Japanese are always impressed when a foreigner (or even another Japanese for that matter…) can work a four-character phrase into daily conversation.
Here are a few that I have run across while reading stuff that are good to know. Complete definitions and usages of these can be found in your trusty electronic dictionary, and shorter definitions are also available on the popular ALC and BREEN dictionaries.
一喜一憂 : いっきいちゆう : ikki ichiyuu
Literally, the characters mean one happiness, one “despair”. The phrase basically means that one is alternating experiences happiness and sadness. I picked this one up when a friend emailed me about how things were going with a new baby. Sometimes it’s so fun and exciting, but other times can be really hard, like when the baby is crying for seemingly no reason through all hours of the night. (ugh!)
単純明快 : たんじゅんめいかい : tanjyun meikai
Literally, the characters mean “simple and clear”. This one I came across in the dialog of a video game… (who says games aren’t educational!) It was used by a villain to insult a hero character who was hard headed and very one-dimensional. Basically the villain could read the hero “like a book”. This phrase basically means “plain and simple”, and can be used in a positive or negative sense. For example, 単純明快ダイエット would be, a diet that is clear and simple to understand. No complex counting of calorie units there!
傍若無人 : ぼうじゃくぶじん : boujyaku bujin
This one is used to describe someone who is insolent. They may be a new employee in a company, but always gives their opinion in meetings, even disagreeing with their superiors. This phrase applies even if they are correct. So it’s sort of a combination of someone who is bold, yet naive and doesn’t realize it. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but if you imagine the situation of the fresh employee speaking up and going against the flow in a meeting situation, I think you’ve got it.
That’s enough for now! Does anyone have any four-character phrases they want to share?
Propaganda was used by both the Axis and Allied powers to influence the hearts and minds of every actor and observer during World War II, and America was no exception.
After America declared war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the military decided that a documentary on the new enemy, the Japanese, was needed in order to effectively educate the American soldiers and public about the Japanese, and to combat American isolationism to increase support for the war. The result was a meticulously created and highly effective piece of propaganda called Know Your Enemy: Japan that depicted the Japanese as a homogeneous people willing to fight to the end for the Emperor in their quest for world domination.
Know Your Enemy: Japan, was put together by the Hollywood director, Frank Capra. Frank Capra had made a series of other films for World War II as well, called Why We Fight. Despite the fact that planning for the movie began immediately after Pearl Harbor, the film was not completed and released until August 9th 1945, near the end of the war, and the day Nagasaki was bombed. Production of the film was tightly managed and it was revised multiple times for reasons such as seeming too sympathetic by depicting the Japanese as being completely controlled by the Emperor thus fighting the war against their will. Once the film was released, it was only shown for a few weeks, and was discontinued at the end of August 1945 after Japan surrendered.
The film was picked up again in the 1970s, and intensely studied. The documentary itself is considered to be a masterpiece. Know Your Enemy: Japan was put together using captured or confiscated Japanese film, scenes from publicly available Japanese TV shows or movies at the time, and other sources directly acquired from the Japanese themselves. Careful editing of these images of the enemy created a more convincing negative image of the Japanese than could ever be done with images created by the Americans themselves. From this film we can learn a lot about the American state of mind and attitude towards the Japanese during the war. In fact, I would say that you can learn a lot more about the Americans from this film than you can about the Japanese…
You can watch the entire approximately one-hour film on YouTube.
(The other sections are on YouTube as well – I’m sure you know how to find them!)
This movie has everything… A catchy theme song, yakuza, disco, crazy fight scenes including foreigners, English speaking 60s girls, crazy car driving, ridiculous gun tossing action scenes, and blue suits in the snow. Yet, after all that, the main character still has this respectable air about him… That frankly makes me want to be him. He’s a drifter. He doesn’t need women.
Some cuts from the movie along with the theme song are on Youtube.
I would love to own the sound track to this… But haven’t found it anywhere yet… Let me know if you know where I can find it!
Heads up everyone, a fascinating new Japan blog created by my former IUC buddy called Making Monks just went live.
Behind every interesting blog is an interesting story… now tell me this story isn’t interesting. I quote.
On October 27th last year, I had my head shaved and I was given the dharma name (hōmyō, 法名) Jōji (盛慈) by my master the aged and respected monk Seiyū (盛雄) in a ceremony known in English as a tonsure and in Japanese as a tokudoshiki (得度式). At this moment, I entered an esoteric lineage of Buddhism that is hundreds of years older than Zen which consists of secret teachings and rituals passed from one generation of monastics to another for thousands of years. I am the first American in history to achieve this honor and enter the monastic lineage. However, this is not where a monk’s journey ends but where it begins.
I always knew he was a little… different. In class, every time there was an opportunity to make a speech in Japanese on a topic of our choice, he would always speak about some arcane concept relating to some minor Buddhist sect in Japan. It was from him where I first learned the most useful Japanese verb… 成仏する jyoubutsu suru, which means… to become Buddha, or according to my dictionary, “attaining Buddhahood”, or “entering Nirvana”. Indeed.
When his journey is over and he reaches Nirvana… I wonder what will happen to his blog!