of "Snake Field" there was single big cedar tree. Since there was nothing else around but flat fields and rice paddies, they say that it looked like a king surveying his domain.

But there was a sad story behind this tree and "Snake Field", and this is how it went.

Long ago, longer than anyone remembers, there was a very sensible and down-to-earth girl who lived in those parts. She was out cutting grass one day when a snake appeared.

She was not a foolish girl, so if this had been a normal snake she would have barely even noticed it -- but this snake had two heads. Even she jumped back in fright at the sight of it.

But then the snake raised its heads and began to slither towards her. It didn't wriggle from side to side, it wriggled up and down, and its red tongues kept flicking in and out like some kind of devil.

The girl ran for her life until she got home. But that very evening she caught a mysterious fever, and she died only a few days later.

They started calling that place "Snake Field" after that, and no-one dared go near it. Still, someone -- who knows who? -- did go out and plant that cedar there, as a memorial to that poor girl. The cedar grew as the years passed, and in fact this story has probably only survived because it was always there to remind people.

My grandmother told me that it finally burnt down at the beginning of the Taisho Emperor's reign.

Irregular Weekly Four 20: 杓子定規

One of my favourite Japanese expressions is 猫も杓子も, neko mo shakushi mo, which literally means "even the cat and the ladle" and is kind of a Japanese equivalent of "every Tom, Dick and Harry" (but it can also be used for non-human and even inanimate objects). Some people claim it comes from 禰子も釈子も, meaning "both the Shinto disciples and the disciples of Shakyamuni", i.e. "folks of every faith" = "everyone". I've also heard the claim that it comes from 女子も弱子も ("even women and little/weak children").

But all that? Irrelevant! Because we're here to talk about...

shaku shi jou gi
ladle ruler

Trying to judge or influence the direction of things based on fundamentally unsuitable standards, like using a ladle as a ruler.

And now, for absolutely no reason, a picture of a tree blooming like crazy.

Our last line of defence against the three-toed sloth. And stalactites

May I proudly present the LAND WALKER, a real working mech! If by "working" you mean "capable of shuffling along a flat surface at about one mile per hour".

As Alice points out, the video is extremely boring. But even bipedal mech engineering has to start somewhere.


All you need is love

Spotted in Loft the other day:

The Yes/No pillow. 「NOと言える日本人になろう!!!」 = "Let's become Japanese people who can say no!" Or at least, people whose pillows can.

The bottom of the sign attributes this message to the 夫婦生活向上委員会, "Committee for the Improvement of Married Life".


Further adventures in wrongmilk

MilQ was weird, but at least it was based on something humans are supposed to drink (while infants, anyway). This is just completely unnatural: コーラ乳酸菌飲料, the Cola Lactic-Acid Bacilli Drink. Yes: cola-flavored milk.

Mind you, I used to have a friend who would mix cola and milk, saying that it was like a melted spider (or "float" if you're American). That wasn't so bad, actually, especially compared to his other favorite beverage, the "drink that goes fart". We won't even get into that. But this Cola Milk is far worse. It's much sweeter, and it has no carbonation to take the edge off that -- plus, unfortunately, my brain long ago became incapable uncarbonated cola drinks as anything other than suspiciously aged carbonated cola drinks.

And then there's the milkiness. But not quite enough of it. It never makes you think "milk". It makes you think "nightmarish, neverending portion of Yakult".

Oh man. Not recommended.

Three days late, in a language most people don't speak

So, y'all, Irem enjoys a well-deserved reputation as the masters of game industry April Fool's jokes. They also archive them at their CG gallery. In years past we had:

  1. Aire-mu, the ball-shaped "Japanese traditional sweets" that contain "Force", and if you don't get it yet you clearly never ground your synapses down against R-Type.
  2. Dokidoki Suidoken, a parody of the dating-sim genre with an incredible 108 datable characters listed.
  3. The "Zettai Zetsumei Toshi" bar, an item from that post-earthquake survival game 『絶体絶命都市』. This was presumably funnier to people who had actually played the game.
  4. The R-9. More R-Type humor.
  5. Irem Burger -- meh. I guess this page is pretty funny.

So what about this year? It's not in their gallery yet, but Andrew at Yukihime is translating the interesting bits (leaving me free! FREE! to focus on 100-year-old novels), and also hosting a mirror of the original site. Man, I want that "Stick".

But this was even better: Sega's joke was the announcement of the "Game Gear 50"! That's right, fifty screens! Nintendo won't even know what hit 'em.

Today is Anpan Day!

Anpan is a delicious snack consisting of a regular ol' bun (the pan) filled with red bean paste jam (the an). According to this long, illustrated history of Anpan Day, KIMURA Yasubei (who apparently looked like Santa Claus) and his son Eisaburou presented anpan, which they had recently invented, to the Meiji Emperor on this day in 1875 when he came down for flower-viewing at the Mito clan shimoyashiki, which I think eventually got swallowed up into Sumida Park.


Please let them release MilQ2 next year

MilQ (pronounced "Milkyuu") is a new drink from Calpis which draws its inspiration from human breast milk.

The press release here lays down the three rules of MilQ:

  1. 「MiLQ」は、良質な栄養源である母乳をヒントにした新しい乳性飲料です。
    (You do not talk about... sorry. It's really: MilQ is a new milk-type drink in the design of which human milk -- which is highly nutritious -- was used as a "hint".)
  2. 「MiLQ」は、カラダにおいしくやさしく栄養補給ができます。
    (MilQ can deliciously and easily supply one's body with nutrients.)
  3. 「MiLQ」は、ほどよい甘さにさわやかな後味が楽しめます。
    (MilQ allows one to enjoy ideal sweetness followed by a fresh aftertaste.)

They're very insistent about that "hint" thing, presumably to make it clear that they don't use actual human milk. (I should maybe mention that Japanese hinto, although obviously a borrowing of English "hint", can mean something closer to "suggestion" depending on context.)

That press release also tells us that the Q is for Quality ("among other things").

I tried some MilQ myself and it actually tastes pretty good. Which means... but no. Let's not even start down that road.


Irregular Weekly Four 19: 天下太平, 天下無双, 天下一品

Remember in Hero when everyone was writing 天下 ("[All that is] under heaven") all over the place, and it meant that it was OK to unify China by any means necessary? There are actually a bunch of four-character compounds that start with 天下, too. Here are a few:

ten ka tai hei
heaven under broad peace

You can also write this 天下泰平, if for example you get paid by the brushstroke. It describes what's supposed to happen if everyone -- but especially the Emperor -- is sufficiently virtuous, but nowadays you can also use it to just describe general peace and happiness.

ten ka mu sou
heaven under no twin

Hey, it's the same 無双 as in 古今無双! And this compound means basically the same thing.

ten ka ip pin
heaven under one item

Something so great, nothing else under heaven compares to it. This one, people actually use, but they seem to mostly use it to describe food.

Kao, meet te no hira

I can't find any English news stories reporting this yet, so unless you can read this Japanese news story (with pictures) you're just going to have to take my word for it: a freelance clown calling himself ちょっと待ったおじさん ("Uncle Wait-a-Minute!"), who has been waging a campaign in Osaka against 世の中の悪 ("(the) evil/s in/of the world") with fliers and stickers featuring pictures of his shady-ass self, has been arrested and charged with child molestation.

Again, Japanese-only, but I found this fairly amusing page in which one baffled resident of the area has collected pictures of those fliers and stickers in an effort to figure out what's going on (obviously, this all happened before the recent arrest.)

Language note for language nerds: Uncle Wait-a-Minute's name (Chotto Matta Ojisan) is one of those peculiar "looks like past tense, but is actually imperative mood" -ta forms.