Collars up

My new Néojaponisme piece about the history of haikara is up.

[H]aikara was just one of many similar Ishikawa-isms. His work lampooned not only the Haikara Party (ハイカラア党) and their allies the Necktie Party (ネクタイ党) but also their conservative enemies: the Pistol Party (ピストル党) and the Chonmage Party (チヨム髷党). None of these other words, Ishikawa admitted in a later memoir, caught on. So why did haikara?


Dirty Fuji update

Reader Peter very kindly forwarded me this comment on yesterday's Fuji postcard post from a relative who used to work at Oji Paper:

「この絵ハガキは昭和30年代に撮影されたと思います。写っているのはSPタワーと言って、サルファイトパルプ設備です。私が入社した昭和45年 (1970)には既にこの設備は廃棄されていました。この煙突はしばらくそのまま放置されていましたが、今は壊してしまったと思います。当時の日本には公害という概念はあまりなく、富士駅を電車が通過すると異臭がしたものです。当時会社が絵葉書を作ったとは思えないのですが、富士市が宣伝のために作ったのでしょうか。富士は製紙の町で大小200以上の製紙工場があったと記憶しています。その最大工場が本州製紙富士工場で、今もそうだと思います。こうしたカタチでブログに載せられて、このように語られるとはこの絵ハガキの作成者は思ってもみなかったことでしょう。よく見つけましたね!」

"The picture in this postcard was taken in the Showa 30's (1955-1964), I think. The tower you see is called an 'SP Tower'; it's part of the sulfite pulp plant. When I joined the company in Showa 45 (1970), they had already scrapped this plant. The smokestack was left as it was, but I think it's been demolished by now. At the time there wasn't really a concept of 'pollution' in Japan, and it really smelled terrible when you were passing Fuji Station in a train. It seems unlikely that [Honshu Paper] was making picture postcards back then, so this is probably made by Fuji City as an advertisement. Fuji was a paper manufacturing town, with over 200 mills (large and small), as I recall. The largest of all was the Honshu Paper Fuji Factory, and I believe it's still the biggest. I bet whoever made this postcard would never have dreamed that it would end up put on a blog and discussed like this. Way to dig this one up!"

I hereby award one point to Adamu.


Another view of Mt Fuji

I'll just come right out and admit that I don't really understand this postcard.

The text at the bottom left says "Honshū Paper K.K., Fuji Factory." Honshū Paper was, it seems, a corporate precursor of today's Oji Paper Group, and "Fuji" is obviously Mount Fuji. This is all clear. What I do not understand is why any manager would okay this as a postcard.

Maybe it dates from the days when Japanese manufacturing was still new and exciting. Maybe it was produced as a promotional item by Honshū Paper themselves. Either way, what is with the smoke? Surely even the most patriotic and/or company-loving Spirit-of-'67 industrialist would had second thoughts about advertising their project's ability to pollute and spoil beloved natural symbols.

The composition here is great, though. The chimney extends from below Mt Fuji's roots to above its heights, dividing the scene neatly in two. On the right, the edge of a factory looms into frame, fringed by metal shoots like steampunk bamboo; on the left, the ancient mountain broods behind ominous exhaust clouds. The two worlds remain nominally divided, but unlovely modernity is seeping into the world of symbol and spirit.

(Come to think of it, maybe that was precisely the thinking behind this image's postcardification.)

2009-01-27: Update from a primary source!


Chokotto marin

Fashion magazine ViVi's main headline this month:

"Chokotto marin" ga ichiban kawaii!
"Kinda marine" is cute to the max!

That is to say, a woman whose outfit draws subtle inspiration from those who ply the open sea (or maybe just the bits around Shōnan) will be more fashionable than one whose outfit does not.

And here is ViVi's cover this month:

I know it's too small to see properly, so here's the lowdown:

  • Salty-dog captain's hat with gold rope highlight
  • Jauntily-knotted scarf with wave pattern and tricolor trim
  • Navy-and-white horizontally striped dress with big golden anchor embroidered across torso
  • Navy cardigan
  • Fishnet stockings

Maybe that last one is reaching. Still, the overall effect is not "chokotto marin." It's "bitten by a radioactive French sailor from the 1920s." (Which is actually kind of hot.)



Reading How did the guitar change Japanese song? (ギターは日本の歌をどう変えたか) by KITANAKA Masakazu (北中正和) today, I came across an interesting claim regarding the etymology of sabi.

As music jargon, sabi can mean "B-section", "bridge", or even "chorus" depending on context—it's the part that stands out. Wikipedia lists the two most common theories about where it came from:

  1. Wabi-sabi, possibly via sabigoe, "sabi voice", a term in traditional Japanese music.
  2. Wasabi, because the sabi in a song functions like wasabi in a piece of sushi, intermediating between and dramatizing the other ingredients.

Kitanaka offers an alternate explanation which he attributes to HAYATSU Toshihiko (早津敏彦)—it seems to be in Hayatsu's History of Hawaiian Music and Dance in Japan: Aloha! Mele Hawai'i (日本ハワイ音楽・舞踊史—アロハ!メレ・ハワイ). According to Hayatsu→Kitanaka, the word sabi was invented inadvertently by Hawaiian music demigod Ernest KAAI, who made a big impression when he came to Japan in the 1920s.

The story goes like this: Back when AABA was still the most common popular music form, the B part would often be in the subdominant. Ernest would therefore write "SAB/" (for "subdominant") on the B section in sheet music, to give the players a broad heads-up. Japanese musicians thought the slash was a capital I, and read it as sabi. A word is born.

I have grave doubts about this etymology, starting with the idea that Kaai didn't know how to spell "sub". But I still think it's more likely than the "wasabi" explanation.



Uirō-uri ("Uirō vendor") is a famous monologue excerpted from the Top 18 kabuki play of the same name and now, I understand, used for voice training purposes. (If you want to give it a try, there's a pretty good reference recording available for download at that first link.)

The opening is fairly standard Kabuki self-introduction patter, with the vendor declaring his origins ("... twenty ri capitalwards from Edo, in Odawara, Sagami province...") in a long, rambling sentence that finally ends in his name: Ensai. Ensai gives his audience a quick review of uirō history (magical medicine invented by China and approved by Japan's emperor), and then moves on to his main claim: that uirō will, by improving the health of your Q-zone, grant you near-magical eloquence.

アワヤ喉、 サタラナ舌に、カ牙サ歯音、ハマの二つは唇の軽重、開合さわやかに、 アカサタナハマヤラワオコソトノホモヨロオ、一つへぎへぎに、へぎほしはじかみ、 盆まめ、盆米、盆ごぼう、摘蓼、つみ豆、つみ山椒……

A-wa-ya nondo, sa-ta-ra-na zetsu ni, ka ge sa shion, ha-ma no futatsu wa kuchibiru no keichō, kaigō sawayaka ni, a-ka-sa-ta-na-ha-ma-ya-ra-wa o-ko-so-to-no-ho-mo-yo-ro-o; hitotsu hegi-hegi ni, hegi hoshi hajikami; bonmame, bongome, bongobō; tsumitade, tsumimame, tsumisanshō...

The a-wa-ya [i.e. mora starting with /w/, /r/, and with no initial consonant] in the throat, sa-ta-ra-na on the tongue, the ka off the canines and sa off the teeth, ha-ma both on the lips, one light and one heavy, all opening and closing smoothly, a-ka-sa-ta-na-ha-ma-ya-ra-wa, o-ko-so-to-no-ho-mo-yo-ro-o, hitotsu hegi-hegi ni... [from here on out is just a tongue-twister combination of words for sound].

Nondo! Now that's Edo.

A-ka-sa-ta-na-ha-ma-ya-ra-wa and the /o/ version are the Japanese consonants, in traditional order, with the first and last vowels (/a/ and /o/) respectively. Note that the /wo/ is just o — by Edo times the /w/ had already been lost.

As for the "canines" thing, that's from the traditional Chinese classification of consonants. "Canine" basically corresponds to "velar", I think. And /ha/ is a "lip" sound because back then, it was still pronounced as a bilabial fricative. (Why /s/ gets two separate places of articulation escapes me, I'm afraid.)

I should note, too, that despite my English Wikipedia link above, this sales pitch is really for the medicinal product named uirō, which the original manufacturers in Odawara (who claim descent from a Chinese official who fled Zhejiang when the Ming Dynasty crushed the Yuan [Mongol] Dynasty in the 14th century) lay jealous claim to, rather than the delicious sweet named uirō, which is made all over the country—I understand that Nagoya's is actually more celebrated than Odawara's.

For the sake of fairness, let it be recorded that the Odawara medicinal uirō clan believe that all sweet uirō nationwide are derived from their ancestor's non-medicinal recipe, and as evidence they offer the fact that there is no normal way to get the reading "uirō" from the kanji 外郎—it was some weird decision made by their founding father when he arrived in Japan. They also claim that Uirō-uri, the play, was either commissioned or written by kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjūrō II (二代目市川団十朗) as a token of his appreciation for this marvelous medicine which had, they report, restored his voice when nothing else could.

(By the way, as of this year No-sword's format will be: long posts every Monday, shorter posts irregularly. Enjoy!)


From the new year

Happy New Year! To kick 2009 off right, I invite you to enjoy this marvelous performance of "Marching March" by UA.

"Marching March" was composed in the '60s by HATTORI Kōichi (服部公一). The lyrics, written by SAKATA Hirō (阪田寛夫), open with the narrator ordering his legs to carry him to a field, via various kinds of roads and making agreeable sounds such as zakku zakku and bokko bokko, so that he can search frogs and earthworms for navels and eyes respectively.

("Sanpo", the song that opens Tonari no Totoro, seems to me a loving homage to "Marching March" in both theme and structure, by the way. No idea if there are any on-the-record discussions of the matter.)

Anyhow, the 1965 performance of "Marching March" by AMACHI Fusako (天地総子) and the Otowa Yurikago Kai (音羽ゆりかご会) picked up a Japan Record Award in 1965, and looked something like this. Today, your standard uta no onē-san/onii-san rendition looks like this... so as much as I like Amachi's groove, UA's slower, country-brass-banded performance is a kind of revelation.

As it happens, UA recorded a bunch of these for NHK a few years ago, without taking her chicken suit off once, and they're all on the 'Tube now. Here are a few of my favorites: