Namu kyara chonnō tora yaa yaa

So The Battles of Coxinga is a Chikamatsu jōruri play loosely based on the life of Zheng Chenggong 鄭成功 a.k.a. Guóxìngyé 國姓爺 or "Koxinga." It is 100% badass, opening in the Ming Empire with a scene in which the Minister of the Right gouges his own eye out to prove his loyalty — and following that up with the big reveal that the eye-gouging was actually a secret message to the enemy. (The events of the play are set before the invention of hand signals.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Tartars invade the imperial residence. Coxinga, newborn son of the betrayed emperor, is spirited away to Japan amid much grue by a loyal retainer who then settles down with a Japanese wife and poses as Coxinga's father. Coxinga grows up, marries a wife of his own named Komutsu, and lives life as a simple Japanese fisherman — until the day Princess Sendan, another refugee from the Ming court, turns up on shore in a Chinese boat. There is some expository husband-and-wife talk ("You think she's pretty? I guess you'd prefer a Chinese wife?" — seriously) as she approaches, and then she finally speaks:

「日本人/\。なむきやらちよんのふとらやあ/\」とありければ。小むつぷつと笑ひ出し。「ありやなんといふお経ぢや」と腹を抱へてをかしがる。「ヤイ/\笑ふな あれは日本人ここへおぢや。頼みたいといふ事」と押しのけて立ちよれば。上臈涙にくれながら。「たいみんちんしんにようろ。君けんくるめいたかりんかんきう。さいもうすがすんへいする共こんたかりんとんな。ありしてけんさんはいろ。とらやあ/\」とばかりにて またさめ/゛\と泣き給うへば。小むつは浜辺にころりと臥し 腹筋よつてたへかぬる。
"Japanese, Japanese, namu kyara chonnō tora yaa yaa!"

Komutsu burst out laughing, nearly doubling over. "What kind of sutra's that supposed to be?" she said.

"Hey, stop laughing!" said Watōnai. "She said 'Japanese, come here, I have something to ask of you.'" He pushed his wife aside and approached the woman.

Blinded by tears, she spoke. "Ming Empire ching shin nyō ro. Prince, keng kuru mei taka ring kang kyu. Sai mō suga sun hei suru with kong taka ring tong na. Was ken sang hai ro. Tora yaa yaa!" With this, she began to sob again.

Komatsu rolled about on the beach, clutching her stomach and laughing so hard she almost couldn't bear it. But Watōnai, who recognized this as the Chinese his father always spoke, dropped to his knees and lowered his head. "Usu usu usasu wa mō. Saki ga ching buri kakusaku kin nai ro. Kin nyō, kin nyō..."

First observation: Komutsu is a total asshole.

Second observation: Sendan is speaking Chinese-sounding gibberish so meaningless that it's difficult to decide even how to Romanize it. SHINODA Jun'ichi 信多純一's notes for the 1986 Shinchō edition (which is also where I got the Japanese text above) observe that Sendan's opening line is probably a reference to the Nīlakantha dhāranī, which in Japanese opens with 南無喝囉怛那哆羅夜耶 Namu karatannō tarayaya, a transliteration of Namo ratna-trayāya ("Adoration to the Three Gems") if Wikipedia is to be believed.

Note that there are some understandable words thrown in there too: たいみん is "Great Ming", i.e. the Ming Empire (currently, you will recall, overrun by Tartars), and 君 is as in ruler or prince.

So a localization (as opposed to translation) might start something like:

Anglicus! Anglicus! Ava mara gratius planginus domino tecmo! ...

I looked up how Donald Keene translates this part, and found this:

SENDAN: Japanese! Japanese! Na mu kya ra chon nō to ra ya a ya!
NARRATOR: Komutsu bursts out laughing.
KOMUTSU: What sutra is that?
NARRATOR: She holds her sides with amusement.
WATŌNAI: You mustn't laugh! She said, "Japanese, come here. I have something to request of you."
NARRATOR: He brushes Komutsu aside and goes to the lady, who is blinded with tears.
SENDAN: Great Ming chin shin nyō ro. Sir, ken ku ru mei ta ka rin kan kyū, sai mō su ga sun hei su ru, on the other hand, kon ta ka rin ton na, a ri shi te ken san hai ro. To ra ya a ya, to ra ya a ya.
NARRATOR: These are her only words before she melts into tears again. Komutsu plops down on the beach, convulsed with laughter, unable to endure more. Watōnai, who learned his father's tongue, touches his hands to the ground and bows his head.
WATŌNAI: U su u su u sa su ha mō, sa ki ga chin bu ri ka ku san kin nai ro. Kin nyō, kin nyō.

In 共 Keene sees "on the other hand" where I saw "with". On the other hand, he does not see ありし of worthy of translation at all, while I read it as "was". Shinoda lists a couple of potential hidden meanings that neither of us bothered with — speaking only for myself, the reason for this was that I didn't even notice them. For example, I saw Watōnai's "usu-usu" as a partial nonsense gag, but the possibility of "u-wa-sa-chi-ri-sa-n-ro" ("I have heard about you") being intentionally embedded in what comes after never occurred to me.

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K. Doore:

When we were reading this particular section as a class, Komutsu became something of a running joke, although to be fair she does become significantly more interesting later in the story.

Battles of Coxinga is fascinating for the insight it provides on what Tokugawa Japan thought of "china." For example, when Watonai is reassuring Komutsu, he says that he'd never sleep with the princess because she looks too much like Benzaiten and it makes him nervous. Delightful!

language hat:

You see Komutsu as an asshole? Interesting; to me, she's a perfectly normal (which is too say, not excessively empathetic) person reacting to a hot Chinese babe coming up to her husband with a sob story. What, you want her to bake a cake and say "Take my husband, please?" No, I'm on her side. Fight for your man, Komutsu!


I understand the jealousy and insecurity, sure. It's an interestingly observed characterization and as K. says it eventually flowers into greater things.

But when someone comes up to you, weeping and clearly in distress but unable to speak your language, and your response is LOLBARBARBAR, I'm afraid that makes you an asshole as far as hospitality is concerned (and yes, I'm aware that laughing at the distress of the clownish Other was a common pastime throughout the world until quite recently. I nevertheless declare ot assholery!)

language hat:

I suppose it would have been nicer to grab her firmly by the shoulder, point her south, and say "The police station is that way, honey. Don't make me tell you again." But we can't always think clearly in the heat of the moment.

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