In Japanese, 塊まり katamari refers to a lump or a mass of substance, made famous by the hit PS2 game Katamari Damacy about an alien prince trying to roll the entire planet up into a ball. Don’t ask.
Today’s lesson will not focus on any particular topic. Instead, we will take a look at some of the interesting things you can find in the Japanese language, things that you probably won’t find in a textbook. Maybe. In a sense, I’m lumping all the small miscellaneous topics into a katamari. I’ll probably include a Katamari chapter every few lessons.
Okay, so that’s really just an excuse for me to write a really short chapter of randomness because I am sort of busy this week.
On another note, Katamari chapters will not have any theme character but instead have a variety of pictures from various forgotten directories on my computer. I bet an archaeologist can publish a few books just by digging through my hard drives.
Your nominations from last week will carry on to next chapter.
You have probably seen the kanji used for counting in Japanese, but if you had ever been to a bank in Japan or signed a legal contract in Japanese, you would have noticed some weird and complicated-looking kanji, such as the ones in the right column below.
|四 (shi or yon)||four||肆|
|七 (shichi or nana)||seven||漆|
|九 (kyuu or ku)||nine||玖|
|万 (man)||ten thousand||萬|
These kanji are called 大字 (daiji), literally “big words”, and they are used in legal documents to make the numbers difficult to modify and thus prevent cheating. The difference between 一 (one) and 二 (two) is just another stroke, but there’s no way to change 壱 (one) into 弐 (two). The readings stay the same for both versions.
Some manga and anime use daiji for the “looks cool” effect. Examples include the manga of Ikkitousen and Kannadzuki no Miko, both which used daiji to number their volumes. The end result is that some foreign fans can’t tell the order of the books. Oh well… 弐 certainly looks better than two little horizontal strokes, though. :3
Speaking of Kannadzuki, that brings me to the next topic…
Old Japanese Months
Look up ANN’s listing for 神無月の巫女 (Kannadzuki no Miko) and you’ll see that one of the translations for the title is “Priestesses of the Godless Month”. AniDB has it as “Priestesses of a Godless Moon“. The kanji 月 can refer to both a month and the moon, but what exactly does “kannadzuki” refer to?
The answer: October (therefore ANN’s translation is more appropriate)
But why is October called the “godless month”? For that we have to refer to the old Japanese names for the different months.
Modern months use number + gatsu, for example August is 八月 (hachigatsu), literally “the 8th month”. However, the old Japanese calendar uses months with symbolic names that were relevant to the people of that time.
It is believed that all the Shinto gods gather in the province of Idzumo (part of modern day Shimane prefecture) for a meeting every year in October. Therefore, most of Japan is left “godless” and October is known as the “godless month”. In Idzumo, October in the old calendar is called 神有月／神在月 (kamiaridzuki), literally “the month with gods”.
Other references to the old Japanese months in anime and manga include Happy Lesson and Azumanga Daioh.
Happy Lesson in particular has almost every single female character named after a month, with the five main heroines being Mutsuki, Kisaragi, Yayoi, Satsuki and Udzuki, or January to May. Kisaragi~~~ :3
In episode 17 of Azumanga, a joke involving “shiwasu” (December) was made in reference to Yukari-sensei running. The kanji for shiwasu consists of 師 (teacher) and 走 (run), but 師 also refers to monks and priests in older context. The name came from the fact that December is a busy time and even monks and priests, who are normally calm and composed, have to rush around running to get preparations done for the coming new year.
Japanese people don’t like to use pronouns. That said, they have an awful lot of them. Depending on the context and the other person’s relationship to you, you have to determine which pronoun is more suitable. All examples below are based on anime, games and manga and may not reflect Real Life ™.
Some pronouns for “I/me” and what they say about the speaker:
私 (watashi) – most commonly-used, generally neutral
私 (atashi) – girls and guys-who-want-to-be-girls only
私 (watakushi) – rich old men, butlers and princesses
僕 (boku) – female or male prepubescent children or young boys
俺 (ore) – male and asserting one’s manliness
わし (washi) – old men
nearing death bed
うち (uchi) – female and speaking with an accent
己 (ora) – rural, i.e. farmers
おいら (oira) – same as above, see: Rakushun from Juuni Kokuki
拙者 (sessha) – ninja or samurai, see: Kaede from Negima!
我輩 (wagahai) – male and arrogant, see: Keroro from Keroro Gunsou
In general, you should use “watashi” if you have no idea what you are doing.
Some pronouns for “you” and what they say about the other person:
貴方 (anata) – more or less generic, also used by wives to call their husbands
貴女 (anata) – the person is female
あんた (anta) – shorter form of anata, may sound rude
君 (kimi) – female, or a lower-ranking person in a work environment
お前 (omae) – your pet, someone very close to you or someone you hate
己 (onore) – someone you really hate, possibly about to be hit by you
貴様 (kisama) – see above
汝 (nanji) – thou, see: Mai-Otome (waga na ni oite nanji no chikara wo…)
其方 (sonata) – archaic and similar to thou, see: Lafiel from Seikai series
てめえ (temee) – someone you really hate, you might be yakuza.
お宅 (otaku) – someone emotionally distant and unknown to you
In general, anything that is supposed to be used for people who are intimate with you can sound really rude and/or insulting when used on a stranger or someone you hate. Weird but that’s how it goes.
The safest bet when you are not sure is to not use any pronouns at all when possible. Use name + san if you know the person’s family name. If you really absolutely have to say “you”, then “anata” is probably the safest bet. Just don’t cry if you get punched in the face (well maybe not that bad).
In the fourth chapter, we talked about:
- numbers used in legal documents
- old Japanese months
- this chapter is really short because I am busy
- I padded the post with useless pictures
I promise the next chapter will be longer. Hopefully.
Hey, at least this time I did try to talk about things that are related to anime. Yay(?)
On a final note, instead of just nominating a girl for the next chapter, you can also give some suggestions on what I should talk about. Tentatively it’s going to be about adjectives, but that’s just not much fun…