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.

Popularity factor: 10

language hat:

I don't trust this author as far as I can throw him. There was no "Admiral Putilov"; he means Admiral Putyatin:

I think there must be far better books on the subject, by people who actually verify their "facts."

N.b.: Je suis une bête féroce.


Some searching turns up mentions of <i>damyuraizyu</i> in glossaries of Yokohama port pidgin.

It's "damaraisu" in a 1942 paper titled "Some African tribal names" by M.D.W. Jeffreys, MA, PhD, citing Otto Jespersen in <i>Language</i> (1921, p399).

Jespersen is available on Google Books:


In Yokohama an English or American sailor is called <i>Damuraisu H'to</i> from 'Damn your eyes' and Japanese H'to 'people.'


This has a footnote citing the July 1879 issue of <i>New Quarterly Mag</i>, which doesn't appear to be online.

However, the Google Books edition of <i>Japanese English: language and culture contact</i> by James Stanlaw also mentions the version Jespersen provides, and sources it to a pamphlet of Yokohama dialect pidgin by Hoffman Atkinson (around the turn of the century) as well as Arthur Diosy (1879, which may be Jespersen's source; the relevant pages don't display).


<i>a pamphlet of Yokohama dialect pidgin by Hoffman Atkinson</i>


'exercises in the yokohama dialect' gives 'eejin san' for 'foreigner', but for 'sailor': 'dam your eye sto'


nb 'sto' is used for 'hito' quite a lot in 'exercises' iirc

never sure quite how much of the book is written for lulz though.


A few results turn up for "damyuraisu" as well, if you resist Google's efforts to search for "omuraisu" instead. That turns up a reference in Clive Holland's Old and New Japan (1907), and another result for Chinese-British Canadian novelist Winnifred Eaton's faux-translationese novel Tama:

<< "Be not deceived, excellent sensei, in regard to the baku [fool] who was here before you. He was not like you, honored sir."

"No? What was he, then?"

"He was damyuraisu," blurted
the boy angrily.

The Tojin-san burst into laughter. It was a colloquial word well known in the open ports, and was applied to the foreign sailor of whatever nationality. It was the Japanization of the sailor's favorite expression:
"Damn your eyes." >>

Everything we've seen so far seems a bit tenuous, and I'd be very happy to see a source for it in Japanese.


The number of alternative results that come up when you try to find this in Japanese is astounding. It's like a minefield for the distractable scholar. My favorite so far is this one. But I'm fairly certain there are no real results online.

I wouldn't be surprised if this phrase was real but never recorded in Japanese, because their folklorists and novelists were interested in other things at the time. Could be a joke, too, as xee said.


LH: Ah, hence the lack of Wikipedia entry. Thanks for the correction! Edgerton generally tries to source the things he says, but when you look at the sources they are often fairly dubious-sounding (early 20th-century colonial histories and so on). He never makes explicit what his process for deeming sources trustworthy, or not, is, and if errors like that are creeping in perhaps he simply didn't have one.

Everyone else: Thank you! So it wasn't entirely out of whole cloth. I remain dubious of the phrase existing as a general replacement for foreigner, but I find it quite easy to believe that some Japanese traders picked it up and used it to swear at foreigners they didn't like, who in turn misunderstood how the phrase was being used.


That's the whole note? "Hane 1982; Jansen 1985," with no page numbers or anything? That's enough to call shenanigans right there; you don't know if he's trying to cite a discussion of the last sentence, the entire paragraph, or what.

L.N. Hammer:

Hmm -- by giving two posts the same title in the same month, you seem to have borked the permalink and associated comments on the second one ...



Yes, I ruined everything. It should be all right now though!

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