Tuesday, June 29, 2010


練習のために、ちょっと訳そう。 例えば、これは今日の「朝日新聞」のテキスト。 エンタメの「BOOK」の何かを読んでみよう。 選んだテキストはこれ:

Time to try translating something small, so here'a bit from the BOOK section of Asahi newspaper online:
dai go-juu-rokkai seishounen tokusho kansoubun konkuuru no kadai tosho
the book for the 56th Young People's Book Report Contest

shougakkou teigakunen kara koukousei made zen juu-hassatsu o ichidou ni atsumemashita.
18 books have been chosen, for kids from grade school through high school.

kotoshi mo ki ni naru sakuhin ha seizoroi!
once again an army of books have lined up!

are mo kore mo yondemitaku naru sakuhin bakari desu.
(this and that work people increasingly want to try to read?! How does ばかり fit in?)

uri kireru mae ni, ohayame ni go kounyuu kudasai!
buy early, while the sales last!
Je me demande ce que lisent les enfants au Japon. Ça se peut que moi aussi je pourrais le lire, à l'aide du dictionnaire bien entendu. 僕は日本語の小学生の本が読めるかなぁ。

ところで、「朝日新聞」のサイトは日本のサッカー・チームの色に染まったみたいだね。 「本日はサッカー日本代表の健闘に敬意を表し、トップページをブルーにしました。」って書いてある。

The Asahi site has turned blue for Japan vs Paraguay!

Monday, June 28, 2010

漢字: 「翻訳」の「翻」。 (What's the "hon" in "hon'yaku"?)

It's bothering me that I don't know what the hon in hon'yaku (translation) means; I always just use 訳 yaku (訳す、訳する). So let's find out. ちょっと調べてみよう。。。。

Well, that's ランドム. Kotoba gives two kanji, 翻 and 飜, and grays out the former, though apparently only the former is 常用 (Jouyou, common-use: school grade 8, JLPT level 1). Both mean "to flip over", and they share a hen of topped-rice and rice-field; in 翻 the tsukuri is 羽 (hane, feathers/wings), and in 飜 it's our old friend 飛 (tobu, to fly).

Not clear to me how either of these relates to translation, but maybe it's phonetic. I'll check Henshall先生 later.


今年の日本語能力試験は、フィラデルフィアでも受けられる!素晴らしい。僕は新しい4級を受けるといい。沢山勉強すると、3級もできるかも知れない。 JLPT in Philadelphia this year! I may be able to shoot for new-4 or even, with a ton of study, new-3. My bad luck that they changed the numbering on me after last year (when I achieved 4). But しょがない. 「いい天気ですから、散歩しましょう。」

Uh-oh. The guide to the new test says it features コミュニケーション能力をより重視した試験になります—increased emphasis on communication skill. I don't like the sound of that! 壊い。

  • One is able to read and understand written materials with specific contents concerning everyday topics.
  • One is also able to grasp summary information such as newspaper headlines.
  • In addition, one is also able to read slightly difficult writings encountered in everyday situations and understand the main points of the content if some alternative phrases are available to aid one’s understanding.
  • One is able to listen and comprehend coherent conversations in everyday situations, spoken at near - natural speed, and is generally able to follow their contents as well as grasp the relationships among the people involved.
That sounds not completely infeasible, 沢山漢字と文法を学んだり、会話を練習したりしておけば. だけど無理かもしれない。 I'll try to read more 朝日.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New favorite verb: 飛び出す.

飛び出す tobidasu combines 飛ぶ tobu, to fly, with 出す dasu, to get out. Roughly translated, "to get the hell out". 飛び出そうね。

The thing I can't understand (分からない事) is why it's not 出る deru, the intransitive form. It's not like I'm getting someone else the hell out.

Interesting: Kotoba によると, 飛び出る is indeed a verb, but it's more about protruding/obtruding, things that come out of other things, than about extraction. Can 飛び出す tobidasu apply to oneself?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

今日の習字. (today's calligraphy!)

Today we "finished" the iroha—that is, we began studying the last six hiragana characters. 先生 gave us hentaigana to look at for next time, and some examples of 連綿 renmen, connecting kana into continuous lines. Just two characters at a time so far, more as we gain in skill. 今度ね。

We took a break from my new 晝陰靜 hiru in sei to do two characters from the last set, 雲 kumo and 飛 to(bu), in new sousho styles on white paper. 先生 and I picked out some favorites from the Masters; I wrote 雲 in the style of 吳昌碩 and 飛 in the amazingly tight and blotchy style of someone whose name I can't make out at all. I also tried this really daunting 飛 by (I think) 楊維—

It can be tough to sound out the name of a Chinese calligrapher. In 吳昌碩, 昌碩 may be shouseki; 吳 seems not to live in Japanese, beyond the name of a harbor near Hiroshima, but may be.... Scratch that. I'm going to go full-on Chinese with it and say his PinYin name is WU Chang-Shi or WU Chiang-Shuo or something else along those lines. And...やった! *rah* It is. So now I'm savvy enough to figure out that 楊維楨 is YANG Wei-Chen—not this one, but this one—from the Yuan Dynasty, 14th century. Funny, because apparently Wu lived 1844–1927. But I guess variety helps. 先生 says it's good to practice from calligraphers who wrote during the Tang dynasty (7th to 10th centuries) because their work tends to be the least idiosyncratic / the most standardized.

(Ha—this site of the National Palace Museum refers to Yang's "wild cursive script" that "mirrors in many ways the troubled times of the late Yuan dynasty". I guess his 飛 does, too. 先生 wasn't into that 飛 but said I could try if I wanted to, so in some down-time I did. I think I see the logic of the movement, but I couldn't make it look coherent as Yang's does. The thing is, he connects everything and keeps all the lines thin, so his 飛 comes out looking like a Picasso. This history of Chinese calligraphy actually quotes Yang.)

The Unknown Master's 飛 is certainly strong. It enters very lightly but coils the first hook-and-dots into a tight little ball and then condenses the vertical and the swipes into a seriously thick descending line. The second hook also is heavy, but at the end of the low stroke it suddenly lightens and trails up to a powerful ending 点. For me, the last hook stroke in this sousho is difficult because I enjoy it so much: often I drew it out along the bottom and pulled in on the upstroke, as I like to do, and I ended up with something more like 龍 ryuu, dragon. And then one time, somehow, it read as 兎 usagi, a bunny rabbit. 不思議なものだね。

As for 雲: after 先生 corrects, I usually rewrite the page a few times, so of course the 漢字 get darker and darker. Seeing a 雲 on the trash pile, 先生 had the inspired idea to "darken" my 雲—why shouldn't we do it as a storm cloud, with a really bold entrance? So I started doing it that way, with a ton of ink in the opening strokes (雨) and then a subtle trailing-off afterward. Cool effect—total 滲み at the top and then neat 掠れ at the end. 楽し過ぎてやばい!

Once when we were all looking through a book of 書, 先生 pointed out a kanji written along the edge of some examples that meant "in the style of". She read it as リン rin. Wondering what that might be. Per Saiga, there are a few decent candidates, but the best so far is probably 随, which means "following". 僕の一番好きな「飛」は、知らないマスター随だよ。

ところで: I like it when kanji are their own radical. There's something impressive about it—like they're so unique that there's no comfortable way to categorize them with anything else. You go, 飛.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

「お大事に」。 ("o dai ji ni")

Just realized that 「お大事に」, a common "seeya"/"take care" expression, is probably an abbreviation for 体を/気をお大事にしてください [karada o / ki o] odaiji ni shite kudasai, "please treat your spirit/person/self as a very important thing". A form of 「に する」 ni suru. I'm not so familiar with those constructions and was reading about them earlier when I was trying to translate something from Genji. Hmm.

It's great to have Google to test out language constructions.
"お大事にしてください": ~269k hits
"お大事にして下さい": ~683k hits
"お大事にして": ~19.7 million hits, almost every one of them followed by 下さい or ください
So there may be something off with Google's counting.

川柳遊び。 (senryuu poems)

日本語の小中学生のセンリュウのサイトを見つけたー。すごい。 Found a neat site with senryuu poems by Japanese schoolkids. Should be more translatable than the pieces of Genji I've been failing on!

dokidoki kan ga
kimochi yoi

new school term
the heart pounds
it's a good feeling

sakkyou ha ne
aokute marui
ai na n da

the Earth
blue and round
love it

nagai rouka o
ippo zutsu

going through life
under? a long corridor
one step at a time

furosato ha
kirei na hoshi no

my hometown
is known for producing
beautiful stars

minami no shima
haibisukasu ga

southern island
hibiscus is laughing

hon yonde
ooki na yume ga
umareta yo

reading a book,
big dreams
were born

ushi kara no
shiroi suteki na

lovely white present
from the cow

oshiro kara
kyou mo genki o

today, once again,
drawing strength
from the castle

sawayaka na
shuuto ga haru o

shoots break though
the spring

Sunday, June 20, 2010

歌詞: 「人生が二度あれば」 (lyrics: "Jinsei ga Nido Areba")

Not sure how to go at the title, jinsei ga nido areba. "If There Were Second Chances"? "If You Had It to Do Over Again"? The topic could be Inoue, his parents, the listener.... 二度 is a two times, "if life had two times", or probably even "if life has two times", since there's nothing particularly past about that conditional と思うけど.

作詞:井上陽水 作曲:井上陽水
music and lyrics by INOUE Yousui

chichi ha konnen nigatsu de rokujuugo
Dad turned 65 this February
[in this video, Inoue sounds like he's saying し at the end of the line instead of 五. Does he mean 六十四? did he update these lyrics as birthdays passed?]

kao no shiwa ha fueteyuku bakari
face going all wrinkled
[what's the deal with しわ in katakana? emphasis?]

shigoto ni oware
looking for work

このごろやっと ゆとりができた
konogoro yatto yutori ga dekita
now he finally has a little breathing room

chichi no yunomi chawan ha kaketeiru
Dad's teacup is chipped

soreni ocha o irete nondeiru
but he still drinks tea from it

yunomi ni utsuru jibun no kao o jitto miteiru
gazing at his own face in his teacup
[this に is confusing me. 写真の写だね。]

人生が二度あれば この人生が二度あれば
jinsei ga nido areba kono jinsei ga nido areba
if life came twice

haha ha kotoshi kuugatsu de roku juu shi
this September Mom will turn 64

kodomo dake no tame ni toshi totta
grown old just for her kids' sake

haha no hosoi te tsukemono ishi wo mochiageteiru
her thin hand holding up tsukemono ishi (a pickled-vegetable stone?)
[インタネットさんによると、漬物石 tsukemonoishi are stones of various weights that you put on top of vegetables that you are pickling.   ]

sonna haha o mite(i)ru to jinsei ga
dare no tame ni aru no ka wakaranai

looking at that mother, I don't know what life's for.
[whom life's for? だれのたみに、but that doesn't seem to work.]

kodomo o sodate kazoku no tame ni toshioita haha
a mother grown old for her family, raising kids

人生が二度あれば この人生が二度あれば
jinsei ga nido areba kono jinsei ga nido areba
if life came twice

父と母がこたつでお茶を飲み 若い頃の事を話し合う
chichi to haha ga kotatsu de ocha o nomi
wakai goro no koto o hanashiau

Dad and Mom sit at the table, drinking tea,
chatting about their younger days

想い出してる夢見るように 夢見るように
omoidashite(i)ru yume miru you ni yume miru you ni
remembering, as if in a dream

人生が二度あれば この人生が二度あれば
jinsei ga nido areba kono jinsei ga nido areba
if this life came twice....


bikenglishさん asked about the pronunciation of Regina Carter's name. I found it in a video and sent the link, and I said このビデオによると、発音は「レジーナ」が正しいです。 Probably there are several errors in that, but right now I'm thinking that I should have ended with a みたい or a そう, "seeming": ビデオによると、「レジーナ」の発音が正しそうなんです。Probably みたい: ビデオによると、発音は「レジーナ」が正しいみたいです。 みたいんです? Hmm.

Also, originally I started with 「このビデオによるとも」, because other people had already suggested that pronunciation. But then I chickened out and dropped the も. I thought of 「このビデオもによると」, but putting も before によると didn't feel right.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

今日の習字. (today's calligraphy!)

晝陰静 ヒルインセイ hiru-in-sei

晝: 昔の「昼」, old form of hiru, afternoon
陰: kage, shade*
靜: 昔の「静」, old form of shizuka, quiet/still
先生 let me choose from quite a few options, and this one seemed a nice choice for summer and also contains kanji I'd like to be better acquainted with: hiru is basically 書 kaku, and you can never practice that enough; kage is the same kage as in my blog-name; shizuka is a kanji I don't know that's worth knowing and will be a lot of fun to write and hang up at work. 今日その楷書を学び始めた。角や太さやスピードやバランシングなどは難しいおで、今度の前にたくさん練習しておかなくちゃね。

*There's an old form with kusakanmuri (蔭) that I like because it feels greener, but funnily enough the book uses the new form.

Writing forenames in kanji vs kana.

Usually when I see Nakajima's name written in Japanese, her surname is in kanji (中島) and her forename in kana (みゆき). I supposed みゆき was 美雪, beauty + snow; the other day I saw that on a website somewhere and felt more confident about it. But bikenglishさん tells me it's better to write it in kana. そうしようけど。。。どうしてだろうかなぁ。

歌詞: 「傘が無い」 (lyrics: "Kasa ga nai")

井上陽水の歌です。 / Song by Yousui INOUE.

toukai de ha jisatsu suru wakamono ga fueteiru
in the city, more and more young people are killing themselves

kesa kita shinbun no katasumi ni kaiteita
it was written in a corner of today's paper

だけども問題は今日の雨 傘がない
dakedo mo mondai ha kyou no ame kasa ga nai
still, for that problem, for today's rain, i have no umbrella
[I missed the contrast here. "But the problem is today's rain" would be better.]

行かなくちゃ 君に逢いに行かなくちゃ
ikanakucha, kimi ni ai ni ikanakucha
i have to see you

君の町に行かなくちゃ 雨にぬれ
kimi no machi ni ikanakucha ame ni nure
i have to go to where you live, even if i'm soaked in the rain

冷たい雨が 僕の目の中に降る 今日は心にしみる
tsumetai ame ga kyou ha kokoro ni shimiru
today the cold rain soaks straight through to my heart

君の事以外は 何も見えなくなる 考えられなくなる
kimi no koto igai ha kangaerarenakunaru
i can no longer think of anything but you

sore ha ii koto darou
and that's probably a good thing /
(ironically) awesome.
[with no punctuation, that だろう is hard to parse.]

テレビでは我が国の将来の問題を 誰かが深刻な顔をしてしゃべってる
terebi de wagakuni no shourai no mondai o
dareka ga shinkoku na kao o shite shabette(i)ru

on TV, someone is talking with a serious face
about our country's future

だけども問題は今日の雨 傘がない
dakedomo mondai ha kyou no ame kasa ga nai
but, still, the problem is this rain. i have no umbrella.

行かなくちゃ 君に逢いに行かなくちゃ
ikanakucha kimi ni ai ni ikanakucha
i have to, have to see you

君の家に行かなくちゃ 雨にぬれ
kimi no uchi ni ikanakucha ame ni nure
i have to go to your house, soaked in the rain,

tsumetai ame ga boku no me no naka ni furu
the cold rain falling in my eyes

kimi no koto igai ha nanimo mienakunaru
i can no longer see see anything but you.


The excellent blog Foreign Language Music has some really helpful grammatical notes. Among: turns out 心に染みる carries a connotation of stinging, not just soaking.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

歌詞:Miyuki Nakajima: "Chijou no Hoshi"

A thing that's great about living now is that you can discover a Nakajima song on your phone, listen to it, and look up all the words you don't know by the time you get home. This one, "Chijou no Hoshi", is much more dramatic than the others I've heard. The title is lit. "Stars Above the Ground", but—because where else would they be?—it may be a colloquial expression. Apparently it's translated as "Unsung Heroes"; the video certainly supports that, essentially a string of images of ordinary folk, with Nakajima先生 interspersed in bubble-world. Wikipedia says it was composed for a TV program, was released in July 2000, hit #1 in Japan, and became the longest-running Oricon Japanese single (since 1968).

nakajima miyuki: chijou no hoshi
Miyuki NAKAJIMA: ?"Unsung Heroes"

kaze no naka no subaru
Pleiades among the winds
[Funny that the Subaru corporate logo has six stars rather than seven.]

suna no naka no ginga
Milky Way amid the dust
[All these の constructions are bothering me because I'm seeing them translated as, eg, "In the dust of the Milky Way"—but I don't see why "suna の naka の ginga", sand's center's Milky Way, should read as "ginga の naka の suna", Milky Way's center's sand. I see that I'll probably have to switch them all around, but right now I don't get why.]

みんな何処へ行った 見送られることもなく
minna doko e itta miokurareru koto mo naku
where have they all gone, with no one saying goodbye?
[見送る is "to see someone off", or to say farewell. I'm not getting the られる construction with 送る.]

sougen no pegasasu
Pegasus of the grassland/plain

machikado no vi-nasu
Venus of the street corner

みんな何処へ行った 見守られることもなく
minna doko e itta mimamorareru koto mo naku
where has everyone gone, with no one to look out for them?

chijou ni aru hoshi o daremo oboeteinai
the stars that are above the ground, no one remembers them.

hito ha sora bakari mite(i)ru
people see only the sky.

つばめよ高い空から教えてよ 地上の星を
tsubame yo takai sora kara oshiete yo chijou no hoshi o
sparrow, high in the sky, tell me where they are.

つばめよ地上の星は今 何処にあるのだろう
tsubame yo chijou no hoshi ha ima doko ni aru no darou
sparrow, those stars, where can they be?

gake no ue no jupita-
Jupiter above the cliffs

unasoko no shiriusu
Sirius on the sea-floor

みんな何処へ行った 見守られることもなく
minna doko e itta mimamorareru koto mo naku
where have they all gone, with no one to look after them?

名立たるものを追って 輝くものを追って
nadataru mono o otte kagayaku mono o otte
chasing famous things, chasing glittery things,

hito ha koori bakari tsukamu
people catch only ice.

つばめよ高い空から教えてよ 地上の星を
tsubame yo takai sora kara oshiete yo chijou no hoshi o
swallow, high in the sky, show me those stars

つばめよ地上の星は今 何処にあるのだろう
tsubame yo, chijou no hoshi ha ima doko ni aru no darou
swallow, where can those stars be now?

名立たるものを追って 輝くものを追って
nadataru mono o otte kagayaku mono o otte
chasing famous things, chasing glittery things,

hito ha koori bakari tsukamu
people catch only ice.

kaze no naka no subaru
Pleiades in the winds,

suna no naka no ginga
Milky Way in the sand—

みんな何処へ行った 見送られることもなく
minna doko e itta miokurareru koto mo naku
where have they all gone, with no goodbyes?

つばめよ高い空から教えてよ 地上の星を
tsubame yo takai sora kara oshiete yo chijou no hoshi o
swallow, high in the sky, point me to them

つばめよ地上の星は今 何処にあるのだろう
tsubame yo chijou no hoshi ha ima doko ni aru no darou
swallow, where can these stars have gone?
It is a real kick to be able to watch this video and understand her. I'm loving this song.

Note that Nakajima seems to actually sing を as wo. Is this a common idiosyncrasy of pronunciation in singing, like singing ん as ng?

BONUS: The word for "refrain" seems to be 繰り返し kurikaeshi, the same word Nakajima uses in "Jidai" to say that time is cyclical. 「喜び悲しみ繰り返し」


Another "click" happened this morning—a lame one, probably, but all progress is progress ね.

Polite formula 申し訳ありません moushiwake arimasen: used as an apology to superiors.

申す mousu: humble form of "to speak". 木の陰と申します = kinokage to moushimasu = (humbly) They call me Kinokage. (They don't, but it's just an example.)

訳 is one I usually use as ヤク YAKU, translating/translation:
kono muzukashii nihongo no tekisuto o yaku shite kurenai?
won't you translate this difficult Japanese text for me?
But 訳 is also わけ wake, a reason or explanation:
sou iu wake de shukudai wo dekinakuchatta n desu.
That's why I couldn't do my homework. Sorry.
(I've never used わけで before, so I'm picking up that usage from Kotonba, though with a slightly changed example. I'm definitely not sure of できなくちゃった, but that shouldn't affect.)

So 申し訳ありません/ございません ≈ there is no call/reason to speak? I have nothing to say for myself?

Now I need to think about そう言う訳 and whether that links to 申し訳. It may be just a coincidence of usage that in both instances 訳 is preceded by a speech verb; そう言う may be there for other reasons, as in そう言うこと.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

書道ガールス! (New film "Shodo Girls")



Particles in song lyrics.

I'm liking working with songs, because as I gain understanding of the lyrics I can run around singing them and get a sense of flow and usage. What's baffling me, though, is the use of particles at the ends of lines—I can't yet see the rationale for some of it.  例えば
dekoboko michi ya, magarikunetta michi
[it's] an uneven road, winding road
Ya や used that way reminds me of the setting-particle や in poetry, a particle that tends to end the first line of a 俳句 haiku and establishes the setting: 木の陰や ki no kage ya, "[in] a tree's shade". Maybe it's the same idea. The Akiyama grammar book is usually good about laying things out succinctly but includes only the nonspecific-list function of や.

Or this:
sonna jidai mo atta ne to
itsuka hanaseru hi ga kuru wa
the day will come when you'll be able to say,
"that's happened to me, too."
At first I misread the quotation-marking function of と to, probably because I'm not used to seeing it with 話す hanasu, to speak [with].  I might have been more aware with an 言う or a 伝う, which are more about saying and therefore call a specific quotation.

Or this:
tabi o tsuzukeru hitobito ha
itsuka furosato ni deau hi o
tatoe konya ha taorete mo
kitto, shinjite doa o deru.
tatoe kyou ha hateshi mo naku
tsumetai ame ga futteite mo

folks who keep on the journey
someday will see home again
even if tonight [you're] struck down,
if you believe, sure enough you'll find a way out.
even if today you can't see the end of it,
even if cold rain is falling....
Some of the particles make sense there; it's possible that たとえ tatoe, "even if", requires a も mo, which generally means "even [that much, or to such a degree]".  And all the も do work if you think of them as leading up to the next verbs, めぐる めぐる meguru meguru, "it [time] turns and turns".  So the も give a sense of...despite all trials, a better day will come.

What gets me is that を that ends the second line.  It wants a verb.  But now I'm thinking it may just precede the たとえ。。。も structures, and that the verb it's calling may be めぐる—the day when they see home again will return, even if...even if....  But now I'm thinking that's not possible, because that 出る seems to complete thought, not to lead to anything further.  難しいねー。

「でこぼこ」の漢字。 ("Dekoboko")

Some kanji are pretty easily understood, and some really obscure, but very rarely do we see kanji as on-the-nose as the kanji for でこぼこ (dekoboko), meaning a rough/uneven surface. Check this out:

凸 deko convex.
  boko concave.

凸凹: it sticks up in some places and is rutted in others.

枯れる。涸れる。 (kareru)

In the intro to 「時代」/Jidai, Nakajima sings 「なみだもかれはてて」—namida mo kare hatete, tears completely (dried up). Everywhere I've seen this in lyrics, even in televised versions, the kanji used for かれる has been 枯, and I'm wondering why it's not 涸. Both kanji contain furui (old), but—ccording to EDICT/JMdict (via Kotoba and Denshi Jisho), at least—枯れる is more on the side of withering plants, and 涸れる is about drying up. This is even suggested by the hen radicals, 木 (tree) and 三水 (water droplets). Denshi Jisho lists many compounds with 枯 as blight, withering, or waste, many specific to plants. 涸れる compounds are mainly about lakes and water, drying up or running out. For tears, isn't 涸 the more logical choice?

Yorokobi, ureshii. 喜 / 嬉.

So I've been walking around singing 「時代」 everywhere, and I've just realized that the kanji for ureshii is the same as that for yorokobi, but plus onna-hen. 喜 + 女 = 嬉. What's the difference between happiness and happiness-plus-woman-kanji? Is onna-hen meaningful here? Why does Nakajima choose yorokobi/kanashimi instead of ureshimi/kanashimi?

Kotoba lists four kanji you can use to write yorokobi:

喜び 慶び 歓び 悦び

So presumably よろこび predates the introduction of kanji and that reading was assigned to various kanji that fit the meaning. And maybe that explains the び ending: that's just how it was said at the time. (Or are there many nouns that end in び?)


Is ureshimi even a word? It doesn't seem to be, but it should be. Of course, its not being a word would explain Nakajima's not using it.

I need a second copy of the Henshall book to keep at the office.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Japanese grammatical terms.

Discovered this last night:

IMABI / Japanese Terminology

Looks like there are 60 or so grammar lessons on the site, which I'll explore when I can, but it's also fun to find this table of grammatical terms. There are interesting things going on with the kanji that I'll also have to look at; I see 形 quite a few times, read as kei (rather than よう or かたち), and of course also 詞 shi.

Sunday, June 13, 2010




抜群 (batsugun)。

Learned a neat new word today from 習字の先生: 抜群, batsugun. 先生 translated it as "outside the flock/pack"—羊 is hitsuji, "sheep"—and she says it's used pretty often in Japan.

Today we reviewed kana る の お く や ま and moved on to け ふ く え て あ. Then kanji: I'm still working on 景雲飛 in sousho (草書). C——さん is working on 亀龍壽, which I think must be much trickier than my 景雲飛.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

歌詞: 『時代』。 (Lyrics: "Time")

歌詞があるー! 日本語の先生の好きな歌の歌詞で、僕は先生にもらった。(人生って嬉しいものですね。) 先ずロマ字で書いて、刷り出して、それから段々訳してみよう。

jidai / eons, epochs, time periods, ages....

作詞:中島みゆき 作曲:中島美雪
kashi / lyrics: NAKAJIMA miyuki
sakkyoku / music: NAKAJIMA miyuki

今はこんなに悲しくて 涙も (涸)れ果てて
ima ha konna ni kanashikute namida mo kare hatete
so sad now, tears all dried up—

もう二度と笑顔には なれそうもないけど
mou nido to egao ni ha naresou mo nai kedo
feels like you'll never smile again (never get used to it?). But:

sonna jidai mo atta ne to
if you can make it through ("when you've lived through that kind of time")
(I'm guessing at a conditional with と. This translation uses と as a quotation marker: "Once, that also happened to me." Seems better, both with the next line and because of ね. I wouldn't have gone there just 'cuz there's no verb.)

itsuka hanaseru hi ga kuru wa
someday you'll be able to look back on it.
(Someday, you'll be able to speak of it as something that happened to you.)
If this わ is the feminine particle, what do men sing? ぜ? ぞ? よ?

あんな時代もあったねと きっと笑って話せるわ
anna jidai mo atta ne to kitto waratte hanaseru wa
and after that, no doubt, you'll be able to laugh about it.

だから 今日はくよくよしないで
dakara kyou ha kuyokuyo shinaide
so, don't worry about it today.

kyou no kaze ni fukaremashou
let's let today's wind blow us where it will.
(That translation changes focus to "let's let the wind blow it away", which probably makes more sense. I think I have 川の流れ on the brain.)

回る回るよ 時代はまわる
mawaru mawaru yo, jidai ha mawaru
they turn and turn, the times—
(The lyrics I'm finding don't use the kanji 回—why?)

yorokobi kanashimi kurikaeshi
joy and sadness, again and again

kyou ha wakareta koibitotachi mo
this day, even parted lovers

生まれ変わって めぐりあうよ
umare kawatte meguriau yo.
are reborn, change, meet again.

まわるまわるよ 時代はまわる
mawaru mawaru yo, jidai ha mawaru
it turns around and around, time.

yorokobi kanashimi kurikaeshi
joy, sadness, again and again.

kyou ha wakareta koibitotachi mo
this day, even the weariest travelers

生まれ変わって めぐりあうよ
umare kawatte meguriau yo.
can be reborn, change, and meet again.

まわるまわるよ 時代はまわる
mawaru mawaru yo, jidai ha mawaru
it turns and turns, time.

wakare to deai kurikaeshi
being parted and meeting again, again and again.

kyou ha taoreta tabibitotachi mo
today, even the weariest travelers

umare kawatte arukidasu yo.
can be reborn, change, walk on.
(That other/better translation carries the metaphor through—travelers who fall down can get up and walk on.)

kyou ha taoreta tabibitotachi mo
this day, even the most exhausted travelers

umare kawatte arukidasu yo.
can be born again, change, walk on.

In this recording (which I admit I like a little better), there's an additional verse:

tabi o tsuzukeru hitobito ha
those who continue their journey

itsuka furosato ni deau hi o
someday see home again

tatoe konya ha taorete o
even if tonight they're tired

kitto shinjite doa o deru
they'll surely find the door they're hoping for,

tatoe kyou ha hateshi mo naku
even if today they've reached their limit;
(hateshi mo naku: have lost sight of the end? cf. 川の流れ.)

tsumetai ame ga futteite mo
even if cold rain falls.

meguru meguru yo
it turns and turns—

jidai ha meguru
time turns.

wakare to deai o kurikaeshi
partings and meetings, again and again.

kyou ha taoreta hitobitotachi ha
today, fallen travelers

umare kawatte
are reborn, changed,

arukidasu yo.
and walk on.

I've heard a few recordings of this now. I like the young ones, when she's winning the award, &c., but there's something about this one that I find more appealing: her voice is a little harder and more belty. 若い時より声が強いと思う。

ところで: I'm making peace with 任せていたい from 川の流れ. Maybe she's saying that it's a state she wants to be in, a kind of person she wants to be: この身を任せていたい, she wants to give herself up to it, not discretely as in 林檎を食べたい, I want to eat the apple, but as a situation or state of mind.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Karate: 唐 vs 空.

This article on Slate says that karate (空手) as a Chinese form was tweaked in the 1920s for marketing in Japan, and that the process involved changing the kanji kara, "sky/empty". From what?

Wikipedia says that karate's kara was originally 唐 (kara/TOU)*, which Saiga tells us means the Tang dynasty. (Apparently it also means "nonsense/futile"—reminiscent of 漢, which means Han China but also can mean man-with-negative-connotations, as in 痴漢 chikan, a molester/groper, and 暴漢 boukan, a thug.) The Slate article says rather glibly that [w]ith a few deft scribbles, the character for kara was adjusted to emphasize its meaning as "open."—but the change seems neither a question of emphasis nor a few deft scribbles.

Changing to 空 does make sense, though, if part of the aim was to get away from Okinawan martial use of farm implements. Hmm.

Update: A sec ago I was looking for calligraphy examples of 唐 and 空, to emphasize that we're not talking about a few deft scribbes...and when I entered kara the Microsoft IME offered me 漢. Interesting!

*Seems the second kanji in "Tang dynasty" is 朝—asa/CHOU, morning. What's up with that?

源氏物語 manuscript.

Check out this 17th-century manuscript of 源氏物語 (Genji Monogatari / The Tale of Genji):


It's written mainly in kana—I can get lost in the renmen—and it's amazing to me that in some places the kana are complemented with kanji as furigana. Say what?!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

話る? 話れる?

Not to belabor, but.... In searching Saiga for something else (黄昏), I've just discovered 浸: hitaru/hitasu, to be immersed or to immerse, another instance of る for self and す for others.

So maybe I can make up 話る and use it to talk to myself. 私は問題を考えて、自分に相談して、少し自分と話って、決めた。 Maybe not.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


The phrase のように, meaning like or in the way of—as in kawa no nagare no you ni, like the flowing of a river—is one of those phrases written in kana that I always suppose must have some kanji background. Today I noticed an on'yomi that's a really good contender: 形, katachi, shape/form, has the on'yomi よう. So—川の流れの形に?


The Japanese Text Initiative 日本語テキスト・イニシアチブ (at UVA) is a great source for literary texts to try translating:


Many entries, some with original and modernized versions and/or romaji.

Next Page on Chestnut has Japanese books.

Yesterday I stopped by Next Page, the Library's new book shop on the south side of Chestnut between 7 and 8, having heard from an interested friend that there were Japanese books to be had there. Are there ever! Dozens of short novels, many apparently by 池波正太郎, IKENAMI Shoutarou. I bought the first two whose title I could read, 雲ながれゆく and おれの足音. Also bought a nice edition of The Book of Tea, in Japanese and English parallel text. They're over my head, but I think looking through them will help me to identify kanji and grammar patterns that I really need to know. (I've looked at kanji frequency tables before, but they tend to be based on newspapers, and I'm more interested in literature than in news.)

So, any student who may read this and be in the Philly area, head to Next Page to pick up some fun Japanese lit and support the Library.

Friday, June 4, 2010

治る/直す: more confusion.

習字の先生 has written back and used naoru again last time referring to a cold, and this time referring to a car! Kotoba says 直る (with the corner) can mean to be mended or repaired, so that makes sense, but it doesn't work with what I was thinking re る and す forms. Oh, well. し方がないだろうね。 直す (with corner) is pretty definitely the one for correcting, as in 日本語の宿題, Japanese homework. (宿題を直してください。) But even though fixing a car is an external action, it's naoru.

Healing and fixing (治る/直す; 流る/流す).

I love getting e-mails in Japanese from 日本語の先生 and 習字の先生 because there's always something intriguing in the language, something I've never seen before or never noticed before. Several points of 日本語 interest in an e-mail I've just gotten from 習字の先生:

百日咳 hyakunichizeki, a "100 days' cough", whooping cough. The kanji are hyaku (100), nichi (sun or day), and seki (cough, with associated meanings of clearing throat &c.). Will have to look up 咳 in Henshall when I get home; there's kuchi 口 in the hen position that suggests mouth/throat, but I don't think I know that tsukuri.

流行 (ryuukou). Prevalent or in fashion. Kotoba includes at least one example with 行 read as ぎょう, as in the calligraphic style 行書 (gyousho) or the hen radical 行人べん (gyouninben), moving man. Kotoba actually says this compound is read as はやり (hayari). What really caught my attention about this is the first kanji—our old friend from ひばり美空さんの演歌, nagareru! Flowing, like the river of life in 川の流れ and the secret tears of the heart in 愛燦燦. Interesting that here we have another る/す pair, sort of, with the る form more self-motivated (flowing, as a river does) and the す form more external (draining, pouring, shedding, as in tears). But the る for also has れ. So, I guess,
Namida o nagasu toki, namida ga nagareru.
When we shed tears, tears flow.
The IME fights me on these verbs, so my thinking may be wrong here.

治る and 直す. These have interested me for a while, with their similarity in sound and meaning. Naoru can mean healing (though apparently that can also be naosu), and naosu repair—note the similarity in kanji to 真, true/correct. And there seems to be some vacillation between two similar kanji for naosu, 直 and another that's similar but has a vertical and horizontal that form a corner in the lower left. 直 seems standard and pops up in the Windows IME as an option for both naoru and naosu; the Windows IME actually shows the "corner" kanji in the popup but then inserts it as the more standard symmetrical kanji. Saiga seems not to include the one with the corner; Kotoba has a common dictionary entry for 直す and 治す and uses the "corner" form for all senses of repairing or replacing. The -る / -す dichotomy seems to fit into the pattern of, eg, 渡る and 渡す, one (る) for action from the self and another (す) for action from outside. So, naoru, to heal (oneself); naosu, to heal/repair something else, with the deeper sense of replacing or reverting to a previous/original form. (Compare 元気 as healthy, with kanji meaning original/root and spirit.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

笑? (Kanji-only communication).

While Googling lyrics I noticed that someone had included within a sentence a "(笑)"—just the kanji for laugh, without okurigana. Is that equivalent to our saying, eg, (ha ha)? I've often wondered whether Japanese people sometimes communicate just with kanji, like with friends over a cell phone. I don't see why you couldn't ask someone whether they were coming by just texting a "来?", or ask if someone wants to get something to eat by texting "食?", or say it's a beautiful day by texting "晴" or "晴ね".

歌詞:「愛燦燦」。 ("Ai sansan")

Looking at translations has been really helpful, because I was a little off on 愛燦燦. Some insights:
過去たち and 未来たち do indeed mean "things of the past" and "things of the future". Things of the past do indeed rest gently on our eyelashes, but things of the future "await us and smile" (人待ち顔して微笑む)—there's hitomachigao.

雨燦燦 is a streaming shower, a downpour.

思い通り is not omoidouri but omoidoori.

失くす(nakusu) is to lose sight of. So, 思い通りにならない夢を失くしたりして is losing sight of dreams that haven't yet come true as we've wanted them to.

かわいい in this sense may be pure-hearted, rather than the usual cute. Will have to look that up somewhere.
Here's a good translation.

歌詞:「川の流れのように」。 ("Kawa no Nagare")

After thinking about the lyrics for a while and singing the songs around the house, I broke down and looked at a native speaker's translation of 「川の流れのように」 and 「愛燦燦」. Some new insights.

This translation is helpful but makes some strange (to me) choices. Eg:
故郷が見える: I feel as if I'm leaving my home
I guess this makes sense, but literally the lyrics are more about sight than about feeling: if [I] turn back, [I] can see, far off in the distance, [my] home.

地図さえない、それもまた人生: with no destination, such is my own life
I think of 地図, chizu, as a map rather than a destination; the first kanji is world/ground, and the second is a map/plan/picture. (Zu is also the to in toshokan 図書館, maps-writings-institution, a library.) And the idea of a map works a bit better with さえない, there isn't a single [noun]; がない, there is no [noun], seems like it would make more sense with a single destination. I think I like それもまた人生 better when it's not so personal: that's how life is, such is life.

空が黄昏に染まるだけ: only the sky turn gray in the twilight
Seems like a brilliant color would be a better choice for 染まる (to dye). 黄昏 is twilight/dusk, but the first kanji is yellow.

この身をまかせていたい: floating myself in the time being
This loses the volitional -tai form and also, to some degree, the idea of moving water. The second time around, this translator goes for "leaving myself to the water being", which (aside from the water being) seems to work better. (Question: Why -teitai? Is this a volitional ending on a progressive form? What does that mean? この身をまかせたい, want(ing) to entrust this body; この身をまかせている, entrusting this body; この身をまかせていたい: want(ing) to be entrusting this body? Do we mean we want to be in a state of having abandoned ourself to the current (川の流れ)?
This one seems more literal. Both interpret 愛する人 as a single person, but that first one I found (which I now can't find) took it as plural, those we love.

Surfing has led me to an interesting post about this musical genre, enka (演歌), a nostalgic and melodramatic style of singing about Life. (「それもまた人生」ね。) Neat: per Kotoba, enka can be written with two different first kanji (along with ka, song): one means theatrical performance, and the other means gloss/luster/polish. So, a melodramatic song, or a schmaltzy song. Last time 先生 and I were going over lyrics to 修羅の花, and he chuckled at the drama—演歌の歌ですかなぁ。 Site calls Misora Hibari "the most famous female enka singer", and that she should be enka makes perfect sense when you see her perform this song. Site also says that 川の流れ was her last song and was voted "the best Japanese song of all time" in 1997.

Just for fun, here's Placido Domingo singing it in a weird syllabic way that suggests he's not so much about the meaning.

人待ち顔 (hitomachigao).

The word 人待ち顔, hitomachigao, has been rattling in my head for a few days. It's not only super-fun to say, but also really interesting in its specificity:

  人, hito, a person
 +待つ, matsu, to wait
 +顔, kao, a face
 +する, suru, to do

= 人待ち顔する, hitomachigao suru
doing a person-waiting face, having the air of awaiting someone

ano hitomachigao shiteiru hito ha, dare o matteiru n darou ka naa.
That hitomachigao guy over there.... Wonder whom he's waiting for.

A cursory Google turns up more than 10 million instances of "...顔する", including 「こんあ顔している」, making a face like that;「おもしろい顔している」, making an interesting face; and my new favorite, 「シリアスな顔している」, making a SERIOUS face, with serious sounded out in English. (シりアスly, man, don't have a 顔.) More than 43 million instances if I include the particle を.

It's an interesting pattern, if it's a pattern. Can I combine other verbs and nouns in that way? Google turns up no instances of 林檎食べ顔, an apple-eating face.

Google image-searching is a great way to get a sense of connotations. Here's a funny pic I found that seems right on for 人待ち顔. かわいいね。人待ち顔している犬なんだ。

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More questions about 「愛燦燦」。

ame sansan to kono mi ni ochite,
wazuka bakari no un no warusa o urandari shite,
hito ha, kanashii, kanashii mono desu ne!
soredemo, kakotachi ha yasashiku matsuge ni ikou!
jinsei tte, fushigi na mono desu ne.

kaze sanzan to kono mi ni arete,
omoidoori ni naranai yume o nakushitari shite,
hito ha kayowai, kayowai desu ne!
soredemo, miraitachi ha hitomachigao shite hohoemu!
jinsei tte, ureshii mono desu ne.

ai sansan to kono mi ni futte,
kokoro hisoka na ureshi namida o nagashitari shite,
hito ha, kawaii, kawaii mono desu ne.
ahhh, kakotachi ha yasashiku matsuge ni ikou!
jinsei tte, fushigi na mono desu ne.

soredemo, miraitachi ha hitomachigao shite hohoemu!
jinsei tte, ureshii mono desu ne.

So it seems like we have three main thoughts here:
1. When rain falls brilliantly on you, and you spend your time regretting recent misfortune, that's pretty sad; still, the past rests gently on your eyelids. Funny thing, life.
2. When you're buffeted by stormy winds, and you're crying over dreams that aren't working out, you're pretty weak/fragile. But in the future, someone you're waiting for will show up. Happy thing, life.
3. When love rains down on you, and you shed the secret happy tears of your heart, what a cute thing that is! But the past rests gently on eyelids; funny thing, life. And, still, in the future, someone you're waiting for will show up and make you smile. Happy thing, life.
Can't claim to understand that so very well. And there are lots of points of grammar and meaning that I'm not getting: Why "心ひそか嬉し涙"? Why not で? Would the difference be "secret happy tears" vs "secret, happy tears"? And why isn't it 嬉しい涙? Are 嬉し涙 their own concept? And what are all these さんさん and さんざん doing? And why is かわいい an appropriate adjective in this song? And why are 未来達 and 過去達 plural? And what does it mean that they 易しく睫にいこう?