It can't be that bad

The song Yoseba ii no ni ("I should just let it go"), by Toshi-Ito and Happy & Blue, has a chorus that goes like this:

馬鹿ね 馬鹿ね よせばいいのに
駄目な駄目な 本当に駄目な
いつまでたっても 駄目なわたしね
Stupid, right? Stupid. I should just let it go.
Worthless, worthless, truly worthless,
Forever worthless -- that's me.

The entire song is told from a female perspective but sung by a man, with an entire all-male chorus joining in for each repetition of "Forever worthless -- that's me". It's like the 60s urban folk boom gone horribly wrong.

I love it, of course.


And look how angry he is at himself

"Even I, a French person, came to love English!" says Napoleon.

I believe this was an ad for Misuzu Gakuen.

I got tagged

(But I deleted some where my answers were too boring.)

Four jobs I've had:

  1. Janitor at below minimum wage
  2. Box-mover at a McDonalds that had to tone down its storefront to get permission to open in the banky part of town
  3. Checkout guy at a supermarket that catered to rich folks living in the serviced apartments above
  4. Night shift at a huge secondhand bookstore -- I got paid to sit and read, and what I couldn't read in my working hours I could buy at a discount and read on the way home

Four places I have lived:

  1. Across the road from Melbourne General Cemetery
  2. Shuttling back and forth between an internet cafe and Yoyogi Park, for three days
  3. Upstate New York in winter
  4. By a freeway in Yokohama, in an apartment overlooking a cracked concrete area where young mothers took their kids to play when it wasn't too hot

Four TV shows I love to watch:

  1. Futurama
  2. Gilmore Girls
  3. The Rules of Misfortune -- Red Woman, Black Woman
  4. Fantasy Bedtime Hour

Four of my favorite dishes:

  1. Eel
  2. Dumplings from Camy
  3. Curry rice from Joytime
  4. Another eel

Four places I'd rather be right now:

I can honestly say that I'm pretty happy where I am. Maybe "a nicer apartment", but not if I have to pay for it.

Uh, I mean, I wish for world peace!

Four people to do this next:

  1. Will
  2. Roy
  3. Pete
  4. Justin

However, I challenge them to respond as Bizarro versions of themselves.


How capitalized is the "i" in ISHIHARA Satomi's designation as It Girl right now?

So capitalized that she has appeared in Playboy and Sabra over the past month or so without even stripping down to a bathing suit, let alone underwear. Or even bothering to disguise her contempt!

Man, I don't know what I did, but I sure feel bad about it.

I suppose it's possible she's just tired of smiling after all that work on Ns' Aoi, the heartwarming serial about a nurse with so many vowels in her given name that she can't spare any to use in the word "Nurse", for which "Ns'" is short, if you hadn't guessed. (And how it's pronounced, too, according to the furigana, so my brief excitement over the prospect of a title parallel to "Ms" but exclusively for nurses was sadly misplaced.)

Hey, look, there's English on that page!

Profit priority! Doctor preferential treatment!
Hospital "Daily life" which doesn't change.
Nurse's "Real" is blocked here.

Google suggests that that last line is an (overly) direct translation of ここには、ナースの「リアル」が詰まってる! "Real" is being used as a noun, having snuck in the back way after earlier adoption as a na adjective, and "blocked" is as in a nose or a sink. But I think it's supposed to be a positive thing: a story positively crammed with nurse's "real"!

Anyway, I guess that explains the photo above. You'd be in a bad mood too if you had a stuffy real.


And my copy apparently once belonged to Donald Richie

Although I would usually grant a book entitled A Barbarian in Asia a cursory eye-roll at best, since it was written more than 50 years ago I decided to forgive the cliche and give it a try. Here is a representative passage:

The Hindu does not kill the cow. No, evidently, but everywhere you will see cows eating old newspapers. Do you believe that the cow is naturally partial to old newspapers? This would be saying you don't know the cow. She likes green grass, which is good to crop, and, in a pinch, vegetables. Do you believe that the Hindu is ignorant in the matter of the cow's tastes? Come, come! After five thousand years of living together! Only he is hard as leather, and that is that.

By my count, we have a provocatively but entertainingly worded observation, a lack of cultural background that would put that observation into perspective, and then a random insult directed at "the Hindu" (the men, at least.)

Insults are a running theme. Michaux calls Japanese actors "the most false, the most insupportable of all Asia, and of Europe (Korean women singers included)", for example. Note the unnecessary sideswipe at Korea. Of course, who would expect anything but rudeness from a Frenchman? Kidding, kidding. In fact, Michaux finds time to sling barbs at his own countrymen, too, dismissing all French furniture produced after the seventeenth century, for example, as stupid and pretentious. He's adopting a standard literary bad boy persona, in other words. As a Swift devotee, I find this kind of self-conscious pseudomisanthropy "cute" rather than "shocking" -- B FOR EFFORT BUT MUST TRY HARDER TO LOATHE SELF -- but I can see someone getting horribly offended by any number of pages here.

A stream of witty, well-wrought observations muddied with overgeneralisation, wilful point-missing, and all-purpose unpleasantness, that's what this book is. But I must admit that reading the words "Confucius: the Edison of morality" made me feel as though my reading time had not been wasted.



I was aware of China's long tradition of internationalized pirate crews (so that the Chinese can curse "Japanese pirates", the Japanese can curse "Chinese pirates", and the Koreans can... uh... invent the world's best writing system), but I was not expecting to see this in Shounen Saiyuuki (freely, "Kid Monkey"):

Popeye! What are you doing working for Gold Horn and Silver Horn (pictured, far left)?!

But wait -- is that really Popeye? Maybe it's just a coincide--

No, I guess that's him all right. (And that's Gold Horn behind him.)

Shounen Saiyuuki (『少年西遊記』), by the way, was a 1950s kid-targeting manga version of Journey to the West by SUGIURA Shigeru (杉浦茂), now available as a three-volume Kawade Bunko reprint.

(P.S. Re the title of this post -- I know a persimmon isn't the same thing as a yam, but I did my best with what I had.)


They can't do that! The sun is Japan's thing!

China to build world's first "artificial sun" experimental device.

A full superconducting experimental Tokamak fusion device, which aims to generate infinite, clean nuclear-fusion-based energy, will be built in March or April in Hefei, capital city of east China's Anhui Province.
Experiments with the advanced new device will start in July or August. If the experiments prove successful, China will become the first country in the world to build a full superconducting experimental Tokamak fusion device, nicknamed "artificial sun", experts here said.

Also, China will have created a source of infinite, clean energy. Just as a side issue, y'know.


The translator as Cyrano

I can't find it online, but the Yomiuri ran an interesting human interest story today about a guy named NAKAMA Tetsu (仲間徹) who works as a translator in Okinawa. Seems that for decades, a big part of his business has been translating love letters exchanged between American soldiers and their Japanese girlfriends (although now, thanks to e-mail and so forth, he mostly does business correspondence). Speaking as a fundamentally nosy person, I found this idea captivating.

Eight years after the war, Nakama moved to Okinawa looking for work on a US base and enrolled in an English school. One day, his cousin, who ran a bar in the entertainment district of Koza city [now Okinawa city] not far from Kadena base, brought him a letter which one of his hostesses had received from a US soldier and said "Translate this, would you?"
Nakama translated it more as an exercise than anything else, but his work was so well-received that before long he was receiving request after request along the same lines.
"I could make a living like this," he thought, and no sooner had he hung out his shingle than the customers began to arrive. To translate an English postcard and write a two-page reply, he charged 50 cents. It was as much as a maid on the base made in a day.

Since Nakama was brought up on an island south of Okinawa, he had actually been caught in the line of fire during the war, and the idea of American soldiers and Okinawan women falling in love aroused "complicated" feelings within him. But,

women who had lost their families and husbands during the war were finding love again in the midst of poverty, rekindling their hopes for the future. As a fellow Okinawan, he couldn't bear not to help them.

There's more, including a sad Vietnam War story and some interesting observations on the changing nature of international relationships in Okinawa over the decades.

I also found a book he wrote twenty years ago called 『恋文30年』 ("Thirty years of love letters").


Can't you Americans deliver one lousy month's worth of beef without throwing a spine in?!

I want my goddamn Yoshinoya back!

I suppose it's always valuable to be reminded that modern beef production is so brutal and grotesque that spines can end up in the product without anyone noticing. ... Maybe I don't want my Yoshinoya back after all.

My son was just like me

It snowed!

I went to karaoke with some friends and sang until Independent Women snapped my voice in half. Along the way, J. discovered the least appropriate video/song combination that I have ever seen:

Cat's in the Cradle + woman after bikini-clad woman frolicking on tropical beach = somewhat undermined message.


The arduous way

Some people might think it straight-up foolishness to try to read something written in a language you don't speak by a person from a different country altogether. I put it to you that those people are slackers, and invite you to examine 征婦吟曲, the "Song of a Soldier's Wife", by Đặng Trần Côn. (Alright, I confess. I read the English.)

Chinese pronounced (old?) Vietnamese-style:
Thiên địa phong trần
Hồng nhan đa truân
Du du bỉ thương hề thuỳ tạo nhân
Chữ nôm version by Ðoàn Thị Ðiểm:
Thuở trời đất nổi cơn gió bụi,
Khách má hồng nhiều nỗi truân chuyên.
Xanh kia thăm thẳm tầng trên,
Vì ai gây dựng cho nên nỗi này ?
Character-by-character gloss of the original Chinese:
heaven earth wind dust
crimson face many camps [sufferings?]
far far that blue
o [?] who create distress
English translation by Huỳnh Sanh Thông:
When all through earth and heaven dust storms rise,
how hard and rough, the road a woman walks!
O those who rule in yonder blue above,
who is the cause and maker of this woe?

The characters "crimson" and "face" together form a Romantic word for "woman", y'see. It's not that she's puffed out from all the walking and suffering and such.

Bonus: The Tale of Kiều, with brass-knuckles literary debate at the end.


No, seriously. There can be only one

The massive multiplayer online RPG City of Heroes is launching in "Asia" (read: Korea, South).

From that day forth, a new alliance was forged as Foreshadow, Mirror Spirit, Spark Blade, Rose Star and Statesman became allies in the fight against evil everywhere.

(Especially Korea.)

If you watch the trailer all the way to the end, you will note that they appear to have renamed it "City of Hero" for the Asian market, presumably because they want to appeal even to young Korean kids who may not yet have learnt how English plurals are even formed, let alone spelt in special vowel-related cases. (I blame you, Wyatt!)

This is an example (I think) of something often overlooked: not all "Engrish" springs from ignorance. There are times when you can make more money from incorrect language* than you can from standard forms. He who has the fattest roll of won laughs best.

* Although, for all I know, omitting plurals is a standard feature of Korean English. If that's the case, the issue is just how long we have to wait until it gets recognized as a variant like Singlish and so on.


Down the wiki-hole

I found it! Or, more accurately, idly checked to see if it was there! The List of Lists!

And apparently, no-one has ever publicly denied being gay.


Hawaiian numbers

W. D. Alexander, writing sometime between 1864 and 1908 in his Introduction to Hawaiian Grammar, sez:

The cardinal numbers are as follows:
1. kahi
2. lua
3. kolu
4. ha
5. lima
6. ono
7. hiku
8. walu
9. iwa
10. umi
11. umikumamakahi
12. umikumamalua
20. iwakalua
21. iwakaluakumamakahi
30. kanakolu
40. kanaha
400. lau
4,000. manu
40,000. kini
400,000. lehu
[The following have been introduced by the American missionaries]:
50. kanalima
60. kanaono
70. kanahiku
80. kanawalu
90. kanaiwa
100. haneri
1,000. tausani
1,000,000. miliona. &c.
Formerly 100 would have been expressed thus, "elua kanaha me ka iwakalua."

... which you can probably see means "two forties and twenty." Anyway, I was tickled by the sudden jump from one/two-syllable words for the numbers 1-10 to the seven-syllable umikumamakahi for 11 (apparently written 'umi kumamākahi these days, except with a proper 'okina)... although then I realized that all but one of the English numbers 1-10 had one syllable, and we suddenly jump to a word three times as long too.

So I looked up kumamā in the New Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary to see if it has any meaning other than "times ten plus", and found that it is "rarely used in conversation; Biblical." Its modern replacement is kūmā, but no derivation is listed. ( can mean "stand" or "stop", and kumu can mean "base", though, and ma means beside and can be lengthened in some cases... but that's just total guesstymology. Time to download and spotlight-search this, I suppose...)

P.S. This is just adorable.


Crawling king snake

Tonight I crossed another item off the List: "win oversized novelty underwear as prize in board game competition." No, wait, that was last night. Tonight was "attend live performance of John Zorn's Cobra." As an added nostalgic bonus, one of the players was ŌNO Yumiko from Buffalo Daughter.

I finally understand why the rules aren't supposed to be publicly available -- it's because trying to figure them out is so much fun. Duh. I also hadn't realized how visceral the prompter cues were. Nor how awesome it can be when a dozen musicians start pretending to argue with each other in gibberish language all at once, and even the audience starts to join in. Goddamn, it was great.

Bonus music/game links so that this post won't be entirely pointless

  • Nomic, the game where changing the rules is a move
  • Saskrotch. "Live at DrunkeNES" is sublime. That moment at the 11-minute mark is one of the great intra-song turning points of the modern age.



So, so many Batgirls.

Speaking as a writer rather than a drawer, I'm going to make my contribution in text form:

Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think I am?
I'm the goddamn Batgirl.

(N.B.: I am a fan of this line.)

Bleg: Help me learn Chinese

So, as a kind of side project this year I've decided to see if I can use what I know about Japanese and English (and kanbun) to sort of triangulate a reading understanding of standard Chinese, and a little basic listening/speaking too. Via Amida I found ChinesePod and have settled into a nice routine of listening to it on the train on the way to work. Now I am looking for reading material, similarly divided into small, manageable chunks. So, does anyone have any blogs (or anything else) they'd like to recommend?


This wasn't submitted for my approval

When you walk past a big in-store display full of books and magazines with the word LOHAS in their titles, and you think "huh, that sounds like one of those made-up English-sounding Japanese brand names, but if it's just a brand how come there are so many magazines about it?" and, curious, pick up the closest one, and read a sentence that says (in Japanese) "LOHAS is an English word meaning Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability" -- well, that's a weird feeling. An almost eerie feeling. (This was a big display.)

Is LOHAS such a well-known word in the Anglosphere now? Am I just out of the loop? (With all the linguistics blogs I read?!) What other words have you guys been adding to the vocabulary? Am I going to hear people saying "Flapsnax" as a greeting next time I visit my family?

Or is it a minor thing over there that for some reason became more popular in Japan, like Mr Big? ("Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability" sure sounds like something a non-native speaker would come up with. I can almost feel a phantom の behind that awkward of.)



As a semi-regular reader of various nerdy sites, I thought long and hard about buying a cover to protect my new iPod Nano. I Googled up some research (trustworthiness level: SUPER-INTERNET), and found people who say "it's a beautiful piece of hardware, I want to keep it in perfect condition" and other people who say "the scratches aren't that bad as long as you don't jingle it around in a hessian sack with your key collection, and anyway they add character, and if it's a beautiful piece of hardware why wrap it in rubber?" and other people who say "because I'm a member of __fullbodygalosh, the LiveJournal community for people who appreciate the appeal of a beautiful thing wrapped in rubber" and then it just gets weird.

But the point I wanted to make is, the whole "Protect your iPod at all costs, even if it looks goofy! It will thank you later!" vs "Let your iPod run free and develop its own rugged, grizzled appearance!" debate suggests to me that as the become-a-parent age rises, a lot of 20-something nerds are unconsciously creating substitute outlets for their childrearing urges. Or, at least, their arguing-about-the-correct-way-to-raise-children urges.

(I, by the way, am a no-cover guy. But it was not an easy decision to make and I still find myself checking to make sure that I am not leaning against the wall in such a way that the precious, precious music-holding machine is endangered.)


They dig up horses, don't they? (sorry)

The word on the street is that an early 5th-century bit (the type a horse bites) has been found in Osaka, right about where it is commonly believed that the ancient horse-handling Kawauchi family were based. Makes sense.

Apparently, there is a lake in that area that used to be connected to the sea, and the bit, along with the horse that was biting it, was probably brought to Japan from Baekje. Supporting this theory was a well frame found at the same site, made from repurposed boat wood.

I seem to recall that there is a theory that Japan was invaded in the 5th century by horse-riding continental types -- and here's a link with a bit more information, including an Osaka connection (!) -- so this could be the deerbone tip of very big news, archaeologically speaking. Anyone know any more about this?

The best part of all? It's a rather small bit... which means it probably belonged to a foal. Awwwww.



Over the weekend I learned that a friend of mine has a blog through which he distributes information of interest about games, Japan, programming, the media, and business cards.

So we'll still be having this debate thousands of years from now and hundreds of light years away?

(Think of this post as a kind of supplementary village at the base of the Tensor's almighty Mt Linguistics-in-SF.)

Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky (which this post will spoil parts of so caveat downloador) is a first contact novel in which two groups of humans stumble across and then prepare to reveal themselves to an alien species they call "Spiders". The Spiders don't know about the humans at the beginning of the book, but the opposite isn't true, so we get to spy on them along with the humans. This is where it gets interesting (and spoilery.)

Rather than make up a language for the Spiders, Vinge sidesteps the issue completely. Not only does he translate their dialogue and vocabulary into unremarkable English, with very occasional alien color (references to extremities called "midhands", etc.), he even overhauls their proper nouns. The first spider we meet is named "Sherkaner Underhill" -- the Spiders have a culture where burrowing is very important. He is from "Princeton", and his nation is at war with a nation that has a city called "Tiefstadt."

In other words, the Spider sections are presented in about as hard a translation as you could get without denying their basic physiology. Even the enemy nation is dressed in German to show contrast with the English of the main society. I don't think I've ever read an SF novel this linguistically obstinate before. Most alien language creators at least want to invent a fancy word for "king" or something. And even within the story, we learn that the translator responsible for this (our) view of the Spiders isn't pleasing her superiors:

"Whatever you're doing, it's messing her up. She's giving me figurative translations. Look at these names: 'Sherkaner Underhill,' 'Jaybert Landers.' She's throwing away complications that all the translators agree on. In other places she's making up nonsense syllables."
"She's doing just what she should be doing. You've been working with automatons too long."
"You're no linguist. ... Her grotesque simplifications are not acceptable."
"No! You need people who truly understand the other side's minds, who can show the rest of us what is important about the aliens' differences. So her Spider names look silly. But this 'Accord' group is a young culture. Their names are still mostly meaningful in their daily language."
"Not all of them, and not the given names. In fact, real Spider talk mixes given names and surnames, that interphonation trick."
"I'm telling you, what she's doing is fine. I'll bet the given names are from older and related languages. Notice how they almost make sense, some of them."

(In the end, the second speaker there manages to calm down his boss by persuading her that the translator is providing a "higher level of translation," allowing the average human crew member to easily comprehend mission-critical information without having to deal with interphonated names and other cultural cruft.)

From a literary point of view, the reason Vinge sets things up this way is so that he can tell the story he wants to about how governance, social structures and science influence and are influenced by each other. And one of his major points is that we, the readers, are more like the Spiders than the human protagonists... at least in the ways that a "higher level" translation preserves.


The crushed phial in the hand and the strong smell of kernels that hung upon the air

"Please do not smoke until your transformation into a literary archetype symbolizing man's baser impulses is complete."

Don't even get me started about books about Japan

"How to write about Africa" + a LanguageHat post about Lagos Pidgin and a great blog in which it plays a part = crazy rewarding.

Seriously, the blog (Teju Cole) is great.


I call it Bokyowoodsville!

Q: What's better than a page full -- full -- of Indian screen music from the 40s, 50s and 60s?

A: That same page, once you realize that one of the movies featured there is Love in Tokyo.

Love in Tokyo is pretty much exactly as portrayed in that movie. It's an open secret, for example, that 90% of all relationships in Japan begin when a lovable estranged nephew uses judo to rescue someone from a scheming uncle.



At first glance, Genji 54 looks like what would happen if one of those online schizophrenics got a side job teaching Japanese lit, but if you look past the web, uh, design, there's some absorbing stuff there (criticism and translations, for example).



I left my First Shrine Visit Of The Year till noon on the third of January this year, the last possible day. But I had an excuse: for the first time I was going to the legendary Meiji Jingu instead of a teensy local shrine, and I had received advice that it would be wise to wait until the crowds had died down a bit.

So I met a friend at one and we entered the gates, past the sign which is one of my all-time favorites:


Which means...

- Entering on a cart or horse;
- Catching the birds or fish;
- Cutting down the bamboo or trees--
Activities falling within the scope of the above [literally "to the right", 'cause the sign is written top-to-bottom, right-to-left] are forbidden.
  Taishō 9, November 1
   Meiji Jingu

Taishō 9 = 1920, so Meiji Jingu is not all that old, really, but it is big and impressive and right next to the plaza where all the Visual-kei cosplayers hang out on the weekend.

Once past the gates, the waiting began. Fortunately, we were entertained by a gigantic, tacky video screen, carefully erected at the end of a long tree-lined avenue so that there was no chance anyone could fail to see it for the entire time they were waiting to get in. The line moved slowly, as did the advertisements for what we were already lined up for, dammit.

After many interlocking queues guided by marching policemen, we were finally at the final waiting station: the throng before the business end of the shrine, where the enshrined beings and donation box are. Although, at busy times like the New Year, the donation box is replaced by a gigantic white sheet so that you can toss your offering in from a distance if you don't feel like waiting to get all the way to the front. We did, though, and it was a bit of a shock when we finally got there, because a cop was crouched directly in front of us, one of several spaced out along the railing, keeping the peace and making sure the old ladies didn't trample anybody.

Next came the final portion of the hatsumōde, and the greatest disappointment of the day: the omikuji, purchased from a fake, part-time shrine maiden. Did you know that the Meiji Jingu omikuji do not include a fortune? It was just a tanka about the need to polish my heart as though it were a mirror. Noble sentiments, but as Hui-Neng said, 菩提本无树,明镜亦非台,本来无一物,何处惹尘埃?

(Or maybe it just means that I need to cut my cholesterol intake.)

P.S. Where did the word "moude" come from? Probably some form of mau or mawiru (one of the variants written with the 参 character, anyway) + idu (出づ).


I can't tell who's being sarcastic -- Batman, or his scriptwriters

But the greatest line in the entire Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told: Catwoman and the Penguin is this one:

"I'll leave you here -- tortured by the knowledge I'm going out to rob the world's most fabulous poker game!"

I feel tortured already.


How copyright turns a love of literature ghoulish

Under Japanese law, works remain in copyright until fifty years after the first January 1 following the death of their author. As of yesterday, works by authors who died in 1955 are now freely reproducible, and Aozora Bunko is, as usual, on the case. Their newly available authors are, as of right now:

While I'm most excited about readin' me up some Sakaguchi, I decided to celebrate by translating "Dreams", by Toyoshima. By this time next year, after all, it may be back in copyright, because There Are Those who want Japan to move to a 70-year system.

In other AB news, I have recently become aware of a nifty new(ish) program called Azur. It is a text reader with the ability and tendency to display texts in vertical lines, and it does this very intelligently and well. As the name suggests, it was designed especially for Aozora Bunko texts and it renders them beautifully -- but it's also done very well with everything else I've thrown at it, marked-up and not.

Probably its coolest feature, though, is its ability to turn a text file into a long series of images of that text file, so that you can read it on your cellphone, or digital camera, or theoretically any device with an LCD screen and a way to display your own images on it.

The theory falls down when faced with devices that do not allow easy paging through a long series of images, like my phone -- I'd have to press three separate buttons per page-turn, not to mention the fact that my phone's default image zoom isn't 100%. God, my phone sucks. But, Voyager do offer a handy list of which devices can handle Azurination, and how well. And I was thinking of buying a new phone anyway...


This is going to be a real dog of a year

The stores are closed, the sky is gray, the crows are out, it's New Year's Day! Now the real business of staying inside with your family and eating an elaborately stacked lacquer box full of traditional food can begin.

2005 was a rather dramatic year for me on every level but as far as I can tell it worked out alright in the end. This is, however, approximately 95% due* to my wonderful, generous friends, family and co-workers (current and previous), whose support ranged from the vital-to-sanity "emotional" kind (that includes you, readers/commenters) to the vital-to-existence "employment" and "shelter" kind.

I know that some of you try to keep a low profile online, and a lot of you don't even read my blog at this point, so I won't include the whole list here, but I am nevertheless hugely grateful for and humbled by everything you guys did for me over the course of the year. Thanks, and happy new year to everyone.

Pardon my schmaltz (ew, rhyme):

新 年始尓 思共 伊牟礼C乎礼婆 宇礼之久母安流可
atarasiki / tosi no hazime ni / omohu doti / imurete woreba / uresikumo aruka
How joyfully begins the year
when kindred souls are gathered near.

That gem, which anticipates Hallmark by more than a millennium, was allegedly written by Funado no Ookami (道祖王), grandson of Emperor Temmu.

* I attribute the other 5% to Aya, who most graciously refrained from breaking up with me until my other troubles were mostly settled.