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I’m in love. I just discovered my new favorite kanji. The simplicity, the straightforwardness, the sheer pictorial common sense beats those unconvincing explanations about how 目 really does look like an eye, 日 like the sun, and 木 like a tree, and 女 like a woman (ok, they may be on to something with the last one). And this miracle kanji is kannuki (かんぬき), meaning a “bolt” or “latch” (Also refers to a 2-on-1 wrist-hold technique in some martial arts).  Brilliant.

==> 閂

See the resemblance?

So I haven’t been good about updating this, but so it goes. At any rate, here is an expression not to be forgotten:

恩着せがましい (おんきせがましい) = Unfortunately no neat, one-word definition exists for this term (though some dictionaries list “patronizing”). It is used to describe someone (critically) who says things in a way that lets you know he is expecting you to know that he is doing you a favor.

So the next time your mother goes on about the troubles she endure to bear and raise you, you can respond with おんきせがましい!With the added benefit of her not knowing what you said.


One of my favorite Japanese movies is now available to watch on HULU until mid July. When the Last Sword Is Drawn (壬生義士伝 Mibu gishi den), released in 2003 and directed by Yōjirō Takita (the guy who directed the Oscar-winning Departures, and the Molester’s Train series apparently, but you got to start somewhere I suppose), is not your usual slash-em-up samurai flick. It is more in the vein of Yoji Yamada’s 2002 masterpiece Twilight Samurai ( たそがれ清兵  Tasogare seibei) and uses the bakumatsu period more as a motivated setting than an excuse to slice a few heads off. If you prefer slicing and dicing, see the Zatoichi films, also available on HULU. When the Last Sword Is Drawn won the Best Film award in the 2004 from the Japanese Academy, and a few others.

Watch it while you can:

And if you miss it, go rent it. Heck, go buy it.

If you’ve never read Kenkō’s Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), do it. Here’s a familiar gem from dan 127:


益 is read やく here.

Someone could probably translate this in a style much more appropriate to 14th c. Japan, but it essentially means this:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

More from the Mainichi on the Koyanagi File (interviews with WWII naval officers) mentioned in an earlier post. The documents are due to be released this month.

For a bit of levity. Check out the slideshow here from Global Post, and try to keep a straight face while reading the captions. Whoever wrote the captions had a rascally sense of humor.

Neat article in the Japan Times on aphorisms, saying, etc. Well worth a read:


おままごとをする – to play house

Here’s a good one:

新興成金(shinkōnarikin)= “nouveau riche”

Those that can read the kanji for their meaning will get it right away, it’s fairly literal:

新: new

興: by itself means “entertain” or “revive” or “interest,” but in combination with the above graph, “developing/emergent”

成: become

金: $$$

The Sea and Poison 海と毒薬 (1958, serialized in 1957)

Endō Shūsaku – 遠藤周作

Translated by Michael Gallagher

There are two types of sins, we are often told—the sins of commission and the sins of omission. The former are the committed through immoral actions, the latter through the failure to exercise moral actions. The former is simple enough; if you murder someone you are guilty by your action. The latter is more subtle; what if you did nothing to stop the murder? Edmund Burke once said something about “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” He might have liked this book.

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