When it's lexicographicky time down south

I finally got hold of a copy of SAKIHARA Mitsugu's Okinawan-English Wordbook, published earlier this year, and given the price, a finer Okinawan-English wordbook I could not imagine. The "Okinawan" here refers to, in the editors' words:

the language, not mutually intelligible with Japanese, traditionally used in the south-central part of the island of Okinawa. One of several Ryukyuan languages, Okinawan is based on the speech encountered in and around Naha and Shuri, that is, the area around the modern capital of present-day Okinawa Prefecture and the old capital of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. Formerly, it was also the lingua franca of the Ryukyuan kingdom that flourished for several centuries before the Ryukyus became part of Japan in 1879.

The Okinawan language recorded in this Wordbook is based on the speech of the late Dr. Mitsugu Sakihara, the original author of this dictionary manuscript, who was a native of Naha. He augmented the manuscript by checking it against a number of other sources [...] The current editors have also extensively checked Wordbook entries against the premier dictionary of Okinawan, the Okinawa-go jiten, published in Japanese in 1963, and against the speaker intuitions and unpublished notes of linguists at the University of the Ryukyus.

So, it's kind of a throwback to the days when dictionaries were put together by one cheerfully non-invisible editor, combined with modern editing techniques and scholarship. (For example, they've helpfully added Japanese cognates where known, although I think I see some they missed...) This adds up to my dream dictionary.

On the first two pages alone, we have:

  • aa, "bubble" (= J /awa/)
  • aakeejuu, "dragonfly" (= J /akizu/ [arch.])
  • aashimun, "lined kimono" (= J /awasemono/)
  • abiisuubu, "shouting match" (= O /abiin/ (shout) + J /shoubu/ (match))
  • abushibaree, "communal rite held in the fourth lunar month to rid rice paddies of vermin" (= J /abushi/ (protrusion, levee) [arch.] + /harai/ (exorcism))
  • achihatiin, "get sick of" (= J /akihateru/)

That last one also gives us wonderful, almost Edoic compound words like achihatibeesan (adjective, "fickle, capricious") and achihatijuugwachi (literally "boring October", so called because there are no traditional holidays then.)

I mean, come on. Achihatijuugwachi, man. The only trouble is deciding whether to use it as-is in all its palatalized glory, or use its Japanese cognates to get akihatejuugatsu. And either way, when some native speaker's all like "Whitey [or whatever you happen to be], that ain't Japanese none," you can just say, "Hey, after what happened in 1879, it's a Japanese word whether you like it or not."

(If they object that they weren't using "Japanese" in the sense of "[a language] native to an area within the current borders of Japan", but, rather, as a metonymic shorthand for "the Standard Japanese promulgated by the central government and reinforced by the media", quickly throw a Grice grenade to the floor and flee in the ensuing confusion.)

Hey, has it been proven to everyone's satisfaction that the English suffix <-er> was the inspiration for /amuraa/, the word referring to over-zealous, imitative fans of Okinawan singer AMURO Namie? Because it seems like in Okinawan, changing words so that they end in a long /aa/ is a fairly productive way of making a noun meaning "person or thing practising or associated with [X]", e.g. /amerika/ (America) => /amerikaa/ (American); /hataui/ (weaving) => /hatauyaa/ (weaver); /saataa/ (sugar) + /nanjichi/ (scorched food) => /saataananjichaa/ (scorched brown sugar), etc. Okay, just checking.


The enemy within (again)

Regular readers will remember an old post featuring inept camphone pictures of an advertising campaign in which "undesirable tendencies and personality traits [were] personified by people in rubber costumes reminiscent of the golden age of Rangers."

Well, the Flash site is up now, with magical-girl commercial video, typing games, and more.


One more from Chiri Mashiho: on John Batchelor

(No original this time; too lazy.)

Professor Batchelor published many translations into Ainu: the Bible, prayer books, hymns, and the like. Today, we find these works absolutely incomprehensible. Ainu-language books which even Ainu cannot understand: truly, these can only be called writings from Heaven itself, works of exceeding rarity, and it is no wonder that they fetch such high prices in second-hand bookstores.

He also tells a story, possibly apocryphal, about a group of Ainu to which Batchelor preached being impressed by his dedication to their language but sadly unable to understand his words, a fact they attributed to his speaking a different dialect... although modern scholarship has since revealed that Batchelor learnt his Ainu in the same dialect area. "From this we can arrive at a fairly valid estimate of Batchelor's abilities in the Ainu language."


The Japanese title for Snakes on a Plane has been confirmed. I repeat, the Japanese title for Snakes on a Plane has been confirmed.

It is 『スネーク・フライト』 (Sunēku furaito, i.e. Snake Flight).

I am... disappointed.


Birdsong considered harmful

I am really enjoying CHIRI Mashiho's Ainugo nyūmon: toku ni chimei kenkyūsha no tame ni ("An introduction to the Ainu language: particularly for scholars of the etymology of place names"). As you can probably imagine, Ainu place names have long been an irresistable lure to a certain type of etymologist, but given the limited understanding of the Ainu language (and, to be fair, the limited opportunities to actually learn it, especially a century ago when you couldn't just hop on a plane to do some fieldwork for a couple of weeks), the results of their efforts have been patchy at best. And, of course, in a field like etymology, mistakes that seem authoritative enough are repeated endlessly.

Chiri wrote this book in the 50s an attempt to set things back on the right track, and his writing is truly a delight: playful, but precise; never unkind to amateur enthusiasts, but always ready to zing those who should know better. (He'd be right at home at Language Log.) Here's one of my favorite parts so far, a short aside from a footnote:


What always fills me with admiration is the way that when one travels with archaeologists to some remote rural area and they are shown some unfathomable object, they always reply with such consummate self-possession. "Ah, this? Well, I don't know precisely, but I imagine it must have had some religious function." If they don't know precisely, how can they be so sure it had a religious function? The locals out there in the countryside don't press the issue that far, and so archaeologists are always serene and secure. So, let's think: are there any ways for Ainu place name etymologists to find the same serenity? And, indeed there are! There are! There most certainly are! The first is to say something like "Long ago, there was a rock of that shape in that location, and so it was given that name," or "There was a pattern of that shape on that cliff, and so people started calling it by that name", and dodge the issue. When using this method, though, one must never forget one thing: [...] to add a note saying "However, that rock has since crumbled away and no longer exists," and so destroy the evidence. The other way to handle a place name that defies understanding, if it is short, [...] is to turn it into birdsong. "Sensei, if I may ask, what is the etymology of 'Sapporo'?" "Ah, that? Well, long ago, a god turned into a bird there and flew overhead crying sapporo! sapporo!, and so it became that place's name. An old man in Tokachi, another old man in Kitami, and even the Harutori Ainu Elders say so; there can be no mistake!"

(The seemingly random dig at old folks in Kitami and Tokachi is a reference to an earlier scene in which an amateur etymologist complains about Chiri's dismissal of his analysis of the place name siruskina, insisting that he based his work on real live informants from those places. Chiri says that "Old men from Tokachi and Kitami can stand behind you glaring at me all they want -- that explanation will not fly," and uses it as an example of how even native speakers don't always know what they're talking about when it comes to etymology.)


Edo game show

In solidarity with the booth attendants at this weekend's Tokyo Game Show, this post represents the No-Sword Guide to Kemari.

The word kemari, since it just means "kick-ball" (蹴鞠), has been applied to all kinds of Japanese ball games over the past thousand-plus years. Nowadays, though, when most people say kemari, they mean the Heian-period version, which can be summarized as "hackeysack with funny hats and floppy sleeves instead of Che Guevara t-shirts and trust funds". It was so trendy at the time that even Sei "Pillow Book [of Petty Grievances and Ceaseless Snobbery]" Shōnagon called it wokashi. Here's how to play:

The kakari

Kemari was played in a square area called a mariniwa (鞠庭, "ball garden"), with sides twelve to fifteen meters long. The corners of the square were marked by trees: an all-pine array for the very rich, and a pine-sakura-willow-maple set for everybody else. (I think each tree there is supposed to symbolize a different season, starting from "pine = winter".)

Jumpers and schoolbags had not been invented yet, and so were not used. But they would not be practical in any case, because the trees also served as a handy way to check that you were kicking the ball high enough: at least four of five meters in the air.

The mari

The ball or mari (鞠) was constructed of two hemispheres of deer hide a little under a foot wide. It was made spherical through a gruesome process of stretching and drying which I will not go into, for your comfort and protection.

The rules

Seriously, it's just hackeysack. Traditionally, there were four, six, or eight players known as mariashi (鞠足, "ball-feet") who stood more or less in a circle. The one closest to the pine tree (in the northwest corner) kicks off to the mariashi opposite him or her, and things proceed from there.

Various sources list variations on the basic concept (number of times you can kick the ball before passing it to someone else, set orders for passing, etc.), and the truth is that all of these rules were probably used at some point by somebody. So, go nuts.

Since this game was popular among Heian nobles, the goal is clearly not just to not be the one who lets the ball drop. You will also want to ensure that the ball sails in a beautiful arc, makes a lovely noise when connecting with your foot, and so on. If you can improvise a short poem about the tragic beauty of the deer whose skin you are kicking around, that's good too.

Oh, and apparently, after fifteen or twenty minutes, the ball gets passed back to the first kicker (the noki, 軒) and then everyone sits down.

What to yell when playing

Saying "yo, dude, over here" was considered a faux pas in Heian Japan, because English was still a contemptible and barbaric tongue favored only by a few swineherds off the European coast. What the mariashi said instead was:

  • /ari/
  • /yau/
  • /ou/

The hundred-year-old Kemari Preservation Society, among other sources, claim that these are not just exclamations along the lines of "dude!" and "yo!", but actually the names of the three patron gods of kemari who appeared in a dream to Fujiwara no Narimichi. Taking the forms of either children or monkeys (is there really a difference?), they had their names written on their foreheads: 夏安林 (Ari), 春陽花 (Yau or Yakwa), and 桃園 or 秋園 (Ou).

I find this etymology unconvincing to say the least and strongly suspect that things actually happened the other way around. But, either way, they were the things to shout when kicking a ball in imperial Japan, and they remain the things to shout today. Good luck.

"They always drink their liquors warme"

Via a Metafilter post, I discovered that the journals of the Royal Society... are open! (For a while. Time to harvest me some PDF, in quantities hitherto unimagined.)

While the interface is a trifle unpleasant (would Sir Christopher Wren have allowed the construction of a website which required even casual browsers and downloaders to accept cookies? Would he bollocks), a little patience will probably yield results within your field of interest. (Feel free to add them in comments, by the way.)

The Japoneſe are proper enough of ſtature, and not uncomely in features; they have ſomewhat prominent bellys. They are exceeding active, and want no Judgement; they are alſo military and valiant.

No Arts are to be met with amongſts them, that are not known in Europe, except that of making Lacca, of which there is ſome ſo fine and curious, that whereas in this Country one may buy an ordinary ſmall boxe for 3. or 4. Crowns, one of the ſame ſize, when made in Japan of exquiſite Lacca, will ſell for more than 80. crowns. The Authour of this Accompt hath 4 Cabinets of this workmanſhip, which he affirmes to have coſt him above 40000 crowns, which he will not ſell under 80000. crowns.


And now, a picture of a poorly groomed guy looking confused

Y'see, a lady friend of his sent an e-mail full of emoji -- "picture characters", colorful glyphs the size of a standard Japanese character that are available on all Japanese mobile phones -- to his phone, and because he's with a different phone company, they didn't come out properly! (Emoji are not yet standardized, I believe.)

One of my friends used to do this to me all the time, and since it was just after I'd arrived here, I had no idea what was going on either. I don't think I ever managed to adopt such a magnificent pose of arrogant bafflement, though. He looks like he barely even knows what a cellphone is, and doesn't particularly care, either. He doesn't have time for your gadgets and your shampoo, man! You think Singles is going to just remake itself?

The point, though, is that au has recently cut deals with all the other Japanese phone companies* so that the next time Ryōko tries to express her feelings with a series of tiny, pixelated love hearts, he'll understand, and the species will be able to propagate.

"Whoa... it's, like... a tiny pizza... right in the middle of a sentence..."

Oh, advertorials in Japanese fashion magazines. Don't ever change. But seriously, someone buy those kids non-identical outfits.

* You can see It girl TANAKA Miho announcing this here, if you can bear the soul-deadening interface. I prefer the slightly coy poster campaign, personally ("送ってみて").



So, I read Trevanian's Shibumi because I found it cheap, a lot of it is about Japan, and the Washington Post apparently called it "one hell of a pleasure to read", but I'm really not sure what to make of it. At first I thought it was a ham-fisted spy novel by a guy with a bit of a tin ear for dialogue, then I thought it must be a parody of spy novels like that, but by the end I wasn't sure what to believe. (There might be spoilers in this post, by the way.)

For example, here is a line of dialogue attributed to an American intelligence agent named Starr:

"Shit-o-dear! Looks like he went to Fistcity against a freight train!"

I initially thought this was pseudo-American jibber-jabber, but then I checked, and (a) Trevanian is American; and (b) Google suggests that there are people who use this exclamation "shit-o-dear". So is the rest believable too, from a cowboy type? USAians, what do you think?

The main character, Nicholai Hel, is a Marty Stu of exquisite perfection. He is a Russian, Chinese, German and Japanese assassin. A master of go*, he lives with a concubine in a mountain castle, speaks Basque, is psychic, and can kill a man with a piece of drawing paper or even his bare hands, knowing as he does the martial art "Naked/Kill".

He can have sex -- mindblowing sex! -- simply by waving one hand in the air from across the room. Military codebreaking is a mere annoyance to him. Oh, and his eyes are a mysterious color that, like, no-one has ever even seen before! All through the novel I was expecting his soulbonded dragon to fly down from the sky and gently nuzzle him while delivering thought-dialogue ::formatted like this::.

So, you can see my dilemma. Am I just missing Trevanian's protracted literary joke, or is all this goofiness serious?

* Though Trevanian insists on spelling it <gō> throughout.


I would have thought it was already there, but Aozora Bunku have just put up MIYAZAWA Kenji's beloved untitled poem commonly known as "Ame ni mo makezu". Here's my translation:

Bowed not before rain
Nor bowed before wind
Nor bowed before snow nor summer's heat;
With a strong body
Free of desire
Never angering;
Always calmly smiling;
Twice daily, four scoops of unpolished rice
and miso and some vegetables;
By whatever rises
unmoved within;
Closely looking, closely hearing, understanding well
Not forgetting;
In the shade of a pine grove in a field
in a little hut of thatch;
When to the east a child is ill
Going to care for him on his sickbed;
When to the west a mother tires
Going to carry her burden of rice;
When to the south a man lies dying
Going to tell him, "Be not afraid";
When to the north a fight is brewing
Saying "This is folly; stop it at once";
When farmers labor off the land, weeping;
In summers of cold, wandering forlorn;
Called by everyone a fool;
Never praised
Nor worried over;
Such a man
I wish to be.

I trust in bodhisattva Boundless Practice.
I trust in bodhisattva Superior Practice.
I trust in tathagata Abundant Treasures.
I trust in the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Sutra.
I trust in Shakyamuni Buddha.
I trust in bodhisattva Pure Practice.
I trust in bodhisattva Secure Practice.

There appears to be some debate about the ヒドリ (hidori) towards the end there, a good summary of which is here. Some people think it should be ヒデリ (日照り, hideri), "dry weather", which Miyazawa apparently changed it to in an early printing; others think that it's a writo for or dialect version of ヒトリ (一人, hitori), "alone"; others, think that ヒドリ is right, and refers to when farmers, unable to support themselves due to poor harvest, hire themselves out by the day as labor (日取り). I've gone along with the latter theory since it involves the least fiddling with Miyazawa's original.


I'm back!

Family visit completed successfully!

Item! In reversal of movie plot, living person becomes terra cotta warrior!

Wendel had come prepared, Xinhua said. [...]

He ... designed himself a gown and hat identical to those once worn by Emperor Qinshihuang's warriors, and even brought a plinth to stand on.

After leaping into the pit, he quickly donned his costume and waited.

Police said it took them two minutes to find the "living terracotta warrior", clad in military garb and staring straight ahead with unblinking eyes.

I swear that the exact same thing happened one time on Inspector Gadget. You can see him in costume courtesy of sina.com. Love the mustache. His "Chinese name" is apparently 马林: literally, "Horse Grove". Yeah, maybe it has some other significance I don't know about. The Chinese term for "terra cotta warriors", perhaps coincidentally, is 兵马俑, which includes the same "horse" character. Little help?

Item! Japanese television commercials display fusion of surrealism and techno-storgeism/agapism/eroticism*. Summary for readers who don't speak Japanese: each commercial features a cute girl claiming to be, literally, the product she is standing beside, and then ends with the tag line "To us, our products look this cute."

I swear that the exact same thing happened one time in Gravity's Rainbow.

* Discussion about representation of teenage girls in the Japanese media goes here. Thanks to Roy for "storge".


"A rough arrangement of two or three arguments"

YES! Early 20th-C. Ainu activist IBOSHI Hokuto has appeared at Aozora!

『北斗帖』 (Hokuto chō, "Hokuto['s] notebook") is a tanka collection in Hokuto's idiosyncratic two-line format. There are some rousing Ainu Pride numbers:


For the sake of the perishing Ainu, Ainu rise
Iboshi Hokuto's eyes sparkle

... a long sequence about hemorrhoid* medicine:



"This is how to apply the ointment!"
Hokuto's hands: to the right, to the left (I don't even want to understand this one)

Both I, the seller, and the buyer too:
Faces as red as the ointment itself

... and, returning to the directly-about-Ainu theme, some wry observationals:



Afraid, with me there, to bad-mouth the Ainu
How funny, their flustered state

Scorn for Ainu blurted out before me
Shamefully, they correct themselves

(Sorry for the rushed and shoddy translations -- still in tour guide mode -- strongly recommend a visit to the original!)

* He says that "gacchaki means hemorrhoid", which must be a dialectical or colloquial thing, if only because "standard" Ainu AFAIK does not have the [g] sound.


Hypothesis: Gibberish has vowel harmony

One thing I have noticed about my father's pronunciation of Japanese proper nouns is that he seems to prefer harmonizing the vowels. For instance (pardon the simplified phonemic transcription):

  • "Yamanote" → /yEm@'noto/
  • "Ikebukuro" → /ikib@'kjuro/ (< OG /ik@'bjuk@ro/)
  • "Asakusa" → /@'suk(@)sa/
  • "Narimasu" → /nEr@m@'su/
  • "Ginza" → /'ginza/

Because he knows less Japanese than an extra from Gone with the Wind, these names have no etymological meaning for him -- they're gibberish, basically. And it seems that he prefers to have only one type of vowel/diphthong* per stress group, if that's the right term, and differing types in neighboring stress groups.

Thus, for example, /ikib@'kjuro/ divides into a front-vowel part before the stress, and a back/central-vowel/dipthong part afterwards.

Schwas seem able to substitute for any vowel, and may be involved in postpone stress where necessary for harmonic reasons (e.g. "Narimasu", where if the stress was on the second-to-last syllable as expected you would have two different kinds of vowels in the same stress group.) They may also be rapid-speech expression of underlying "real" vowels: for example, the /u/ in his "Asakusa" -- why has it been moved up, if not to (1) harmonize with the following /u/ expressed as a schwa (if at all) between /k/ and /s/; (2) contrast with the press-stress /a/ or schwa; or (3) both?

The final unstressed /a/s are interesting because they seem to to be an exception, but I would explain them away as imported English word-final habits: they have exactly the same sound as the end of a word like "rapture" or "boxer" in Australian English. (The final /o/ in /ikib@'kjuro/ may be a similar phenomenon, although the only example I can think of offhand is "bureau".)

In other news, I accidentally bought a ladies' (as in -wear) umbrella to stay dry on the way home today, and it was so small I felt like a gnome holding a toadstool.

* All those /o/s on the right are really a diphthong [oU] like at the end of "no" or "grow"


Old pictures of monsters

Some KYŌGOKU Natsuhiko fan is digitizing TORIYAMA Sekien's 百鬼夜行 (Hyakki Yakō, "Hundred-demon night procession") pictures and making them available online.

I have long been a fan of the nuppeppō (or "nutuhetuhohu" in the old orthography, etymologically something like "no-face dude" or "half-assed-face dude"). It looks like Grimace, or maybe a baby MODOK, but it's actually an animated hunk of dead flesh. This is pretty much how vegans see all us norms, I hear.

The katawaguruma ("One-wheeled conveyance") also has its charms, and the hikeshibaba ("fire-extinguishing hag") is just great. "Fire is yang, monsters are yin. In the darkness of the pitch-black night, yin beats yang; is it not right, then, that there be a hikeshibaba?" I tried using a version of this excuse for not taking out the trash one time, but it didn't fly.


Japanese Queen medley

Best thing ever.

(Via Morgan.)


Second-guessing John Lennon

Today we went to the John Lennon Museum. I had heard that Yoko had turned it into a Paul-free Plastic Ono Band-fest, but that wasn't the case. It seemed pretty even-handed to me. Lennon's pre-Ono family didn't exactly get lengthy writeups, but I suppose that too is an accurate reflection of the man himself.

One thing that hit me comparing the English and the translation is that the weird slogan "War is over! If you want it" seems suspiciously like a direct, awkward translation from the Japanese they gave: from memory, "戦争は終わる!あなたが望むならば".

See, I had always wondered about "if you want it". It just doesn't seem natural. The "it" seems too close to referring to "war" rather than "the end of war". In a parallel construction like "Dinner is served! If you want it", "it" is clearly "dinner". My native speaker sense also rejects that "it" as a contraction of "it to be over" or something similar. ("That" would be borderline acceptable, but not "it".)

On the other hand, in "戦争は終わる!あなたが望むならば", the object of the "want" (望む) is omitted because it is understood. So it is not difficult to imagine a naiive translator or casual conversationalist, when faced with the need to include the object, simply adding an "it".

Beyond the "it", 戦争は終わる! is more natural in Japanese than "War is over!" is in English, and あなたが望むならば is a much more acceptable fragment than "if you want it". Overall, the Japanese is about as natural as "War will end -- if you want it to."

Obviously, "Happy Xmas (War is over)" is a fantastic song as it is, and uses the two four-syllable phrases to great effect; indeed, their oddness is part of the charm, and the reason why they stick in the mind so. But it is interesting to think that the inspiration for them may have been interlanguage line noise, making "War is over! If you want it" a spiritual cousin to "Welcome to my homepage! I kiss you!!"


Stream of nonsense slows to trickle

Family visit for about a week and a half, starting tomorrow. Blogging will probably be light for the duration.

Here are a few links I've been saving:


Bonus of dubious value

In a comment, Tim brought up that Hojoki translation I was working on. Probably partly due to my circumstances at the time, I never did get very far. For example, I ended up with this for the first part:

The river flows without pause, and the water therein, once past, never returns. In its pools and backwaters, bubbles appear and vanish, never remaining for long. So, too, the people and dwellings of this world.

In the jeweled capital, the noble and the wretched alike build their homes in rows, striving to raise the highest roof. Will these dwellings truly remain as generations pass? Few remain from ages past. Some, razed by fire last year, were rebuilt in this one; some, once grand and prosperous, are now reduced to humble huts.

So, too, the people who dwell within them. To the man who long ago knew twenty, even thirty people, a mere one or two acquaintances remain, though he has not moved from his busy neighbourhood. At sunrise, a death; at sunset, a birth: how like those bubbles in the water are we.

Ignorant of whence we come, we are born; we die ignorant of whither we go. Mere lodgers, we know not for whose sake we suffer, nor why we should feel pleasure.

House and master, struggling against transience: no more than dew on a morning glory's petals. Sometimes the dew falls and the flower remains. "Remains" -- but tomorrow it will wither and die. Sometimes the flower wilts, but the dew vanishes not. "Vanishes not" -- but it will not last until evening.

... which I'm not happy with at all (the self-consciously "literary" style undermines the bleak, defeated feel I wanted), but as an aborted experiment (or a counter-example) I suppose it may interest somebody. I might give it a try again when I've endured a few more natural catastrophes.


A cautionary tale about Japanese particles

From NIKAIDŌ Masahiro's Noriko, a book I can best describe as "Tom and Jerry, except with a woman and her bed-ridden mother-in-law."

(No commentary -- it'd ruin the joke.)

(Sorry about the crappy scans. I'll put the dialogue in a comment.)


For Steve Irwin

Does the whalers' ocean die?
Does the mountain die?
They die in falling tide
and withered tree.


Weekend gravure: three bicycles made for three (that is, one each)

I found these babies inside a 1960 edition of 『別冊笑いの泉 ユーモア・グラフ』 (Bessatsu warai no izumi, "Fountain of Laffs: Humorgraph(y) (Supplement)"), which bills itself as a publication of "sexy photography and tasteful reading." One of those words is problematic; the other is an outright lie.

The models are MATSUZAKI Shinjiro (you might remember him from Cruel Story of Youth), MIHARA Yuko (who now writes books about Japanese cinema with her husband), and SA(W|H)ARA Miyako (who has vanished so completely that Google returns 0 results.)

Behold: 『緑風を横切つて 今日は楽しいサイクリング』, or "Cut through the first winds of summer rustling in the green grass: today [let's enjoy some] pleasant cycling."

That grass looks so dry that it makes a mockery of the 緑 (green) in the title. Nor does it seem like the kind of foliage you want to ride through wearing only a swimsuit. Perhaps that's why she's walking.

Yes, after a bikini-clad ride through an overgrown briarpatch, nothing hits the spot like lying down on a pile of rocks.

Bike lane to the danger zone! Could these thrill-seeking crumb-bums possibly ride any less safely? Well...

Oh, yeah... she sure can. The Man can't make her wear no helmet, [hairstyle joke redacted], and he sure as hell can't stop her inhaling carcinogens as she goes.

Robert Heinlein used to dream about girls like this.


Life during wartime

I try not to cross-pimp my translation blog too much, but I think this will probably be of interest to people other than my fellow Taishō fiends: "The Tales of O-An".

「おあむ物語」 (O-an monogatari) has, as I understand it, the distinction of being the only record of the Sengoku period that even purports to be from a woman's perspective -- although, as you will see if you read it, it is framed by a male narrator. Exactly who the top-level author/narrator is is unclear, but the general consensus seems to be that it is one of O-An's grandchildren. Well, technically he'd be a grand-nephew.

It has ghosts, severed heads, armies, daring escapes, wardrobe malfunctions, and no shortage of complaints about the younger generation. I found it quite entertaining and decided to share it. (An annotated translation by Christopher T. NELSON and Kyoko SELDEN was apparently published in the Review of Japanese Culture and Society in 2004, but I haven't seen it.)

There is some debate over whether "O-An" is just a name, or a respectful title indicating that the narrator had become a Buddhist nun by the end of her life, which is why for e.g. Nolan and Selden's version is apparently titled "The Tale of an Old Nun". I've gone 100% neutral on the issue, since I don't intend to do a lick of research into the matter and I don't think it affects the story qua story either way.

The text gets a bit corrupt towards the end, but I've done my best. You can see a version of the original here.

Comments and criticism welcome, as usual. Feel free to e-mail me if your thoughts seem unsuited to the Blogger comment box.