Chūsei no Kishi

From the back of Chūsei no Kishi 中世の騎士 ("Knight of the Middle Ages"), a 1962 "true-to-life book" from Encyclopædia Britannica:

Rough translation of the blurb: "Our children, born into a changing society, destined to live in the world of tomorrow. As the world grows smaller and our society more international, what they need is the right skills to deal with this internationalization! To answer this call we have developed the content-rich Britannica Education Program. As a comprehensive educational enterprise, Britannica will continue striving to develop the people needed for the coming new age." You think they emphasized internationalization that much in the English version? Also, note that that kid on the right has a hipster haircut almost half a century ahead of schedule. Talk about prepared for the society of tomorrow.

Chūsei no Kishi is quite hardcore for a kid's book. The text by Dorothy Welker, "a former lecturer at the University of Chicago ... [who] has made a special study of medieval life" is presented in both English and Japanese, courtesy of "typographical adaptation" by "Peter Brogren at the Voyagers' Press, Tokyo." The photographs are from "the educational motion picture 'The Medieval Knights,' produced for Encyclopaedia [Sic!] Britannica Films inc. by Milan Herzog"!

In fact, The Medieval Knights might well have been one of "his Medieval films from the early 1950s [which] were among the first academic historical films to use costumed actors" mentioned at that last link. The film itself doesn't seem to be online, but Herzog's Je Parle Français is, and worth checking out. ("Elle est charmante," says one character to another as they watch their new lady friend leave. "Oui... charmante," comes the reply. They savor the view for a few more seconds before the scene changes.)

Here is one of the many stills from Herzog's film that are included in the book:

This apparently constitutes "learning how to behave courteously," although sitting on a bench so far from the castle in medieval times is just asking to be eaten by a bear and/or wyrm, as I understand it.



From Robert B. Edgerton's Warriors of the Rising Sun: a History of the Japanese Military:

Perry was promptly followed by a Russian fleet, whose Admiral Putilov was far more skillful than the Americans in winning Japanese acceptance; then all too soon for the Japanese, the British landed as well. Several acts of samurai violence fueled by the xenophobic emperor Komei killed a few Europeans, leading inevitably to retaliation. Samurai bravery could not compensate for obsolete cannon, and when British long-range explosive shells devastated Kagoshima as well as Shimonoseki, home city of the proud samurai Satsuma clan, all but the most unreconstructed xenophobes conceded a need to Westernize Japan's military. The man who saw this need most clearly was a brilliant and ruthless nobleman, Iwakura Tomomi, who had once been Emperor Komei's principal advisor. Like Li Hung-chang in China, Iwakura linked his country's survival with the rapid development of a modern army and navy. And like Li, he had to contend with an emperor who refused to modernize. All foreigners were to be driven out of Japan. Sometimes called damyuraizyu by the Japanese (apparently after the British sailor's expletive "Damn your eyes, you"), the "smelly, big-nosed" barbarians were not loved, but they could not yet be driven away. With government support and heavy investment by private entrepreneurs, Japan's economy was transformed in thirty years from being a countryside of agrarian fiefdoms to being a modern industrial state. A new system of currency, new banking, transportation, communications, and, above all, modern manufacturing—these fundamental changes proceeded at a remarkable pace.47

Since neither I nor Google had never heard this damyuraizyu thing before, and it sounds fairly implausible, I looked up the references for note 47. They are "Hane 1982; Jansen 1985," i.e.:

  • Hane, M. Peasants, Rebels and Outcastes: The Underside of Modern Japan. New York: Pantheon Books, 1982.
  • Jansen, M.B. Japan and Its World: Two Centuries of Change. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Google Books claims to have both of these indexed, but can't find damyuraizyu in either. In fact, the only hit on Google Books for damyuraizyu is... Edgerton's Warriors of the Rising Sun. Je déclare, as the French say, les nanigans du shen, but if anyone else has heard of this before (or can flick through Hane and Jansen to see if they mention it), please enlighten me.

As for the rest of the book, it is disappointing. It isn't a "History of the Japanese military" so much as a "History of Japanese military action." The bulk of the book is a meticulous, day-by-day account of the Russo-Japanese war, bookended by accounts of the Boxer Rebellion and World War II drawn in broader strokes. Edgerton doesn't get around to examining the reasons for the changes in the Japanese military until the very last chapter, and even then his analysis is shallow. (To summarize: inferiority complex; brainwashing of entire nation to see non-Japanese as subhuman; intentional culture shift within military to merciless brutality at all times.) I suspect that this is because he doesn't read Japanese and simply didn't have access to the kind of primary-source material that would have helped him flesh out the changing place of the military within Japan's post-Meiji power structure.

Overall, although Edgerton clearly read very widely on the topic, he doesn't do a great job at organizing his information into a coherent narrative (the chronological organization is very good, though). For example, take this paragraph from pp 141-142:

The task of disrupting Oka's advance was given to the commander of the First Siberian Army Corps, Lieutenant General Baron G. K. Stackelberg, a cavalryman who enjoyed great favor at court. There was nothing austere about Stackelberg's lifestyle; along with his wife and her maid, he lived in a palatial train near Liaoyang, where a cow provided fresh milk daily. On hot days, Cossacks watered down the roof of the train to cool its interior. Unfortunately his generalship was not as impressive as his style of living.

Okay, fine. But then, after a brief account of the Battle of Te-li-Ssu, we read this:

A month later, after repeated urging by Alexiev, Kuropatkin agreed to defend an important railroad junction at the city of Tashihchaio against four Japanese divisions moving up from the south. The task of defending it against the central Japanese advance was again given to General Stackelberg, whose posh railroad car had led many of his fellow officers to complain openly that he was a "German," because no "real" Russian would behave that way. They conveniently overlooked many more flagrant examples of luxurious living by generals with Russian names; in reality, Stackelberg was a brave, steady officer whom the Japanese would come to respect as perhaps Russia's best. It is true that his wife, the baroness, had her maid with her, but she devoted herself to caring for Russian wounded, working much harder than many of the staff officers who criticized her husband. And even the milk cow was not a frivolous luxury; Stackelberg's doctor had insisted that maintaining his fragile health required fresh milk.

I realize that history is not black and white and Stackelberg may have been both a good commander and an inappropriately decadent aristo, but I feel like these two sides to his story could at least have been put in the same paragraph.


The Baritsu Chapter

Here's an article I found in The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook (1973, ed. Peter Haining) about Holmes's Japan connection. The original source is given as "The Sunday Times, February 26, 1950," and spelling, punctuation, word choice etc. is Sic! throughout, although I did fix a couple of glaringly obvious typos.

By Richard Hughes

Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts around the world will doubtless be excited to know that the first Oriental branch of the Baker Street Irregulars, The Baritsu Chapter, has been formed in Tokyo under the occupation.

As the Nipponese chapter included leading Japanese, it can be said that a common devotion to the memory of The Master of Baker Street was the means, peace treaty or no, of first restoring Japan to the comity of nations.

The late Count Makino, one of Japan's distinguished Elder Statesmen, who was her representative at Versailles and narrowly escaped assassination by the militarists in the 1936 Tokyo army mutiny, was one of the foundation members of the Baritsu chapter. He had a profound knowledge of the Holmes-Watson saga, and his scholarly grandson, Kenichi Yoshida, son of the present Prime Minister, a Cambridge graduate and another member of the Baritsu chapter, testifies to his late grandfather's angry rejection of modern Western detective mysteries and intense re-reading of the original Holmes stories.

On his death-bed last year, the ailing Count Makino wrote a learned paper for the opening meeting of the Baritsu chapter. He clarified the doubts of Holmesian students over the use of the curious word "baritsu," from which the Tokyo chapter takes its name, by Holmes in the "Adventure of the Empty House." Students will remember that Holmes, explaining his miraculous return form the dead to the shaken Watson, credited his escape from the long, murderous arms of Professor Moriarty to his "knowledge of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling," which enabled him to hurl the arch-criminal into the Reichenbach Falls.

The word has been loosely accepted by students as an alternative Japanese term for "jujitsu." But, as Count Makino pointed out, there is no such word as "baritsu" in the Japanese language. He suggested in his brilliant paper that its appearance in the Holmes saga was just another of Dr. Watson's numerous errors as chronicler.

"What Holmes actually said," wrote Count Makino, "was: 'I have some knowledge of bujitsu, which includes the Japanese system of wrestling.' Bujitsu is the Japanese word for the martial arts, which in addition to jujitsu embrace the study of archery, fencing, spearmanship, pike-thrusting, long and sword swordsmanship, military fortification and the firing of cannon, muskets and small arms.

Holmes as specialist

"Sherlock Holmes' proficiency in all these highly specialised arts is well known. We know his weakness for pock-marking the walls of his apartment with patriotic initials his knowledge of airguns was at least equal to that of Colonel Sebastian Moran; we have a glimpse of his acquaintance with pike and spear in the 'Adventure of Black Peter,' in which he attempted to harpoon the dead pig in Allardyce's butcher shop. We know also that he was 'a bit of a single-stick expert,' while some of his early adventures among the medieval moats, turrets, and drawbridges of the English aristocracy would naturally have attracted him to a study in military fortifications.

"Only in Japan," concluded Count Makino, "do we find one comprehensive science which includes all these studies. Only in Sherlock Holmes do we find a Westerner who combines a notable skill in all of them. For us Japanese there is intense satisfaction in the foundation of the first Tokyo chapter of the Baker Street Irregulars, under a name perpetuating that complex and subtle Japanese art which saved the hero of the West and of the East for further unforgettable adventures."

Did you spot the error in Makino's deductions? He has eliminated the impossible — the claim that "baritsu" is an actual Japanese word — and thereby arrived at the truth, i.e. that "baritsu" was an error for another word. But he did not eliminate the possibility that it was an error for another English word. Which it is. "Baritsu" is now known to be a misspelling of or editorial mistake for bartitsu, a martial art founded in the late 19th century by Edward William Barton-Wright. Bartitsu, Wikipedia informeth us, combines the jujitsu Barton-Wright studied in Tokyo, a Swiss school of cane fighting, and the worst excesses of British mustachery.

Hughes goes on to list a few other members of the Baritsu chapter, including Edogawa Rampo and "George F. Blewitt, Philadelphia defence attorney for the late General Hideki Tojo," and closes with:

Truly Holmes — now in his ninety-sixth year and living in contented and immortal retirement among his Sussex beehives — has succeeded in bringing the East and West together, irrespective of race, colour and political ideology. The philosophic observer may well speculate on the significance in current international affairs of the continued absence of any branch of the Baker Street Irregulars in Moscow and of the stubborn refusal of Joseph Stalin to read any of the Sherlock Holmes adventures.


Chō vs sugoi

Yesterday I read another book by Yamaguchi Nakami 山口仲美: Wakamono-kotoba ni mimi wo sumaseba 若者言葉に耳をすませば, literally "If you listen to the language of young people," but more enjoyably "(Listen to the) flower people." The book alternates between free-form discussion between Yamaguchi and representative groups of youths and fogies, and fairly freewheeling elaborations on the topics arising therein.

I learned a few good old puns with which to repel and disappoint, like "atarimaeda no cracker." This is an old advertising slogan combining atarimae da ["Of course!" "What else would you expect?" etc.] and Maeda Crackers — so old it's new again, or was in 2007, according to Yamaguchi's presumably quite nerdy informants. But the single most interesting argument Yamaguchi made, to my mind, was about the evolution of chō.

Chō is an intensifier, deriving from the Sino-Japanese lexeme chō 超, "super-" (as in "Nietzschean superman"), used before adjectives (chō tanoshii, "sooo fun"), verbs (chō iku, "[I'm] sooo going"), nouns (chō uso, "sooo a lie"), adverbs (chō hayaku, "sooo early"), and who knows what-all else. Chō's big boom was in the 1980s, and it was iconic of young, female urbanites for a long time. Probably still is now, among stale comedians, the same way most people can still recognize valley girl talk.

But now, Yamaguchi argues, it is dying away, being replaced by variations on sugoi (etymologically "dreadful, awesome" but now idiomatically "awesome" and distinguished from its parent adjective by the lack of conjugation, i.e. without changing to sugoku for the adverbial form etc.) and, in particular, me(t)cha, originally Kansai dialect. She also claims that whereas chō used to be written most often in katakana (チョー), it is now more often written in kanji (超), reflecting an increased awareness of the etymology of the term. (I would be wary of this claim, though, since even if she is correct about the facts, the big difference between 1990 and 2010 in terms of representing Japanese is that today everyone has a cellphone and can introduce kanji into their written conversations effortlessly.)

She doesn't have much to base this on other than a deeply unscientific survey conducted at her own university in Saitama and a few vague claims about the state of affairs in the 1980s, so I wouldn't exactly call this an ironclad case, but I suppose it doesn't conflict with the youth culture of which I am dimly aware when it seeps around the edges of my reading material.

One thing Yamaguchi does not explore in this book, despite raising the issues individually, is the apparent contradiction in Japanese youthspeak between hyperbole and hedging. On one hand, she describes an intensifier treadmill, a tendency to take etymologically quite strong words and use them so indiscriminately that someone who'd missed the gradual evolution would find the results ridiculous: "This shoehorn is awesome!" But Yamaguchi also describes a tendency to favor and even innovate ways to make speech less direct and confrontational — for example, saying things like ikanai kei ["the not-going type"] rather than ikanai ["not going"].

So the mundane becomes epic while anything even remotely controversial gets a few layers of protection. She does talk a bit about how youthspeak has a social function in sustaining group identity, which may be related here, but on the whole she seems rather eager to reach the conclusion that young people secretly admire the speech of and yearn for approval from previous generations. I have my doubts. (Although I do not doubt that the youth of Japan are inheriting the age-old tradition of claiming to want to speak "proper" keigo [formally respectful language] but never seriously trying to learn how.)

Anyway, the book is more anecdotal than scientific, but it did make me want to read something properly researched and organized on the topic, which is a fairly high commendation in and of itself. I wonder if there's anything good about manual keigo; the only books I've ever noticed on the topic are crotchety screeds from old men more interested in complaining about the topic than examining it.