Thursday, February 12, 2009

For Every Grain of Rice You Waste, a Farmer Sheds a Tear

I just read an excellent Japanese-instructional post about もったいない and 申し訳ない. The author then relates what her parents used to say when she would be wasteful (もったいない) and not finish her rice. They would say


That is, they would apologize very politely to the farmer (who had worked so hard to harvest those grains).

This reminded me that, while in Japan, a fellow expat gaijin told me the adage that is the title of this blogpost. Thus, I try never to spill rice when I'm pouring it, and I always try to finish every grain.

(... even though I have no idea if this is an actual saying or not.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Setsubun Setsumei

Today (February 3) was Setsubun in Japan, so we talked about it in class. For a complete description, You'll have to check out the wiki, but here are the parts I like:

  • Setsubun: 節分

    The first kanji is the same "setsu" as in "kisetsu," 季節, which means season.

    The second kanji is 分, which can mean portion, part, or, in this case, division.

    The reasoning goes that this day, in the old lunar Japanese calendar, was the day before the first day of spring. Since the seasons go 春夏秋冬, there is a division between winter and spring. Thus, "season division," 節分".

  • Mamemaki: 豆撒き

    Mamemaki is the scattering (撒き) of beans (豆) that is the funnest tradition ever. As part of the renewal that Spring brings, the idea is "out with the bad (demons), in with the good (luck)." People throw (投げる) soybeans (大豆) outside their doors to drive the bad spirits away, while chanting:

    鬼は外! 福は内!  

    Usually, the only people who throw stuff, at least at the temple celebrations, are the ones who were born in the same year as the new year. That is, if they were born 12 years ago in the year of the 牛, they can throw beans this year.

  • While beans purify the place of demons, they are also eaten, symbolizing taking in good luck. You are supposed to eat roasted soybeans (炒り豆), one for every year you are old, and, in some family traditions, it's your age plus one. The "plus one" might be for the nine months you were in the womb, or it might be for the coming year.
For some videos of Setsubun's events this year, check out this blogpost from Nihongo Notes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Kanji Explosion

All right, I couldn't keep up with the four-hours-a-day plan during the break. And my lack of kanji is hurting me hard in my classes.

Which means: lots of content to put up here!

I will be updating as much as I can to keep a record of the kanji compounds and words I'm having trouble with. I'm not sure how good it will be for others to follow along with, though. Your thoughts and suggestions are welcome.

New vocabulary to come soon...