Kaigui o shitewa ikemasen
(Don't spend your pocket money on sweets)
This wise old warning still induces nostalgia in many Japanese people. After the world war, the skyrocketing growth of Japan's economy has resulted in a general increase in wealth, resulting in children having a lot more money than former generations. Also, parents, with benevolence born of healthy bank accounts, were happy to see their precious offspring enjoying the fruits (namely sweets) of their labours.
Despite this new and relatively hedonistic attitude, this cautionary old saw has persisted into the post-war era : maybe this says something about the Japanese views on the virtues of thrift and abstinence.
Recently, however, this worthy credo has shuddered under the assault of mushrooming fast food chains and convenience stores. Can it hold on, and continue to be a force for good? That remains to be seen...
'The beam' is the weapon of choice for many Japanese heroes. This destructive ray usually radiates from the top of the hero's right hand (like most earthling they're right-handed!).
In the guidebooks accompanying these films or programs, we are advised that "so and so's beam is 100 thousand times stronger than a laser." Despite this, the explanation and technicalities of how such energy is produced and stored are conveniently omitted.
Heroes often do battle in the middle of the cities, in full view of thousands of people, yet the question of how to harness such colossal power for the good of mankind is one which also seems to have been forgotten. (But let's be honest -- it's more enjoyable to witness mass destruction than mass creation.)
(the Color Timer)
If asked "what is the time limit of the Color Timer?", many Japanese would answer "3 minutes" without hesitation. It is a small(actually rather large!) red lamp installed at the center of Ultraman's chest. The hero from space can maintain his size and power for only 3 minutes, and the blinking lamp informs him of how much time remains to win the battle and return to human shape. The timer is critical, for should it become damaged Ultraman would lose the means of knowing his given time, possibly thereby becoming confused or ineffective. But happily for all concerned, this situation never arises, as strangely monsters and aliens consistently fail to try this possibly highly successful tactic.
Amai-mono wa betsu-bara
(Sweets go to a different stomach or Sweets don't count)
This is a phrase much-used by Japanese women. Having eaten their fill at lunch or dinner, they still cannot resist the tempting sweets on offer in many restaurants. This curious phrase serves not only as an excuse, but as a kind of self-deluding spell, which, when invoked, will prevent any undesirable weight gain.
Of course, many men laugh at this, but their sneers (which are technically justified) still don't quite have the power to destroy the post-prandial mantra.
Though women in Japan are generally considered to live more restricted lives than their western counterparts, they can at least enjoy the freedom of unlimited eating with a little help from a few nonsensical words.
Ikuyamakawa koesari yukaba sabishisa no hatenan kuni zo kyo mo tabiyuku
Well-known tanka poem by Bokusui Wakayama(1885-1928). 'How many mountains and rivers must I cross to reach the place where loneliness ends? Again today, I travel.'
Shiratama no ha ni shimitohru aki no yo no sake wa shizukani nomubekarikeri
Ditto. 'Autumn night's sake soaks into my pearl teeth. Needful of silence.'
Shiratori wa kanashikarazuya umi no ao sora no ao nimo somazu tadayou
Ditto. 'Does a sea gull look sad? Drifting, never dyed by blue of sky or blue of sea.'
Kyo mo mata kokoro no kane o uchinarashi uchinarashi tsutsu akugarete iku
Ditto. 'Again today, chiming, chiming in my heart, a pilgrim's bell, I am drawn.'
Zou ga nottemo kowarenai fude-ire
(The elephant-proof pencil case)
In the 1970s, children were mesmerized by the image of an elephant unsucessfully trying to trample a boy's pencil case. The commercial's message--that this pencil case was so rugged as to be impervious to the attack of an elephant, was an effective one. The item soon became a best seller. And despite the improbable premise--that one's goods were in danger from rogue pachyderms--children (naturally) were keen to own a pencil case with such a reliable pedigree. (Good psychology on the part of the ad-men we think.)
(X-day, the day of a crucial or important event)
'X-day' has become a favorite cliché in Japan, roughly translating as 'that fateful day' or possibly being equivalent to the western 'D-day.'
Often, when an influential figure or statesman comes under suspicion of corruption or suchlike, many papers conjecture as to when the sword of justice will fall, sporting headlines such as "X-day is coming..." or "Not long till X-day..." However this expression has been used far too often to retain any serious connotations and is usually employed in a flippant sense.
It was first used by the media when the late emperor Hirohito fell into a critical condition and has gained popularity and lost gravity ever since.
Japanese Golden Week or GW for short, is so named because no fewer than 4 national holidays fall in the seven days running from April the 29th to May the 5th (please see sequence below).
Originally, the 4th of May was not a holiday, but under the 'National Holiday Act' of 1989, any normal day falling between two holidays is itself to be considered a holiday. (Currently however, only the 4th of May falls into this category.) So, the Japanese nation can enjoy a bonus day off.
This rule prompted some people to mount a political campaign, in which they pressured the government to declare the 1st of May a holiday. In this way the 30th and the second would also become free, by dint of their being sandwiched between existing holidays.
A clever gambit, but sadly one which hasn't yet paid off for this leisure-shy people.
29 30 1 2 3 4 5
Almost all schools -- including colleges and universities are plagued by the problem of whispering in class. Since the phenomenon of whispering is treated seriously by those concerned with pedagogy, there has been much discussion, and many treatises written on the subject.
Some researchers claim that whispering first become a problem in the 1960s when TV became available and was widely used by a large section of the population. Children fell into the habit of chattering in front of the TV and this habit was then carried into the classroom.
(The grinning woman)
At the end of the 1970s, a bizarre tale swept through Japan. In it, a masked woman would stop a child on the street and ask, "am I beautiful?" When the child answered "yes" (for she really seemed beautiful), she would then ask, "how about now?", revealing a mouth like a hideous gash, stretching from ear to ear.
The scare story became so widespread, and was given such credence that some children were too terrified to go home alone after school. Moreover, some cities even ordered extra police patrols to be mounted, in response to public calls to look out for the masked woman.
(The fork spoon combination)
The most notorious item of cutlery ever to grace the tables of Japanese schools. First introduced in the 1950s, this utensil aimed to combine the best features of spoon and fork, thus saving time and effort for diners and washers alike.
Despite such pragmatism, this 'spork' came in for criticism from the offset. Parents claimed that it encouraged slovenly eating, and that children's dexterity with the chopsticks was suffering. Many also found that the new eating-aid was in fact rather inconvenient and difficult to use.
Finally, after such sustained denunciation, the school board had no choice but to bow to the pressure and abolish the handy hybrid.
Many years ago, a five-member party set out to climb a mountain somewhere in Japan. At first the weather was good in the high passes, but as is so often the case, it changed suddenly and the party found themselves in the midst of a vicious snow storm. Driven to press on and find shelter, one member succumbed to the cold and died. Yet refusing to abandon the body of his comrade, the leader slung him over his shoulders and the party continued their desperate effort to survive.
Finally they stumbled across an old mountain hut. Equipped with neither light nor heat, it afforded scant protection against the elements, yet it seemed to be the only option open to the exhausted group.
As night fell, the temperature plunged rapidly and the members of the party gradually began to feel sleepy, despite the savage cold. Anyone with even a slight knowledge of mountain survival knows that giving in to such drowsiness will almost certainly result in death, but how to stay awake?
The cold and the dark were absolute, yet the leader had an idea. Each of the four members was to go to a corner of the room. A would walk across to B's corner, tap him on the shoulder and take his place. B would then repeat this action for C and so on and so on, until morning (Please see diagram). In this way they managed to fend off the cold and the deadly lure of sleep.
The next day, the weather had cleared and the group knew that rescue would not be long in coming. With a little time on their hands, they reflected upon their ordeal of the previous night and came to a strange realisation: their system required five members for it to work, yet they were only four. Their eyes strayed to the body of their fallen friend, yet they were not afraid. They knew that without the help of his spirit, they would never have seen another dawn.
Ketsueki-gata seikaku handan
(Judging personality by blood type)
In Japan, the boom years of the 60's, 70's and 80's saw both a great rise in general prosperity, and an increased interest in fortune telling and mysticism. Nowadays, despite the fading economy, many of the superstitions which accompanied 'the bubble' still persist. For example, the belief that blood type decides a person's character still has a large following. Simply put, the blood/personality stereotypes are as follows: A is methodical, O is generous, B is stubborn, and AB is eccentric. But does this rather far-fetched system stand up to scrutiny? Statistics tell us that the ratio of blood types, A, O, B and AB in Japan is 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 respectively. This means that in theory, 70% of Japanese are either methodical or generous. However, some sceptics could be forgiven for questioning the legitimacy of the system. Were the blood types alloted their traits before or after the poll? It does seem a little fishy that so many Japanese are blessed with such admirable qualities... It's definitely open to question.
"Genkan ni shio o maite okinasai"
("Be sure to scatter salt at the entrance")
Unfortunately, we have all suffered the presence of an unwelcome guest at some time. In Japan, since salt is thought to have a strong purifying power, scattering it at the entrance is thought to be the best way to keep a hated visitor from coming again. A kind of social exorcism.
Salt appears as a purifier in many aspects of everyday Japanese life. For example, when you attend a funeral, you are given a small pack of salt. Not for cooking, but you may wish to rub your hands with it later, and remove the taint of death.
Tenohira ni 'hito' to sankai kaite nomu
(Trace the Chinese character '人'(hito) three times on your palm, and pretend to swallow it)
This little ritual apparently helps you overcome stage fright. 'Hito' means person, therefore tracing it 3 times suggests many people, or a crowd. It is believed that by swallowing 3 'hito', you can gain confidence then proceed to dominate the audience!
"Itsumo itsumo sumanai ne..." "sore wa iwanai yakusoku desho"
("I'm ever so sorry that you're always having to look after me..." "I've told you not to worry about it")
Many Japanese associate this exchange with a poor, bedridden mother and her harassed daughter. The scene supposedly stems from some soap opera, but like the old English favorite, trouble at' mill, the origin has been lost and it has passed into the everyday lexicon. Like the English equivalent, it is generally used in a lighthearted and slightly sarcastic manner.
Ue no ha wa yuka no shita e, shita no ha wa yane no ue e
(Upper teeth under the floor, lower teeth on the roof)
When a child loses a baby tooth, many parents tell them to either toss it on the roof, or put it under the floor. The lower tooth should go on the roof, as a high place is auspicious for the growth of the new upper tooth. Conversely, the upper tooth should be placed low, this being considered lucky for the next upper tooth.
Reikyusha o mitara oyayubi o kakuse, samonaito oya no shinime ni aenai
(See a hearse and hide your thumbs, or you cannot attend your parents' death-bed)
In Japan, as in most places, hearses are thought to be ominous (for obvious reasons!) Many also believe that a person's thumbs represent one's parents, as they are the largest digits. Evidently, most children would want to be present at the bedside of a parent who is seriously ill or dying. Therefore, hiding your thumbs is believed to guard against bad luck, and ensure your presence should the worst come to pass...!
Omae wa hashi no shita kara hirotte kita
(We picked you up from under the bridge. The equivalent of the English 'Gooseberry Bush' tale)
Perhaps surprisingly, many Japanese children have been told, at some time or other, that they were discovered, wailing, under a bridge, and brought home. It would seem that this story is often used by parents to tease their children. But why bother with such a yarn in the first place? And why specifically under a bridge? Who knows?
Doraemon no saishukai
(Doraemon's last episode)
In 1987, primary school kids in the Tokyo area were horrified to hear a rumor about this famous long-running cartoon series. It was put about that the show was to be cut short, with the revelation that Doraemon had never even existed! He was merely a robot imagined by the little boy Nobita, as he lay in a coma after a traffic accident. His life with Doraemon was simply a long dream...
As a result of this, the TV station was swamped with calls from children desperately seeking reassurance. Happily for all concerned, the rumor proved to be a hoax, and the series is still going strong.
Shigechiyo Izumi, the Cheeky Antique
Shigechiyo Izumi (1865-1986) was in the Guinness Book as the world's oldest man, and lived to the age of 120. One day, when asked about his taste in ladies, he replied, "I like an older woman"! Despite his years, he was still remarkably sharp and lively.