Hino Kōnosuke's Tokyo

I love this book: Tōkyō hyakkei 東京百景 ("One hundred views of Tokyo"), by HINO Kōnosuke 日野耕之祐. Published 1967 with a list price of 480 yen. My copy cost 20 yen more, 40 years later. Here's Hino's Hachikō (the dog outside Shibuya station):

I love old photographs, too, but this sketch captures the essence of the dog and environs better than a photograph ever could. That initial search—huh, wasn't there supposed to be a dog around here somewhere?—followed by the flash of realization—ah, there it is, half-hidden behind all the people. The women's clothing is perfect, the dog's profile angle is perfect.

It's an ironic take on the hyakkei genre, which usually involves a surfeit of detail so that even those who have never been to the place can imagine it. I'm not sure that anyone could imagine Hachikō after seeing this. But you cannot but remember it.

One more: Hino's Inokashira Park. (Slightly worse scan, sorry.)


Kimono = hat

Found this photo at an antique store a couple months ago:

An excellent illustration of the important principle that for men, kimono = hat. (Not cap. Hat.)

A few decades ago, every man could wear one and look good. Nowadays, it's still possible, but a lot harder. Most men need a boost from either circumstance (Kimono: I'm performing traditional Japanese music! Hat: I'm playing trombone in a ska band!) or age (Kimono: I'm 70! Hat: I'm 70!). And if you fail to pull it off, well, you feel kind of awkward.

That seal at the bottom left says "Igarashi" (五十嵐), by the way.

Here's a close-up of the sake distribution nexus:

The brand of choice: Shirayuki ("White Snow", add a Hime ["princess"] for "Snow White"). Nice wig on the right, too. You won't see that outside of a wedding or a chindon'ya these days. Well, maybe in Kyoto.

The woman in the middle is still going strong as a type, though. I think I bought a beer from her just last week.


I'll experiment like a scientist/ You wanna rhyme, you gotta sign my list

I just found these two great papers by Shigeto KAWAHARA on rhyming in Japanese hip-hop:

  1. Aspects of Japanese Hip-Hop Rhymes: What They Reveal about the Structure of Japanese (2002)
  2. Half rhymes in Japanese rap lyrics and knowledge of similarity (2007)

The first of these is a five-page introduction to the topic that proposes the following rules:

  1. Rhymes "consist of the agreement of at least two moraic elements". A "moraic element" is an element that could form a mora on its own: a vowel (even if part of a CV mora in the actual word), a syllable-final /N/, or the first half of geminate consonant. For example, satsutaba rhymes with aru nara on the basis of [a-u-a-a]; panchira ni/han-biraki is [a-N-i-a-i], and naku naru tte/wakatte is a [Q-e] rhyme.
  2. Extrametricality is allowed. nurui kaze/furui tate(ru) is a valid rhyme. This also "helps to explain the fact that a long vowel can (and in fact often does) rhyme with its short counterpart": shigusa/furita(a).
  3. Rhymes are "always computed in one-to-one fashion (BINARITY) in a successive way (CYCLICITY)".

That last one feels shakiest to me. It's an oversimplification that doesn't seem neccessary. Take a look at Kawahara's example (from "MASTERMIND", by DJ HASEBE featuring ZEEBRA and Mummy-D):

It's true that a strict non-cyclic view requires us to discard certain obvious rhyme components in adjacent lines (e.g. the shared /N/ in main(do)/bōdarain). But a cyclic view equally requires us to discard them in non-adjacent lines (e.g. the initial [o-o-a] in the distant [o-o-a-a-i] words bōdarai(n)/ōganai(zu)/tōkanai—and topparai's [o-Q-a-a-i] starts to look suspicious in that context too. It really looks more like an ad-hoc grouping system incorporating both cyclical and binary organization is at work.

Which is to say: A complex Japanese hip-hop verse is, just like a complex English hip-hop verse, liable to be threaded with all kinds of irregularly located intra- and interlinear tiers of rhyme and assonance. A simple example of this would be the sekai-jū/ōganaizu/massai-chū triad towards the end of the above example, or Crystal Kay's "gomen asobase/ABASISO asa made" (ABASISO = approximated-kanafied pronunciation of "I bust it, so"), which I have always considered the best part of "I Like It"*.

The second paper is a more sophisticated analysis working the angle that although the moraic elements may be necessary-and-sufficient for the rhyme, there is also a strong tendency to use similar non-moraic elements. For example, the pair kettobase/gettomane(e) is a five-element [e-Q-o-a-e] rhyme, but it should also be noted that each pair of non-matching consonants (k/g, b/m, s/n) shares the same place of production. The satisfying conclusion is that similarity of sound correlates with rhymeability (frequency of use in rhymes):

To summarize, the multiple regression analysis has revealed the degree to which the agreement of each feature contributes to similarity: (i) [pal] has a fairly large effect, (ii) [cont], [voi], [nas] have a medium effect, and (iii) [son], [cons] and [place] have too weak an effect to be detected by multiple regression.

Wait—if place is too weak to be detected by multiple regression, doesn't that kind of undermine the utility of the kettobase/gettomane(e) example? Well, sort of:

The lack of a significant effect of major features and [place] appears to conflict with what we observed in §3.2 and §3.3; [son], [cons], and [place] do cause overrepresentation when two consonants agree in these features. Presumably, the variability due to these features overlaps too much with the variability due to the four manner features, and as a result, the effect of [place] and the major class features per se may not have been large enough to have been detected by multiple regression.

Anywho, the second part of the paper is an argument for the idea that these findings of rhymeability are based on acoustics; that is, sounds rhyme not simply because they are produced in the same place or in the same way, but because they sound the same. Evidence for this includes the highly rhymeable {kj-tΣ} pair (e.g. chōshi/kyōmi), which shares acoustic features but not method of production, and the fact that "[m]inimal pairs of oral consonants differing in place are less common than the {m-n} pair", which Kawahara argues is because the {m-n} pair, being nasal, is the least acoustically affected by place. (This neatly ties in with Kawahara's argument that the weakness of [place] derives from its relatively minor influence on consonantal acoustics.)

Other interesting new claims in this paper:

  • "The boundary tone [dividing the non-rhyming and rhyming parts of a line] is usually a high tone (H) followed by a low tone (L) (with subsequent spreading of L), and this boundary tone can replace lexical tones."
  • "[I]t is usually high vowels that can be extrametrical. My informal survey has found many instances of high extrametrical vowels, but no mid or low extrametrical vowels." (I guess this means that Kawahara is abandoning the argument that shigusa/furita(a) rhymes because of an extrametrical /a/ (low central vowel) in favor of an implied argument that long vowels can substitute for short ones?)

Supplementary: At the 15th Japanese/Korean Linguistics Conference at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2005, Natsuko TSUJIMURA, Kyoko OKAMURA, and Stuart DAVIS appear to have presented a paper likening all of this to Zwicky's "rock rhymes", and pointing out another crucial component in the system, which is performers altering pronunciations of native and loan words slightly to help the rhyme along. The paper doesn't seem to be freely available online, but the abstract is.


Or a Scranton party

Ancient oaths bind all who read Sinophone literature to one day attempt a Cold Mountain translation. Here then is mine.

Source courtesy of the International Research Institute for Zen Buddhism.

登陟寒山道 寒山路不窮
谿長石磊磊 澗濶草濛濛
苔滑非關雨 松鳴不假風
誰能超世累 共坐白雲中
Keep on climbing up Cold Mountain Way
But a Cold Mountain road don't stop
Long is the valley, rolled 'round with rocks
Wide is the gully, grown green with grass
Moss can grow slick here without any rain
Pine trees can sing without borrowing wind
Who then will rise above worldy affairs
And come to sit with me in this here white cloud?

磊磊 is probably the word that interests me most in this poem, since I can so clearly imagine the moment of its creation: "Oh, man, I need a word for that onomatopoeia for 'a bunch of rocks'... I know! I'll just write 'rock' a bunch of times." Ah, the early days of Chinese orthography.

I also like the way this poem demonstrates the essential unity of Cold Mountain with a P-Funk party, like which no other party is.


Sheet of consciousness

So dig this:

Especially poignant is the fact that the product to the left used the correct spelling.

On the other hand, "sheet" and "seat" are homonyms as loanwords in Japanese, and this is a big thing to sit on, so why not "Jumbo Seat"? Believe me, the designer of this label is far from the only person in Japan to believe that those big blue tarpaulins everyone drags out for flower-viewing are "seats". Maybe you're the one who's got it wrong, man.

Speaking of photographs, pholks in or near L.A. should consider checking out the for-real version of Meeting Modernity. I can confirm that, contra "Eggbert"'s criticism at the end of that link, the appeal of this show is not exoticism but rather normalcy, beautifully captured. Also, how are you going to learn the ancient origins of the Japanese word for photograph if not by reading my essay there?


Nightmare fuel from Old Japan

Work is busy, but here's something to keep you curled up in a ball, unable to sleep:

Zoom in on that monkey-man.


Courtesy of Waseda's copy of Zōho sarukani kassen 増補猴蟹合戦, an "expanded" version of Japan's favorite tale about crabs, monkeys, and kitchen utensils murdering each other in cold blood.


"You're kind of a douchebag, and going to Japan is not going to fix that"

So I finally saw Cloverfield. Fun enough. I wish I'd been less spoiled, but that's the internet for you. I loved Michael Giacchino's Ifukube homage over the ending credits.

I have heard criticism along the lines that insofar as it is a 9/11 allegory "terrorism" becomes an alien monster of (literally) unfathomable origin, destroying innocent lives for no reason and unstoppable except via indiscriminate megadestruction. But then I suppose similar criticism applies to Godzilla as nuclear allegory.

Anyhey, I blog this because I was intrigued by Cloverfield's Japanese title, which is:


The first part is just "Cloverfield" in katakana. The second part, hakaisha is a Sino-Japanese word meaning "destroyer", from hakai 破壊 "destruction" and sha 者 "person, actor, doer". The standard Japanese word for iconoclast, for example, is gūzō hakaisha 偶像破壊者, "icon hakaisha". Graham Greene's "The Destructors" has been translated under the title "Hakaisha" (plural/singular distinction is optional in Japanese, as any fule kno). And so on.

The Cloverfield monster is indeed a destroyer, so fair enough. But the movie's title in the U.S. wasn't Cloverfield: The Destroyer, so why add it to the title in Japan—and why in roman characters?

A little research reveals that J.J. Abrams (for it is he) made this decision. According to various news sites (e.g.), he asked Paramount Japan what the Japanese word for "destroyer" was, and then told them to tack it on. No word on why, though; maybe he had heard before about katakana titles being misunderstood (many people here thought quite reasonably that ロード・オブ・ザ・リング was "Road of the Ring", for example), and wanted to make sure no-one came to the movie expecting a documentary about lush fields of emerald-green clover. Or crowbars, since the two loan words are homophonous in Japanese.

As for the romanization, my guess is that the intention was to make it seem slightly more exotic, more like a code name that an English-speaking government might choose.

Here are some 2chites fussing over this and related issues for your edutainment.


The Bodhidharma files

Courtesy of YANAGIDA Seizan 柳田聖山's 1969 edition of Daruma no goroku 達磨の語録 (Analects of Bodhidharma).

A monk said to Bodhidharma, "I am afraid of Hell, and so I repent of my sins and practice the Law."

"Where is this 'I'?" asked Bodhidharma. "What sort of thing is 'I'?"

"I do not know," replied the monk.

"You do not even know where 'I' is," said Bodhidharma, "What then will fall into Hell? If you do not even know what sort of thing 'I' is, all this is an elaboration on delusion, and elaboration on delusion is a Hell in and of itself."

That whole "Who is 'I'?" thing works so well in zen Buddhist anecdotes that I might start using it in my own life. The victim simply cannot recover from a derail like that. (Well, almost: "Matt, I need that report by Friday." "Who is 'I'?" "You're fired.")

A monk said to Bodhidharma, "All Buddhas everywhere have eliminated earthly desires and achieved the Law."

"Blather though you may about this deduction of yours," Bodhidharma replied, "There is nothing behind it."

Oh, snap! Seems that the elimination of earthly desires was a hot topic at the time, with many Buddhist scholars arguing that to do so would be to kill Buddha. (In a bad way.)



An excerpt from Tangyin bishi 棠陰比事, a 17th-century collection of great Chinese court decisions compiled by by GUI Wanrong 桂万栄 and translated for Iwanami by Komada Shinji 駒田信二. The name means "Comparisons of [judgments made in] the shade of the pear tree", the pear tree apparently being the place where legal complaints were legendarily/traditionally heard.

There was an old man who lived in Henan during the Han dynasty. He was over eighty years old and quite wealthy, but had no sons, and his only daughter had already married and left his household. His wife having died, he took another, and before long a son was born to them. Then the man himself died. His second wife began raising their son on her own, but after a few years had passed, his daughter reappeared, claiming that this new child was not truly her father's son, and demanding all of the money that the old man had left his widow.

Bing Ji 丙吉 heard the case. Recalling the common knowledge that the children of old men are highly sensitive to the cold, and do not cast a shadow even in the sun, he gathered together many children of the same age and dressed them all in identical tunics. The child at the heart of the case shivered while none of those around him did. Bing Ji then had all the children moved outside to sit in the sun, and observed that the old man's son was the only one who did not cast a shadow.

In this way it was decided that the old man's widow and her son should receive their entire inheritance.

I think Bing Ji may have been confusing "children of older men" with "vampires". Still, if you grant his premises, it's hard to fault his scientific method. And that scene where a bunch of identically-dressed toddlers are herded outside to cast shadows is priceless.

Related: Reinterpreting the Law in the Song, by Colin Hawes; Traditional Chinese Jurisprudence and the Supernatural: Can Ghosts give Evidence?, by Terry Kleeman.