Mino Monta (I always thought it was one word) has set a Guinness world record for most hours on TV in a single week (21 and a bit; presumably people on Big Brother-style shows are being excluded from competing). This is not at all surprising; the guy is everywhere.

He also just released his first single, 「夜の虫」 ("/Insects? (of the|at) night/"). Yep: enka. Word on the streets is that it sounds like an Okinawan folk song.

Bonus Mino Monta link.


The low-hanging fruit of 1935 Japanese recipe magazines

In early Showa Japan, mayonnaise eats you.

Damn, it feels good to be a homemaka.

The most soulful ad for breadcrumbs I've ever seen.

Your family will literally go insane for our canned pineapple.

The recipes, I grieve to report, are nothing special.


Freddie Mercury worshipped as god in Shinjuku

(Brian May, on the other hand, has become a hairy Enkidu-like folk deity.)

... by me!

Today is Freddie Mercury's meinichi (命日), which means "life day" kanji-to-word and refers to the anniversary of the day on which somebody died. Not coincidentally, I am sure, We Will Rock You closes in Tokyo tonight, and the Tokyo International CineCity Festival showed Queen in Budapest on the big screen.

Not that they had a special long-lost decent print of it or anything. No, they just projected the video and ran the crappy sound through the cinema speakers. Static-tastic! But it was still Queen. And we all enjoyed the outlaw thrill of seeing the FBI warning against exhibiting the video in public and/or for a profit when we were party to that very crime.

Bonus language-and-Queen-related fact: although that recent "50 Worst Video Game Names of All Time" article found itself unable to explick the title Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, it's an obvious reference to the Japan-only single from Day at the Races, "Teo Torriatte". The lyrics te wo toriatte, literally "holding [each other's] hands", were poetically translated "Let us cling together" for the English chorus. And if you think it's strange that a Japanese game designer should love Queen that much, you clearly don't understand nerds or Freddie Mercury. (Yeah, yeah, Brian May wrote that particular song.)


Aloha ow

The Hawaii Karate Museum has more interesting stuff than I would have guessed. Rare book collection, old newspaper articles ("I have heard about the fearful "karate", or Japanese boxing...")... but mostly I just wanted to make the above pun.


Guns and bedrest

Here's an interesting advertisement I found on the back of a Shōwa 9 (1934) Japanese household almanac:

Oh, beloved child
Be thou happy
Toys for your spirit
Kyūmeigwan for your body

Kyūmeigwan (救命丸) is the name of the medicine being advertised; its name literally translates as "save-life ball" and note the old-fashioned "gw" instead of "g", which OH MY GOD THAT KID'S MOTHER IS HOLDING A RIFLE.

Which is some confused imagery. I guess the idea is that she's prepared to defend her child with force, if need be, but even as early as 1934 the vast majority of doctors had stopped prescribing gunfire as a treatment for any childhood ailment I am aware of.

The child looks uneasy about the setup, too. "Jeepers, I feel a lot better all of a sudden! I'll just get dressed for school right now! Don't shoot, mom, okay?"


Hwæt! Hirahara Ayaca swefna cyst | secgan wylleþ

I heard my first Christmas single of the year today: HIRAHARA "Jupiter" Ayaka's "Christmas List". I'd seen the cover in a shop the other day, and had guessed that it was probably one of those "the only thing on my Christmas list is you" numbers, but I was wrong. Hirahara's Christmas list is much more altruistic, including as it does universal friendship, an end to war, "the justice" for all (definite French influence there), and eternal love.

In fact, since it is as I later learned a translated cover of "Grown-Up Christmas List" by David FOSTER and Linda THOMPSON, I can give you the official English version:

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Every man would have a friend
That right would always win
And love would never end

(Sorry, ladies, no friends for you. But at least you won't get heart disease.)

To spare my more cynical commentors the trouble, I will note that the video-song combination does indeed seem to blur the distinction between Santa Claus and Jesus in a slightly unnerving way. What the glowing cross effect most reminded me of, though, was the Dream of the Rood.


Man vs machine

Web Ukiyoe is an interesting site contrasting old ukiyoe with old (though usually not quite as old) photos of the same thing. For those who don't read Japanese: try the tiny links way down low, under the green text.

Meanwhile, OKAMOTO Tatuharu makes ukiyoe on modern themes. And good for him, since the word didn't originally connotate "old-fashioned pictures of courtesans and stuff", but rather "pictures of the world we live in". If anything, he needs more pictures of drunken salarymen and creaky concrete housing.


The Meiji commute, plus an ourang-outang

A few cartoons from one of my favorite Meiji-era Japanese artists, NAGAHARA Kōtarō. I believe these all date from around the turn of the century.

"Mission school"
"Coming home from school"
"Apes as people see them, and people as apes see them"


Edo phrase of the day

shiri shirazu (尻知らず): literally, "[one who] is ignorant of [their own] ass". A person who always forgets to close the door (or shōji, at the time) after them.


The Taishō commute

Tanka by KOIZUMI Chikashi (古泉千樫):


asa hayami/ densha norikahuru/ miyakezaka/ kamo wiru hori wo/ tatite koso mire

Still early morning when I change trains
at Miyakezaka, so
at the moat I stand and watch the ducks


Two pictures from a 1960 "new kimono" magazine

The first one, I like for legitimate aesthetic reasons:

The second one, I like because it seems to be crying out for a title like This Will End Well:

(For the record: Atarashii kimono zenshuu, published with Shufu to seikatsu 15/2, 1960-01-15.)


Let's speak American

Have I linked to this before? The ONO Hideo Collection, aflame with Edo media, or "Edodia" as specialists call it (in my imagination). Of particular interest are all the pictorial shinbun ("newspapers", literally means "new hearings") from back in the days when they were just a leaf of paper containing a prurient picture ideally but not necessarily related in some way to the idle gossip, patent falsehoods and cheerful bawdiness ("feigning sleep is called 'playing tanuki'; an ageing courtesan is called an 'old tanuki'") crammed into the gaps.

Some items in the collection concern themselves with things non-Japanese, including this picture of a wonderfully sensitive-looking "Ruslander", and this outrageously spurious Japanese-American glossary. Although the Manjirō it refers to really did end up in America after accident at sea, I can only hope that he did not actually return convinced that Americans called fish "kyonpō", shamisen (!) "toraneta", or farts "skappon". It is, though, endearing to see that whoever wrote this apparently believed that the Japanese male/female morphemes /[w]o/ and /me/ were universal, because "father" and "mother" are listed as "oranhei" and "meranhei".


Baby got back (shoot me)

I'm going to be spending most of my free time this November translating HIGUCHI Ichiyō's novella Takekurabe at Takekurabe vs No-sword.

Takekurabe was written in the late 1800s and centres around the vigorous and fistfightful lives of young children growing up in and around Yoshiwara, the red-light district. According to the Wikipedia entry, it's been translated into English twice, but I haven't read either of them (yeah, I never did get around to Keene's Kompendia) so hopefully mine'll be different enough to have a raison d'etre.

The title, by the way, literally means "back-comparing", i.e. comparing heights, used of course in a metaphorical as well as a literal sense, and evoking that period in one's life when one is still growing. It is quite difficult to translate into English, and I don't really think much of "Child's Play" or "Growing Up" as translations or as titles for the work... so I decided not to translate it at all. Lazy is the new authentic.


Context-free poetry

Medium-sized announcement coming soon (I hope). In the meantime, check this out: Context Free Grammar for Natural Language Constructs: An implementation for Venpa Class of Tamil Poetry.

I would include a quote, but for some reason the PDF doesn't allow copying, so just trust me when I say that you will probably find it interesting if you know what "context free grammar" means, and you might find it fascinating even if you don't.