The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: japanese

ささやかだけれど、役にたつこと (A Small, Good Thing)

I’ve always been fond of Shibuya-kei, and have even written about it on this site. While I can’t fully grasp all local references, I’ve been listening to this Shibuya-kei song by Kaji Hideki (ヒデキカジ). It’s been helping me close the chapter and impelling me along.

君が旅に出た それも突然
You went on a journey, it was sudden
こうして僕が旅から戻ってきたのに
Because of that, I came back from my journey.

ドアの向こうには もう誰もいない
On the other side of the door, there was no one
恋してたのは僕だけじゃなかったはず
I’m not supposed to be the only one in love.

ささやかで役に立つ インスタントでできた
A small, good thing, INSTANT things can be
夢もコーヒーもすぐにさめなければ
Be they dreams, be they coffee, even if they turn cold
いいなと僕は思う
I think they’re still great.

そしてまた僕は次の旅に出る
And so I begin my next journey
例えば この空から雨が降るように
Like, for example, rain that falls from this sky.

ささやかで役に立つ レイモンドは語る
A small, good thing, RAYMOND says
青い空に白いシャツが合わないって事だってあるのさ
A white shirt that does not match the blue skies.

キミドリの庭を上 犬たちが飛び回る
Above the yellow-green garden, dogs are circling overhead
こんなによく晴れた日々君からの手紙が届く
A letter from you arrives in these sunny days.

きっとまたどこがで会おう
Let’s definitely meet somewhere again.

Miyazaki: Not retiring from making retirement announcements any time soon

hayao-miyazaki

Good news for all Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli fans. Miyazaki is (once again) not retiring! The studio’s iconic film-maker’s apparent retirement was disputed when Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki talked about Miyazaki’s current project.

From the Guardian:

The news that the 72-year-old film-maker is continuing to draw was broken by Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki on the Japanese TV show Sekai-ichi Uketai Jugyō. “I think he will serialise a manga,” said Suzuki when asked how Miyazaki was enjoying his retirement. “From the beginning, he likes drawing about his favourite things. That’s his stress relief.” Suzuki then confirmed the project’s Warring States setting, but added: “He’ll get angry if I talk too much. Let’s stop talking about this.”

This marks the seventh time Miyazaki has announced his retirement, and came back each time:

  1. 1986: Castle in the sky
  2. 1992: Porco Rosso
  3. 1997 : Princess Mononoke
  4. 2001: Spirited Away
  5. 2004: How’s Moving Castle
  6. 2008: Ponyo
  7. 2013: The Wind Rises

What’s in a name? Government regulation, that’s what

I was researching names that have fallen into disuse, and suddenly the regulation of names came up in the search. I decided to look up how China and Japan regulates what names are permitted for newborns, trying to find out what is or isn’t permitted.

China

Apparently there’s no restriction to what names can be used, as long as a computer is able to reproduce the character. Thus, according to Wikipedia, “(it) is not illegal to name a child after a famous celebrity, company, or product, as copyright and trademark laws do not apply to personal names.”

However, while there are over 70,000 Chinese characters available to choose from, only 32,232 are supported for computer input. Thus people with characters that fall outside of this 32,232 have names that run into problems when these people try to register for ID.

Japan

Japan takes a more stringent approach to naming one’s newborn, and restricts character usage based on readability and taste. “Only kanji which appear on the official list may be used in given names. This is intended to ensure that names can be readily written and read by those literate in Japanese. Rules also govern names considered to be inappropriate; for example, in 1993 two parents who tried to name their child Akuma (悪魔, which literally means “devil”) were prohibited from doing so after a massive public outcry.”

 

Speaking fake English, or any other fake language

What qualifies the English language to sound “English” enough? Very often, people in the English-speaking world have impressions of what foreign languages sound like. Chinese (excluding stereotypical “ching-chong” variants) sounds like “Xie shi hao ni jing ling ping dao” to many English speakers, replete with its tonality, French has its velar R’s and lots of Z’s and nasalities, “Le beton est un plus morraise il a son telle fusontique des mon,” Italian has its inflections on certain syllables, and so forth.

What about fake English? Were a foreigner to make fun of what English sounds like to them, how would they reconstruct it?

Turns out faking a language at least requires the basic knowledge of morphemic and phonetic structure of that language. Why do people in the least go “ching-chong” when talking about Chinese and rattle their throats and noses trying to speak fake French? It’s because that they know these languages feature these consonant and vowel relationships.

Knowing the phonetic map is only one part of speaking a fake language, the other, to make the fake language sound convincing, is knowing how they fit together to form words.

The video above speaks fake Chinese, and as a Chinese speaker, I find it very far off, simply because he does not understand the tonal system of Chinese, nor can he reproduce certain syllables.

The video below shows a somewhat convincing fake English, as it imagines what English would sound like to foreign person who does not speak the language.

Any English speaker would realise that in that clip, it actually uses a lot of real English words, but for the most part is unintelligible, yet it still sounds distinctively English. I feel that the writers of the script relied too much on real words and simply garbling the rest, when they could have pushed the boundaries further of words they can change up using English phonomorphemic rules to create a convincing and clear fake English conversation.

I wrote previously that we can extract semantic meaning from nonsense words, through parallel sounds and morphemes attached to them. Likewise, for fake English, to sound most convincing, we need to preserve morphemes, because for some reason, English morphemes are very English to any English speaker. So much so that we attach them to foreign words when we attempt to Anglicise them. For example, we can say a person “kamikaze’d” or that perhaps something could be “taco-licious”. What that means exactly, I’m not sure, but we often use English affixes to bring foreign words to make them fit into our language.

Likewise, if we were to create nonsensical, fake English conversation, we must preserve these affixes, for they give words their purposes. For example, we use “-tion” to turn something into a process, such as “crown” to “coronation,” “investigate” to “investigation.” If I used a word like “hakilimation,” chance are, a competent English speaker can probably draw inferences that the root word would be “hakilimate.” If I said a person is “taffing,” the root verb is probably “to taff.”

Here’s my attempt at speaking fake English, using the rules I have highlighted. I think if someone weren’t paying close attention and heard this in the background, it could pass for real English. Also included are fake Chinese and Japanese, that, in my opinion, sound a lot more legit than those without knowledge of how the language is structured.

Here’s an example of a Microsoft ad that uses fake Chinese convincingly. Granted, a lot of the words are slurred, given its more conversational nature, but to those who know the language, some actual Chinese can be teased out from that blur of words.

Final homework assignment from dearly departed teacher will bring you to tears

In the original Japanese link of the image, like one of the commenters said about the first characters of the writing on the board, “五十せ?” It was supposed to be 幸せ, just really messily written. Looks like teachers are guiltiest of messy handwriting more so than students.

Anime art noveau

I am a big fan of the art nouveau movement. In fact, I have previously done an illustration combining that art style and Pokémon, some of my favourite things.

However, many do not know that art nouveau took a lot of inspiration from Japanese art, especially woodblock prints, ukiyo-e. From Wikipedia:

Two-dimensional Art Nouveau pieces were painted, drawn, and printed in popular forms such as advertisements, posters, labels, magazines, and the like.Japanese wood-block prints, with their curved lines, patterned surfaces, contrasting voids, and flatness of visual plane, also inspired Art Nouveau. Some line and curve patterns became graphic clichés that were later found in works of artists from many parts of the world.

And ukiyo-e’s flatness of dimension highly influenced the Japanese animation industry, and that particular art style is sometimes called “superflat.”

Thus I thought it really interesting when I came across this article of a Japanese ex-host (escort) Takumi Kanehara who gave up his life at the bar pleasing woman and turned to creating pleasing works of art. He produced a series of Art Nouveau Mucha-style pictures of various Studio Ghlibli’s works such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and more. Thus in essence, anime art nouveau. How does one even begin to describe that? A work based on modern Japanese animation using a Western art style inspired by traditional Japanese art.

To find out more of his works, here is Kanehara’s Twitter.

Extreme Alternate Olympics

In today’s weird post of the day, I bring to you: Male Ground Swimming Freestyle.

Following this, we have Ski Jump – Pairs. with the American team coming in fourth.

original[1]Image from kotaku.com

Finally, we finish off with a little bit of horse racing.

White chrysanthemums

shiroihanaGrandma

This white chrysanthemum

I want to give to you

 

The music of the Young and Trendy

Even if one doesn’t speak or understand Japanese, listening to this song Sweet Soul Revue by Pizzicato Five, it is very easily established that it would not be what one would expect from a Japanese pop singer. In fact, it sounds closer to something put out in France in the 60’s or so.

Introducing a genre of Japanese pop known as Shibuya-kei, a branch that sounds decidedly so much more Western than its regular mainstream counterparts.

It also makes sense that this genre began and is named after the Shibuya district in Tokyo, a hyper-trendy neighbourhood famous for its scramble crossing, fashion, and shopping.

Just as French yé-yé focused on the innocent beauty of young girls as its selling point in the 60’s, Shibuya-kei is all about the young, the trendy and the beautiful. However, Shibuya-kei transcends merely its music, and its sensibilities have pervaded into a lifestyle and culture.

Design

sbyk

What is the Shibuya-kei aesthetic? Think clean and simple, minimal, with bold colours that are not afraid to be seen. The images above are screen shots from the movie, Detroit Metal City, which in itself pays homage to Shibuya-kei. Minimalism, portable, retro and futuristic elements all come together to create a sleek and airy feel. Designers such as marimekko would not feel out of place in such an environment.

sbykalbLooking at the cover sleeves of four of the biggest names in Shibuya-kei, Kahimi Karie, Cornelius, Flipper’s Guitar and Pizzicato Five, all reflect the sensibilities of Shibuya-kei design; sleek, clean and very pop-art-ish.

Sound

If mainstream J-pop is about producing for a Japanese market, Shibuya-kei seems to eschew itself from that by being everything not typically Japanese. It is synthpop, bossa nova, French yé-yé, jazz, and so many other element put into one. Given the vast possibilities within Shibuya-kei, each artist tends to build a certain style and sound to establish their identity within this genre. Yukari Fresh, shown above with her mini album, Cook Some Dishes, tends toward the light and whimsical synthpop elements, while Pizzicato Five leans towards French-esque bossa pop.

Other interesting stylistic elements include Minekawa Takako with her retro-futuristic electronic sounds (above, Fantastic Cat), or Kahimi Karie (above, Good Morning World) with her whisper-like vocals as she sings in French, English, Japanese and, sometimes, Portuguese (below, Take It Easy My Brother Charlie).

Themes

If there can be one thing that can be said to be consistent in Shibuya-kei, it’s the incessant exploration, creation and expression of new ideas and old dreams.

Yoshinori Sunahara imagines the opening of an underground airport in Tokyo in his album, Take Off and Landing (track above, Hawaii 2300) and many of his works feature his obsession with aeroplanes and flight. Others, like Cornelius, a key figure in the genre, explores the relationships between harmony and dissonance, or the relationships natural musical elements can have with synthetic ones, such as in his song Drop (below).

Shibuya-kei is dead?

Shibuya-kei started in the late 80’s and took off in the early 90’s. However, its popularity waned rapidly in the 2000’s as other music, such as Korean pop, started getting a hold of the local music scene.

Interestingly, where Shibuya-kei has floundered in Japan, it has moved overseas and found its niche in Europe and the United States. Artists like Kahimi Karie and Pizzicato Five have definitely found more acclaim overseas than they do in their home countries these days.

What’s more fascinating is that the genre that began and has hit more or less a dead end in Japan is starting to see foreign artists with sounds that increasingly sound like Shibuya-kei. While not a new artist, Momus (above, I want you but I don’t need you) has been likened to Shibuya-kei, as have been other artists.

Momus writes about his thoughts on the genre,

We western pop-makers are like the Brothers Grimm. We scribbled a few fairy stories a long time ago. And now they’re there, transmuted, misunderstood and built in stone at Tokyo Disneyland, and we’re wandering around the theme park in our frock coats murmuring aloud in wonder ‘Did we really start this?’

from Momus’ webpage, imomus.com

The esoteric nature of Shibuya-kei of the 90’s has left Japan and taken residence overseas, where it is safe and carried on by foreign artists. Those left behind have transformed Shibuya-kei into something slightly different. While Cornelius and Minekawa Takako are still producing works with strong vibes of the Shibuya-kei of the yesteryear, other forefronts of the genre such as Fantastic Plastic Machine and capsule have turned their sights towards house, dance and electronic music. For example, Fantastic Plastic Machine that went from something like this (L’Aventure Fantastique, 1997):

To something like this (Daremoshiranai feat. 環ROY, 2013)

I am not lamenting the direction Shibuya-kei is headed these days; in fact they are all interesting directions. The perceptibly ‘Western’ flavour of Shibuya-kei of the past that was ironically ‘so Japanese’ has morphed into an international movement that artists around the world can participate in. Shibuya-kei is no longer only for and by the Japanese, and the scramble crossing of the district has transcended geographical borders.

Vegetable Rhythm

I have no idea why I’m so addicted to watching this, but this is べジタリズム (bejita-rizumu/Vegetable Rhythm) performed by TEMPURA KIDZ. The song was commissioned by national broadcasting channel, NHK, for a children’s show, Minna no Uta. The song is meant to promote eating vegetables, which is also what the song is about, and that explains why the kids are dressed with vegetable headdresses.

One of the four dancers is a boy! It’s the purple one, whose stage name is P-Chan.

But seriously they’re all really good dancers. I was looking at their footwork and hands, and the gestures and movements are all very clean, crisp and well-executed.

This is going to stick in my head for a while.