One Beat

Andy correctly identified the mystery man. It was indeed Beat Takeshi, during his early career as half of the manzai duo Two Beat.

He was, of course, already hinting at his later, darker work in the movies:

Yes, he was cold, ruthless and without remorse.

Special bonus! Deep sports fashion from the dawn of time:


Page full of texts, page full of sex

Page full of texts. (Including several Hakkendens, with pictures!)

Page full of sex. (NSFW, obviously, and home to much that falls squarely within my Unease Zone.)

Special bonus picture quiz: Who is the shirtless guy in this picture from 25-odd years ago?


Catfish blues

It has proven surprisingly difficult to find man-bashing poems in Sankachōchūka as promised. I may have to look further afield.

Virtually all of the ones I did find included the word namazu-otoko, "catfish man", which seems to have had a similar meaning among the Edoites as it did among pre-war Southern bluesmen: a player. (The metaphor is slightly different, though, because the Japanese version was more about slipperiness than sexual potency.)

There are a couple along the lines of "catfish man, go fall in the river and talk to the catfish", which you probably have to be drunk and hakama-clad to really appreciate, but I found this one oddly touching:

わしは小池の鯉鮒なれど 鯰男はいやでそろ
washi wa koike no koifuna naredo/ namazu-otoko wa iya de soro

I may be a crucian carp in a little pond
But I don't want no catfish man

(Obviously the koifuna in the Japanese version is a lot more down-home than "crucian carp" is in English.)

This non-catfish one wasn't bad, and I'm sure made many an Edokko say "Ei, snap!":

今の若い衆は麦藁襷 一夜かけてはかけ捨てよ
ima no wakai shu wa mugiwara-dasuki/ ichiya kakete wa kakezuteyo

Young guys today are [as flimsy as] straw kimono cords:
They spend the night, and then they're spent.

Finally, this song is irrelevant to the main topic, but I thought I'd share it anyway:

鳥もはらはら夜もほのぼのと 鐘も鳴ります寺々に
tori wa hara-hara, yo mo hono-bono to/ kane mo narimasu, tera-dera ni

The night sky pales, the birds take wing,
The temple bells all start to ring

It's a lullaby from Awa (now Tokushima prefecture) which was adapted from a lover's song lamenting the coming of dawn. I love the way it mixes evocative onomatopoeia and the onomatopoeia-like old plural pattern (tera-dera, as in tera (temple) + tera). You can't form plurals like that any more in MJ, but in OJ it was apparently so standard that it could even be applied to verbs, which is why we have words like miru-miru ("watch-watch", i.e. "even as one watches") in Japanese to this day.


Unsurprising maid cafe-related developments corner

Yesterday, a man asked one of the maids who hand out flyers at Akihabara station to show him the way to her cafe (Air Moetto), then pulled a knife and groped her in the stairwell before fleeing when she screamed. Now it seems other women working these jobs might be starting to get media attention when they talk about inappropriate and/or illegal behavior from customers.

Not entirely serious media attention, mind you. Sanspo described the perpetrator as moesugita ("excessively moe-ing") in their story, and the Livedoor story has this at the end:


A 40-year-old male customer, by all appearances unable to control his rage, said "[the assailant] has no right to be called 'Master'." [Goshujinsama, the universal maid-to-(male-)customer form of address]

Difficult to imagine that kind of wink-wink jollity if the victim had not been dressed as a maid at the time of the attack.

Anyway, I'll leave the analysis and 2channel quotage to somebody who isn't ill.


Chris Onstad: the next Walt Disney?

Here is a character named Luciper (ルシパー) from a new series called Baby Devil Epiru-kun (by KAZAMA Katsuya, 風間克弥) that started in Shonen Jump this week.

Maybe it's just my imagination, but: Hmmm. (Huuugs!) It's especially weird because all of the other character designs are firmly within the standard manga bounds.


Expedition to the Northern Wastes

I. Clothing & Customs

Aomori is renowned throughout Greater Japan for its Apples, and indeed, the first Sight to greet your Correspondent as he stepped off the Bus was a great Statue, depicting a Man & his Mate raising Apples to Heaven, as though offering to exchange them for Passage to somewhere warmer.

Indeed, to protect their Selves from the bitter Cold, the Natives of Aomori employ all Manner of curious Garments, such as the Sweater, which is like a thick woolen tunic, & the Tracksuit-Pant, which is worn under a short, pleated, navy-blue Skirt while riding one's Bi-Cycle.

Sustenance can be obtained from conveniently located Stores selling outlandish Buns impregnated with various Jams, Sauces & Meat Products. The Fruits of the local Apple Trees are primarily sold in Packages wrapped in fine Japanese Paper and intended as Presents for some one other than the Buyer -- it is my Belief that these, too, are primarily used as Bribes allowing the Natives to flee to Places where the Sun can be seen.

II. Wedding Rituals

The first Ceremony on the Aomorian Wedding Day takes place in a large, open Hall, consecrated to a God who, they say, is the Source from which all Love, Kindness, &c. flow. It is officiated over by an aged Man, styled a Shin-Pu or "Holy Father", who leads the Assembled in barbaric Hymns which consist of shameless Flattery & patently excessive Praise; obvious & obsequious attempts to curry their distant God's Favours, they are accompanied by the sounds of Air propelled through divers Pipes by means of Keys pressed in complex Combinations by an old Woman, possibly the Shin-Pu's wife.

The Bride & Groom each vow to protect the other from Ailments & Poverty, and then step outside to be showered by the Guests with Petals, a crude magic designed to induce Fertility which, your Correspondent was informed, is derived from certain Practices current among the Western Tribes.

The Aomorian Savage leads an idyllic Life of Liquor & Song, unconstrained by modern Laws or Copy-Rights

All Participants & Witnesses then move to a great Banquet Hall at which Fruit-Cake & Raw Fish are consumed while the Groom's Superior at his place of Business delivers a long & disagreeable Speech. Certain Guests are compelled to perform Songs in Honour of the new Couple; indeed, the Author was pressed into Service as part of a Duo singing a simplistic Chant celebrating Transvestitism and entitled Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da.

When the Banquet is complete, the most youthful & vigorous of the Guests proceed to yet another location at which Foodstuffs are served but largely ignored in favour of Intoxicating Beverages. Here, too, are Songs sung, and the remaining unmarried Youths of the village attempt to seduce each other in the Spanish Style, which is to say, until the last individual has lost consciousness.

III. Crafts & Technology; a Link with the South?

The following Morning, your Correspondent visited a local Warehouse which a notorious pair of Artists, one born in Aomori but both now resident in the South, had conquered by Force and filled with whimsical Sketches & Paintings of small, deformed Children of a menacing Air. Lithography was strictly prohibited, possibly due to lingering Beliefs that the Artist's Soul would be stolen, but commemorative Pamphlets & Books were available in exchange for Money at a Stall that had been erected nearby.

Other Vendors in the area sold the aforementioned Sweaters, along with Books (including an unusual Preponderance of those in the French tongue), garishly adorned Electric Guitars, & Hamburgers. One store was filled with plastic Mannequins which, I am told, are highly prized as erotic Totems by a certain local Tribe, who were themselves visible in a Corner playing a complex Card Game. Their idiosyncratic Dress & Speech leads me to believe this Tribe to be related to the elusive Old Akihabarans, and invite interested Scholars who wish to investigate this Issue further to contact me via the Publisher.


Narrow bus seat to the deep north

I'm off to Aomori for a wedding! Dorky pale ties all round! Back next week. I'll post some photos from the road if I can.

In the meantime, here's an old song from the Aomori region, known as Mutsu at the time, courtesy of Edo-period collection 『山家鳥虫歌』 (Sankachōchūka):

秋風が吹けばいの 秋風が吹けばサ
豆の葉も枯れるいの 豆の葉も枯れるサ
枯れたが大事か 何としょさんしょのせい

akikaze ga fukeba, ino/ akikaze ga fukeba sa
mame no ha mo kareru, ino/ mame no ha mo kareru sa
kareta ga daiji ka/ nantosho sansho no sei

When the autumn wind blows, ino!/ When the autumn wind blows, sa!
The bean leaves wither too, ino!/ The bean leaves wither too, sa!
Withered, but so what?/ Nantosho, sansho no sei!

ASANO Kenji, who edited the edition I have, helpfully reminds us that the aki that means "autumn" is homophonous with the aki that means "boredom", and then that "bean" was Edo-period slang for the female genitalia. He also notes that some believe that the third line is a reply from the woman.

I'm not sure if it's supposed to be "Withered, but is that important?" or "Is the withering the problem?" or "Is it that which has withered that matters to you?" (i.e. if it would be 枯れたのが大事 etc. in MJ), and I'm not even sure if I understand what 大事 means in that context, so I've gone for a vague translation. Also, I don't know if that 何としょ etc. in the last line is meant to have actual meaning or if it's just meaningless "hey dilly diddle" stuff. Maybe someone with a college edumucation can shed further light on the matter while I'm away.

(By the way, sorry about all the woman-dissing poetry here lately. I'll try to even things out by posting some man-bashing classics when I get back.)


Ainu numbers

The Ainu counting system is simple but the etymology is intriguing. There are lots of pages in Japanese with tables of data which you can consult for the details, but the summary is: there are roots for the numbers one through five (/sine/, /tu/, /re/, /ine/, /asikne/), ten (/wan/), and twenty (/hot/). Everything else is (etymologically) a combination of those roots.

As Kirsten REFSING puts it in The Ainu Language,

6 to 9 are derived by deducting 4, 3, 2, and 1 respectively from 10. I-wan is this "four (i < ine) - ten (wan)"; and arwan should be "three - ten", where ar < re, according to Chiri (1936). Tupesan [8] and sinepsan [9] are usually interpreted as tu/sine + p + e + san, i.e. "two/one - thing - thereby - ten", where san < wan. However, a more likely interpretation of these last two numerals is suggested by Patrie (1981). He traces their origin back to an alternate morpheme for "ten", namely upis, which is found in Kurile Ainu as documented in the 18th century by Krascheninnikov and Steller independently (see Murayama: 1971). Thus tupesan is from tu-upis and sinepesan from sine-upis. The final -an remains to be accounted for, but it may perhaps be connected with the existential verb an.

Meanwhile, /asikne/ (five) is probably related to a word meaning "hand" or "finger", and "hot" apparently has something to do with a word meaning "set" (as in, one person's full set of digits, I suppose.)

Interestingly, "six" (the first number without its own morpheme) is the official Ainu number for "lots and lots", kind of like "eight" in Japanese.

Yan-san is alive and well and playing Bossa Nova in Yokohama

And commenting on blogs.



Nodame is coming

The TVfication of NINOMIYA Tomoko's ongoing series Nodame Cantabile begins tomorrow night. I don't think I'm going to make it home in time to watch it, but I'm deeply curious to see how they handle the fact that a significant proportion of the punchlines in that comic take the form of "Chiaki [Nodame's love interest] becomes enraged and kicks Nodame across the room."

Ninomiya has the talent to show her characters beating on each other without making things unpleasant. Although the series is set in a nominally "real" world, she is very proficient at using the standard manga cues (and a few of her own invention) to show that a certain image is a stylized representation of an emotion or dynamic, rather than a straight view of the scene.

The poster at Shibuya station (and one of the images that cycles past on the Fuji TV site linked from above) seems to be showing such a scene, in the form of an aggressively cartoony composite. I wonder if the actual scene will be a still frame like that, or if the director has actually found a way to show a real live actor punching a real live actress so hard that she flies into the air and lands several feet away, weeping, and make it work as part of a romantic comedy.


Ironic or not corner

I guess these have been around for a while, but I never noticed them before: "Sakura"-brand cigarettes.

Yes, as in the flower long prized as a symbol of the fleeting, fragile lives we mortals lead, perhaps most notoriously in the context of certain military tactics.

I was going to dig up a haiku or something to put at the end here, but upon reflection it's really not necessary, is it?


Plus bonus tie that goes with anything!

An ad I found in this week's Shonen Magajin:

"Six co-ordinated-by-100-OLs-so-there's-no-mistake [shirt-and-tie] sets!"

This is, I guess, the male equivalent of the aisare wanpi (literally, "be-loved one-piece [dress]") that turn up in women's fashion magazines so often. (Actually, the aisare part turns up attached to all sorts of things; it's practically a productive morpheme.)

There is one big and entertaining difference, though: the extra selling point of "not in error!" Deep down, everyone knows that mail-order shirts from the back of a comic book aren't going to make any female co-workers fall in love with them. But the reassurance that they will, at the very least, save you from fashion blunders -- that is aimed at a far more vulnerable and desperate place in the male psyche.

Maybe... just maybe...


House painters

In Shinjuku. The rest of the site is worth poking around in, too, if you can read Japanese and aren't The Man.


Now-opaque jokes from the Edo period

"So I went out and bought me a jorō (hooker) last night."

"Oh yeah? Where'd you go?"

"To the Matsuba."

"Who'd you buy?"


"What? You know Somenosuke?"

"Sure I do. Great guy."

(It's funny because the first speaker has never actually bought a jorō at all, which embarrassing character flaw is exposed by his ignorance of their naming conventions: he thinks that they use male names because they are men, rather than because that's just what jorō do.)

"Damn, this nosebleed just won't stop," said the first man.

"Here. I know what to do," said the second. He pulled three hairs out of the back of the first man's neck [which was widely believed to cure nosebleeds because it was a sudden painful shock].

Then the first man turned into a monkey.

(It's funny because back in the Edo period there was a saying that humans are only one or two three hairs away from monkeys, with humans being the hairier ones.)

Okay, now one that's less opaque:

A country bumpkin came to stay with a city-dwelling friend who loved kemari. They ate a light lunch together and then the urbanite said "All right, now let's get stuck into the main course!" and brought out a ball.

"Thanks!" said the bumpkin, took it from him, and started gnawing at it.

"No, no, no! Mōshi! Dude!" said the other man. "Here, let me show you." And he took it back and started kicking it into the air.

"Ah, of course," said the bumpkin. "I thought it needed tenderizing."

(It's funny because bumpkins are ignorant of the important things like playing hackey-sack, because they waste all their time on growing food for city-dwellers to eat.)

"She is robot working girl"

And her name? Der, I think. Der Plushy.


The least lovely poem in the entire Manyōshū

I think I found it.

香塗流 塔尓莫依 川隈乃 屎鮒喫有 痛女奴


kau nureru tau ni na yori so kahakuma no kusohuna hameru itaki meyatuko

Don't come near the incense-fragrant tower, you horrible, river-toilet shit-carp-eating bitch.

This was improvised by one Naga no Okimaro, the challenge being that his poem had to include the words "incense", "tower", "toilet", "shit", "carp", and "slave" "servant, inferior". "Toilet" was actually supposed to be 厠 (/kahaya/) but he used 川隈 (/kahakuma/, "river-nook") instead, because it was understood to mean more or less the same thing. Shit-carp (屎鮒) thrive there, natch. "Servant/inferior", meanwhile, is within the word meyakko ("woman-slave" or "female servant [derog.]"), which I have here translated as "bitch" for poetic reasons.

More information on Okimaro can be found on the internet.


Ainu proverbs

Hey, I got an intra-cocoon link from Marxy. (Specifically, the post I may as well have entitled "I will now burn all bridges with the magazine publishing world". Figures.) Better post something new that everyone can enjoy.

The revised and expanded edition of Kayano Shigeru's 『アイヌ語辞典』 (Ainugo jiten, Ainu Dictionary) includes extra phrases, proverbs, and even riddles. Here's one for you:

Par ka sak, sik ka sak, tek ka sak, kema ka sak. Honi-porop hemanta an.

It lacks a mouth, it lacks eyes, it lacks hands, it lacks legs. What is this big-bellied thing?

I asked this one of a co-worker, and she guessed: "a dead body in the river?" That's why I love her, of course. (The expected answer is "an egg".)

Another word of interest from the appendix: aynu-o-hoppa ("person" + [reciprocal reflexive] + "leave behind"), which sounds like it should just mean "leaving each other behind" but actually means "punching your wife before you go on a trip". The idea apparently is that if you punch your wife before you leave, she won't miss you.


I hope that's just some kind of Ainu in-joke.


The Laundromat Translation Series: "On the Lake", by NAKAHARA Chūya

When the moon floats out serene,
Let us launch a boat and leave.
Let the waves lap at the bow;
There will be a little wind, no doubt.

If we venture far from shore,
No doubt we will find darkness there, and hear
the friendly sound of water off the oars--
     In the spaces torn between your words.

Let the moon prick up his ears.
Let him sink a little nearer.
When our lips meet in a kiss,
Let him be there, just above our heads.

You will speak again, some silly
thing, some ill that makes you frown and pout.
I will listen, letting nothing spill--
     But my rowing hands I will not stop.

When the moon floats out serene,
Let us launch a ship and leave.
Let the waves lap at the bow;
There will be a little wind, no doubt.


International research effort continues

GaijinBiker has the latest on SNAKE FLIGHT. My prediction has, it seems, been borne out.



So, there's this LOHAS (Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability) magazine called Sotokoto aimed at people who want to lead lifestyles OHAS. It has recipes, restaurant reviews, articles about NGOs and ecological activist groups, etc. etc. And this month it is publishing a companion issue called Erokoto: a magazine which bills itself as "Erotic but Lohas".

Page 9 features the "Erokoto manifesto" (エロコト宣言), by chief editor SAKAMOTO "Yellow Magic Orchestra" Ryūichi (!). "The very existence of eroi [erotic] women is eko [ecology-consciousness/positivity; 'greenness']," it begins, over a pink-tinted picture of a female posterior which, it seems only fair to point out, is indeed not drilling oil wells or carelessly introducing any fast-breeding alien predators into fragile wetland environments. I find myself not unconvinced, and continue.

"It has been 3.8 billion years since life was born on this planet," Sakamoto says, "and it has continued uninterrupted ever since, right up to the present day." He attributes this to two things: Food (食) and Sex (性). (Pity the life that had to survive on food alone for the first 2 billion years or so, before sexual reproduction evolved.) "Or, to put it another way, 個体維持 [individual maintenance/sustenance] and 種の保存 [preservation of seed]," he clarifies.

"These days, in Japanese society, too, eco seems to have become entirely equated with 'environmental awareness'. This is a laudable thing. The bookstores overflow with eko magazines, and they are full of information about Food. But stop. Wait a moment. The other essence of life, Sex, isn't being addressed at all." He decries this as an injustice, and explains that Erokoto is meant to meet that need. "Eroi women are eko," he repeats, in large, bold type, and thus ends the manifesto.

To put this in perspective, it comes right after a photo spread of R-rated model Honoka (NSFW!) shot by writer Lily Franky (who is male, by the way), and is followed by an article about a bondage salon. Elsewhere in the magazine, porn star Amami Rei gets photographed with healthy, healthy fruit smeared on her ("I love Erokoto's way of thinking!" she gushes in the accompanying text). There is an article entitled "Can Porn Save the Planet?" and a rather racy travel piece (Iwate) illustrated by a picture of a naked woman standing with her arms spread and head thrown back under a gigantic red torii. Sex workers are introduced with effusive praise for their "Jōmon faces" (thick eyebrows, big eyes, full lips), and (PG-rated) idol KOIKE Eiko is introduced as the "Jōmon Venus". There's even a feature about love dolls, suggesting that Erokoto's ecological stance is a moderate one, able to accept some uses of plastics if not all.

The interesting part, of course, is what is missing: men. Or, more accurately, men as participants in all this ero rather than consumers of it. Because if men are consumers, women can only be products. Sure, much of the text celebrates Woman with the usual earth-goddess stuff, but actual women are more likely to find themselves inserted into whimsical forest collages among the trees and bunny rabbits, as if to say "Okay, if you aren't moved so much by loss of biodiversity, imagine if biodiversity were a hot babe. Then you sure wouldn't want to lose it, eh? Recycle!"

I'm sure there were good intentions all round, and there are a few pages where women appear without the objectifying treatment, and just under half of the editorial staff is female &c. &c., but it is depressing to see so much of the same old male-centric approach to sex positivity, where women are expected to just sort of come along for the ride.