Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tomoe Gozen: Jidai Matsuri 2007

Heian Period
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Fukuteru, geiko of Miyagawa-cho, appears as Tomoe Gozen in Kyoto's Jidai Matsuri, the "Festival of Ages".

Arrayed in men's armor, Tomoe Gozen fought courageously besides her husband, General Kiso Yoshinaka, in battle. Heike Monogatari, or The Take of Heike, describes her as the epitome of both feminine and masculine virtue:

"Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swords-woman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a mighty bow; and she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors."

Fiercely brave and unwaveringly loyal to her husband, her final act of service to him has become the subject of many plays, poems, art, manga and even the modern, made-for-TV-drama, Yoshitsune. Having defeated the Heike clan, driving them into the western provinces and taking Kyoto, Yoshinaka decided to claim leadership of the Minamoto clan (to which he belonged). His cousin and rival, Yoritomo, promptly sent his brothers to kill Yoshinaka, and their forces finally met in the Battle of Awazu. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, with only a handful of warriors standing, Yoshinaka ordered his wife to flee the field rather than face capture and death. Promising her husband that she would hold off the enemy long enough for him to commit seppuku, the ritual suicide considered honorable in defeat, the Tale of Heike records that:

"[Tomoe] flung herself upon Onda [the strongest warrior} , and, grappling with him, dragged him from his horse... and cut off his head."

Tomoe Gozen's fate after the battle is not known, but it is generally believed that she lived a long life, becoming a Buddhist nun.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to Japan: A Retrospective (^_<)

From soba to sushi, from Gifu to Osaka,it was a month well spent!

A Purikura Addict's Oddessy

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Super-cute, soft-serve poop: A puri staple and Japanese pop culture icon.

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Junior high kids love to ask about their ALT's love life. The thumbs up means boyfriend, pinky up means girlfriend.

All the way from Osaka, world famous Ashitsubo Sensei and rugby extrodinaire (not to mention actual nihonjin)!

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Star of my first puri and my absolute best Japanese friend ever- Yuko-chan! How far we've come! (^_<) Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
I ♥ Osaka!

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Extra points if anyone can catch the "Fo Sho" allusion.

Our last puri- for now, anyways!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! 感謝祭おめでとう

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new..."

Did you know the pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts, and still decided to set aside a day of thanksgiving for all of their blessings? What a humbling thought. We all have things to be thankful for, even if we forget it from time to time. Sometimes even the things we are quite the opposite of thankful for turn out to be blessings in the end, and that is a comforting thought (^_<)

This is my first Thanksgiving stateside in the past three years, but all of my Kansha-sai (Japanese for Thanksgiving) were spent in the company of good friends and delicious food. Last year we celebrated at Ena's famous Chez Howell over a dinner of lentils, Thai curry and guacamole. The previous Dia de Gracias was spent marveling at Kyoto's famous fall foilage and savoring spicy Indian cuisine in Gion. And who could forget the time we snuggled beneath a warm kotatsu, huddled around a steaming pot of kimchee nabe!

Yet even as I prepared to repatriate myself this past August, I found myself looking forward to the deliciousness that is good old pumpkin pie. Despite a series of unfortunate events that transpired to keep me from eating said pumpkin pie, or even having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in my own home, it turned out to be the absolute best Thanksgiving in (my) recent history. No fighting. No stress. No obscure sea creatures sneaking into the hot pot. Just family, food and fun. Niiiiiiice.

Here's to hoping all of you had a happy Thanksgiving as well. What are you most thankful for this year? Kind of hard to say once you start thinking about it, isin't it? There's just too much to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Hana No Na" English Translation: 花の名 : Bump of Chicken

I just can't get the newest single by Japan's undisputedly best-ever band (in my humble opinion), Bump of Chicken, out of my head. It was definately the theme song of the soundtrack to my recent trip to Japan. When I wasn't straining to hear it over the random noise pollution of imo and sakana songs at the supermarket, lingering around the conbini onigiri section to catch the last few notes, or just hearing it drift around Osaka, I was singing it to myself. If you haven't heard it yet, give it a listen. If you have heard it and wished you knew what the heck they were saying, wish no more! The best thing about this new Bump song is it's relative easy vocabulary, grammar and pace, making it the perfect study tool!

In my hopes of spreading the joy of Bump this holiday season, I've translated Hana no Na for anyone who cares. I hope someone out there appreciates and enjoys it as much as I do!

The Flower's Name by Bump of Chicken
Translation by Melissa Chasse ©

If it is such a simple thing, I wonder why can't I say it?
If it's something I can't say, I wonder how I will express it?

Even if I forget the sky we saw together,
I won't forget that we were together

If you are a flower,
You're probably not very different from all the other ones

From them, I chose one
There is a song only I can sing
There is a song only you can hear

My being here is proof that you were here
The song that I leave here is proof that I was left with you

Since I borrowed the power to live,
While I'm alive I have to give it back

When you forget the tears and the smiles,
Please just remember
Lost in the same pain
There is a song that only you can sing
There is a song that only I can hear

Everyone has a person they want to see
Everyone has a person they are waiting for
If there are people that (people) want to see
Then there are people waiting for them


If you are a flower,
You're probably not very different from all the other ones
From them, I chose one
For me, For you


When you forget the tears and the smiles,
Please just remember
Without losing my way
I chose
There is a song that only you can sing
There is a song that only I can hear
There is someone waiting only for me
There is someone who wants to see only you