March 23, 2010

Let's Get Funkei

Recently, I ran across a post about the phrase 刎頚の友 (funkei no tomo, or decapitation friend), which seems to translate as "a friendship that could survive mutual beheadings." Be sure to check out the comments on the post for the origin of this phrase and how it may relate to seppuku.

I got interested in the kanji 刎, which seemed to be supplying the cutting meaning of the compound (頚 means neck) at that point. It's made from 勿 (absence) and 刀 (sword). It appears in the word 刎ねる (haneru) which means many things including flip, spatter, hit with a vehicle, and of course chop off a head.

Here are some other goodies WWWJDIC supplied for me:
刎 words:
刎 [はね] (suf,ctr) (arch) counter for helmets, etc.
刎死 [ふんし] (n,vs) decapitating oneself
自刎 [じふん] (n,vs) committing suicide by slitting one's throat
刎ね上がる [はねあがる] (v5r,vi) to jump up, to spring up

Intriguingly, a word with the same pronunciation as funkei, 焚刑, means burning at the stake. That may have led to some confusion at the courthouse, eh? Ha, ha, I kill me.

Bonus morbid knowledge: Ladies don't do seppuku, they commit jigai.

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March 20, 2010

Spinning Hammer Mouse Shrine

What's going on with the mouse in the video? I read a description at the shrine, but it didn't seem too clear as I have a loose grasp of ancient Japanese mythology. Luckily this site has some info about why the gods Susano-O and O-Kuni-Nushi were being mentioned so much and what was up with the arrow the mouse found. Read on:
Traditions have O-Kuni-Nushi being sent straight to the underworld after his brothers tried to kill him in order to avoid their revenge. In the underworld O-Kuni-Nushi met Suseri-Hime, the daughter of the god of the underworld. They were married, but first Susano-O made O-Kuni-Nushi pass three tests. The first test was to put him to sleep in a room of snakes. O-Kuni-Nushi saves himself with the scarf that Suseri-Hime gave him. The next night he had to sleep in a room full of centipedes and wasps, but he again used another scarf that Suseri-Hime had given him to protect himself. The final test that Susano-O gives him is to find an arrow, which Susano-O had sent into the middle of a huge meadow. When O-Kuni-Nushi is in the middle of the field, Susano-O set fire to the grass, luckily however; a mouse saves him by showing him an underground room. The mouse then brings the arrow to O-Kuni-Nushi. O-Kuni-Nushi's success helps Susano-O to feel more at ease with him, so he has O-Kuni-Nushi wash his hair and finally goes to sleep. O-Kuni-Nushi then ties Susano-O's hair to the rafters of the house and with his wife on his back fled. He also took with him Susano-O's sword, bow, arrows, and his Koto (harp). Susano-O is awakened when the Koto brushes against a tree. In the time it took for Susano-O to free his hair, the two were far away. From the slopes of the underworld, Susano-O advises O-Kuni-Nushi, whom he sees in the distance, to use the weapons to fight his brothers, foretelling that O-Kuni-Nushi would conquer them and reign over the world. He also asked O-Kuni-Nushi to make Suseri-Hime his main wife and to build a palace at the foot of Mount Uka.
But heck if I know why those mice are holding hammers at the shrine. I also don't know if mention of a main wife alludes to Heian polygamy practices (it's good to be the kizoku !), when I imagine these stories may have been collected. Any ideas, Dear Reader?

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March 6, 2010

Watching Japan Grow Up

Greetings! I've been pretty busy lately, but I noticed something cool the other day. There is a lot of construction in Yokohama, which means walls must go up. One has an art contest of sorts adorning it. These two pics comprise one entry:
Photo one (the 80s?)

Photo two (all grown up):

EDIT: Took a closer look at the wall. Turns out that the artist is 西尾美也 (Yoshinari Nishio) and the the work is named Costume Play.
This has been a mobile post; click the pics to zoom/visit their album