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!)

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"bilabial fricative"

This phrase is one of the sexiest pieces of specialist terminology.


I think it's less that "sa" gets two places of articulation... I mean, after all, it takes the tongue on the place of articulation (ah, memories of trying to identify dental versus alveolar s sounds in basement phonetics labs--good times!) to make the sound. So, getting the tongue limber for "sa, ta, ra, na" either in a sequence or as an exclusive list, and then moving on to place of articulation....

Leonardo Boiko:

> ha-ma both on the lips, one light and one heavy

"ha" on the lips?


>> ha-ma both on the lips, one light and one heavy

> "ha" on the lips?

This is a romanization issue. The phoneme /h/ has undergone a number of phonological changes: originally [p], lenites to [ɸ] by the 8th century where it remained until around the 18th century when it became [h]. (Not to mention that it was [w] between vowels.)

In this case the intended pronunciation was most likely [ɸama].

Just for fun is the following 1516 riddle: 「母には二度会ひたれど父には一度も会はず」

(Source: 『後奈良院御撰何曽』)


Thanks for that, Kindaichi. Just in case anyone reading this is still stumped, ɸ is the "bilabial fricative" I mentioned (and which turns Marxy on), which is like an /f/ in English except made by putting lip to lip instead of tooth to lip.

MMS: so /s-r-t-n/ is a list of sounds produced by the tongue and then /s/ gets mentioned again because it isn't specifically a (半)舌音 on the 五音 chart like the others. That makes sense.

language hat:

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

Which year is that?

(Ignore my snark if you're having actual life problems, in which case accept my apologies and best wishes.)


I'd like to cite pressing, snark-preempting personal issues, but in fact last Monday I was in Nara Prefecture feeding deer. I had planned to post something the previous evening, but then I got drunk instead. Sorry about that.


It's Monday! We demand post!

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