From the 1959 New Cookbook, published by the Japan Cookery School (日本割烹学校)

[Doll salad pic]

"Doll salad: Arrange ham like a dress around a core of potato salad." Easy. Nutritious. Doubles as set dressing for movies about cannibal hillbilly clans.

The JCS was an Osaka-based operation run by TSUJI Tokumitsu and catering mostly to students and housewives. As I understand it, it was a direct ancestor to Tsuji Gakuen, and an indirect ancestor to the tsujicho empire: tsujicho was founded by TSUJI Shizuo, a reporter who fell in love with Tokumitsu's daughter Katsuko while visiting the JCS on assignment and married into the family business a few months later. Aww.



Apropos of this variety of unreligious experience (via Languagehat), here's the first sentence from YANASE Naoki's Japanese translation of Finnegans Wake that really made me grin:

Original His howd feeled heavy, his hoddit did shake.
RomajiMoko mokko to mokkori omoku, mokko-ririshiku daishindō.

If you can say "Moko mokko to mokkori omoku, mokko-ririshiku daishindou" without enjoying it, I put it to you that you are objectively anti-fun. Aside from the fun m/k alliteration, paralleling the h/d in the original, that is some beautiful vowel work. You spend most of the sentence at the front of your mouth, morkling away, then suddenly you trip over ririshiku and tumble into dai, which feels like a limitless expanse by comparison. In one sentence!

(A mokko is a woven straw basket for carrying heavy, low-value mass nouns: dirt, produce, manure. It's not quite a hod, but it's pretty close. Moko mok[k]o is mimesis implying bulkiness; mokkori is mimesis for a crotch-bulge. [You don't believe me? Google image search.] Note also the second, poorly hidden mokkori overlapping with ririshiku, "handsomely". Daishindō: a great shaking!)


The emphatic quotation mark in Japan

Language Log reminded me to post this great example of "Quotation Mark" abuse in Japanese:


"Kasa no" o-machigai ni go-chūi kudasai, which means Please be careful of "umbrella" mistakes, i.e. Do not accidentally take an "umbrella" which is not yours. (Aside: If you were going to quotation-mark a word in that sentence, wouldn't it be "accidentally"?)

Note that the quotation marks enclose not just kasa (umbrella) but kasa no (of the umbrella). This is called a bunsetsu (文節) or phrase*; kasa on its own is just a tango (単語), "[single] word". Treating the bunsetsu rather than the tango as the atomic unit is common in literary contexts and was even more common in earlier times. (Many ad hoc prewar romanizations have spaces between bunsetsu rather than tango, for example.)

In other words, this is one strange, poetic sign. I approve.

* Though I would translate 文節 "word knuckle" if I thought I could get away with it.


Of such is the kingdom of Heaven

(This is an excerpt from Epitaphs from the [Sakamoto] International Cemetery in Nagasaki (『長崎—外人墓地の碑文』), written by Diego Pacheco S.J. and published in 1977. The original is in Japanese, except for inscription; the translation is mine.)

The white marble tombstone is small. The cross is made of the same marble, but it has been toppled and lies beside the grave. Carved into the cross is a name: LEWIS. The inscription is exceedingly difficult to read, but I am eventually able to distinguish the following words:


It is the grave of two children, probably twins. Who can have toppled the cross? In fact, there are many fallen crosses and gravestones in the International Cemetery. The cemetery was very close to the center of the atomic explosion, and the effects of the blast were felt all too well here too. This white stone, erected to communicate the love felt for these children by their parents, almost seems to have raised its voice to speak of the inhumanity of war.

I am reminded of these words from the Bible:

I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. (Luke 19:40)


Thesis and antithesis

So I was reading this article at Livedoor about with magazine's proclamation of the Age of Deretsun. Deretsun, being the opposite of tsundere, is apparently a word which describes a woman who generally acts supportive and starry-eyed but isn't afraid to get tough when... yeah, exactly, it's balls.

(Credit where due: I found it via Itai News, where after everyone had gotten the "[three-dimensional] women suck" out of their system, they raise the real issue: On what grounds are with claiming Maison Ikkoku's OTONASHI Kyōko, a legendary figure from the Silver Age of tsundere, as the Platonic Ideal of their deretsun concept?

(Hey, check out the Maison Ikkoku FAQ's old-school, no-images approach to showing Japanese characters.))

Anyway, the article uses the word merihari which means "pleasantly modulated" or "appealingly varied". (Update: see comments for correction.) I've known and liked this word for a while but I realized that I had no idea why it meant what it meant, so I looked it up.


  • The /meri/ is from meru, a verb meaning "decrease", "weaken", or—and this is the relevant meaning to merihari—"become lower in pitch". meru itself has basically become extinct, although it survives in the not uncommon compound verb merikomu, "sink into [something]".
  • The /hari/ used to be /kari/, from the verb karu meaning "become higher in pitch". I don't remember hearing the word before, but I bet it's still in use among traditional Japanese musicians. (Since it's usually written 上る, I have the feeling that I may have read it before and assumed it was a pre-modernization-okurigana version of agaru, "rise".)

So together, the original phrase was merikari, literally "lows and highs", applied only to music. According to SUGIMOTO Tsutomu's Gogenkai, usage then spread through acting (specifically, delivery of lines) and finally exploded into the rest of the world.


The all-night lamp of youth

Today, a poem by Ryōkan:

一思少年時 I think of when I was a youth
読書在空堂 Reading in an empty hall
燈火数添油 Refilling the lamp, again and again,
未厭冬夜長 Untiring through the long winter night

There are a few sites discussing this poem in various languages on the web (notably this one, including explanation of how a Japanese reader would pronounce it and Steven D. Carter's translation from his excellent anthology Traditional Japanese Poetry). The work has great appeal to nerds, for obvious reasons.

But wait! Those four lines are only the second half of a two-poem set. They are preceded by this:

老朽夢易覚 Aged, I easily wake from my dreams
覚来在空堂 Waking, I am in an empty hall
堂上一盞灯 Here in the hall there is only one lamp
挑尽冬夜長 The lamp gutters out on this long winter night

So the second poem turns out not to be simply a golden remembrance of Ryōkan's bookish youth. It's also a variation on the first poem's theme: note that the second and fourth lines end exactly the same way in both verses. Not to deny the whimsy here, but that's only the surface. Underneath, Ryōkan's concerned with the rolling boulder of time, the ravages of age—let's not overlook the symbolism of the all-night lamp of youth vs the guttering-out lamp of age—and the disconnect between our childhood and adult selves. (Elsewhere he describes his formative years thus: "As a child I studied the classics, but failed to become a Confucian scholar; as a youth I practiced Zen, but didn't receive the light": 少小学文懶為儒, 少年参禅不伝燈.)

Anyway, the world's hardly hurting for more translations of Ryōkan—everyone loves the crazy zen monks best—but I thought other people who remembered him basically from Carter might be interested in this.


Unbelievable! Kawabata is moving!

My latest article at Néojaponisme: Kawabata, Mishima & the Nobel Prize. I recommend it to anyone interested in Kawabata, Mishima, the Nobel Prize, gossip about ISHIHARA Shintarō, and/or the J2E translation scene in postwar Tokyo. Extra No-sword-exclusive related content follows:

[Kawabata/Mishima image]
  • In the 1965 interview that Chuckles links to, Mishima is quoted thus:

    No dictionary contains all the Kanji there are. The first and second proofs often come back with a mark called a geta, because it looks like the imprint of a geta, the Japanese wooden clog, in place of a character that the printer has had to order specially made. He always has it for the third proof.

    That mark is the geta symbol 〓, which is probably most familiar this century as the symbol that cellphones use in place of characters they can't display. (I recall seeing a lot of these in cellphone mail from emoticon-happy friends on different networks—this was before the phone companies began their glaciation towards a hypothetical standard.)

  • "Sensei, what kind of a thing is happiness?" -- KAWABATA Yasunari's Asagumo, in coming-attraction form. "The purest coming-of-age girl novel in the history of Japanese literature!" From a mid-90s program called Bungaku to iu koto (文學ト云フ事), which apparently gave this treatment to a different classic of Japanese letters every week. The music is bafflingly inappropriate; contrive therefore to ignore it.


Miss Komako 2008

I imagine that most people reading this will be familiar with KAWABATA Yasunari's Snow Country and so it will not be too much of a spoiler to observe that the character Komako is not depicted as an especially aspirational figure. When she isn't lyrically embodying some lonely mountain mood, she's staggering around red-faced and drunk.

So you can imagine my surprise to learn that Yuzawa Onsen—Yuzawa being the town where the events of Snow Country take place—has a yearly "Miss Komako" competition in which three charming young women are officially recognized as avatars of melancholy isolation winter fun!

One of this year's Mesdames Komako, WATANABE Rika, is partial to aerobics and marathon-running. IMAI Kino likes to get in a little snowboarding when she can. I'm sure you'll agree that the fidelity to Kawabata's vision is remarkable. Remember that scene when Shimamura is seated at the window, meditating on the purity of the snowscape and the inevitability of death, and Komako flies past outside, pulling off a gnarly backside 720 and shouting "Cowabunga!"?

Also, perhaps in homage to Kawabata's habit of building novels out of polished fragments over a period of years, they blog.

(Found via this marvelous Spirit-of-Geocities '96 Snow Country page.)


Mom, dad, do you know what I'm looking at?

I've been enjoying Digital Arts's "i-Filter" campaign for weeks now, so I decided it was time to share.

Whoever directed this photo shoot was a genius. The girl's expression is pure gold, of course, but the rest of it is jammed full of symbolism too. Mom may have her back turned, but look at her apron and intra-kitchen positioning: she's not a bad or neglectful parent.

(Dad is absent, but that's still the default for the Platonic Ideal of an upper-class Japanese families, so he's not neglectful either. Also, clearly whatever job he's holding down has gotten them into a nice, roomy, modern, well-lit house.)

So, to summarize: Don't get cocky. It could happen to you. Your child is "always exposed to danger" (いつも危険にさらされています). And when disaster strikes, she will pull a face like this... and lean closer to the monitor.

Additional entertainment is provided by their Why Filtering? page, which presents a survey of 217 elementary school kids in which 53.9% said that they take care not to click on "suspicious-looking" (あやしげ) links, but only 30% try their best to avoid sites with "violent, sexual, or anti-social content". It follows that nearly 1 in 4 of the children surveyed do not consider violence, sex, or anti-social activity "suspicious" at all. Those are some jaded kids.

Obligatory language note: the ad contains the line "Shitteiru' kara 'shiteiru' e, which literally means "From 'knowing [about it]' to 'doing [something about it]'", with a weak pun on shitteiru/shiteiru (knowing/doing). This was I think popularized by the Advertising Council's 2007 Shitteiru o, shiteiru e ("[turn] 'knowing' into 'doing'") environmentalist spot.


At night, with you

I have returned, scarred but triumphant. Every day the air is getting warmer. HOSHINO Aki is appearing in commercials for deodorant powered by the similarity of her given name to the word waki, "underarm". The sakura are looking ready to drop.

Here is a delightfully creepy poem called "Smoking at night with a rose" (夜の煙草と薔薇) by KATŌ Kaishun.

On the table stands a rose,
One red rose, awake in this late night.
I seat myself before it and light up.

A fog of melancholy, this;
A smokescreen of vexation--No.
At night, tobacco smoke's a liquid
Strange and burning smooth.

I bite down on it tightly,
Taste the menace of the night.
This is no human hunger, but
Some terrible other lust.

O rose, breathe deep yourself as well
Of these uncanny fumes
Revere in praise this beautiful dark power.

Our dim room in the night,
O rose, brims over now
With sensual illusion, with struck-dumbness, with allure.

So intoxicated, you would
Soon leap for my spirit, I suppose,
But rose,
I would eat you first.