Daily Archives: 22 November 2004

The Meanings of Kamikaze

Language Hat has an interesting discussion thread about how kamikaze came to mean ‘suicide attack’. I’ll elevate my comment there to a blogpost here.

I suspect kamikaze ‘divine wind’ was probably first no more than an inscription on the hachimaki ‘headband’ that is still worn by many Japanese on a special mission, whether or not that mission is likely to be fatal. Other hachimaki can have other motivational slogans like ‘Victory’, ‘Success’, or ‘Fighting Spirit’. (Too bad there aren’t old Confucian slogans that literally translate as ‘Exceed Sales Target’ or ‘Constantly Innovate’!)

There is nothing intrinsic in kamikaze that suggests suicide (less than there is in an American slogan like “Remember the Alamo!”), but there is a strong suggestion of a devastating air attack on shipping. I wonder if the suicide submarine Kaiten Tokkoutai (‘Turn Heaven Special Attack Force’) also wore hachimaki with kamikaze written on them. I can’t quite make out the characters on the hachimaki in the photos at the link, but I doubt they say ‘Safety First’. Like the original kamikaze, the suicide submarines and airplanes both aimed to destroy ships at sea.

There were at least two varieties of “special attack” planes: Thunder Gods and Kamikaze. ‘Thunder god’ may translate kaminari ‘thunder’, now written with a single Chinese character but clearly derived from something like ‘god-sound’. The Kaminari Ohka (‘thunder cherry-blossom’) “was a piloted glider bomb released from beneath a mother plane and used in suicide attacks on Allied ships.” Cherry blossoms in samurai culture connote the transience of life–therefore death, and frequently death in battle.

To end off on a lighter note: I’m sorry, but the much rarer Chinese reading of kamikaze–shinpuu–just makes me think of a divine wind of the odiferous (though hardly suicidal) kind!

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Filed under Japan, language

Takeru Kobayashi, All-American Glutton

Tokyo Times blog notes that Takeru Kobayashi, the diminutive 4-time winner of the Coney Island hotdog-eating contest has now conquered another All-American peak, Chattanooga’s hamburger-eating contest.

His pulsating performance of 69 hamburgers in 8 minutes, was so stunning that it prompted David Baer of the International Federation of Competitive Eating to trumpet, “Kobayashi is, without a doubt, the greatest eater ever to live upon planet Earth.”

His T-shirt shows Uncle Sam above the motto “Eat All That You Can Eat” but maybe “A Mess Hall of One” would be just as appropriate.

via Simon World

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Filed under U.S.

New Zealand’s Market Reforms

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution asks Have New Zealand’s Market Reforms Failed?

New Zealand moved from being perhaps the most socialized OECD economy to the freest. The country now has free trade, 0-2 percent inflation, no agricultural subsidies, free labor markets, free capital markets, low marginal tax rates, a reasonable fiscal position, and it conducted substantial privatizations, mostly with success. The reforms started about twenty years ago, but the country is not sweeping the world …

What gives?

First, New Zealand without the reforms would have fallen apart and become insolvent; that is the relevant counterfactual. Second, the country is small. The population is just a bit over 4 million; for purposes of comparison the Philadelphia metropolitan area is over six million.

Michael Porter nailed it over ten years ago. New Zealanders have few if any industries [one being electric fencing] where they control market conditions or lead with innovations. For the most part they are at the mercy of world prices and broader conditions. The country’s earlier crisis was precipitated in the early 1970s, when the UK ended “imperial preference” for New Zealand agricultural exports. Another shock will come if Australia passes its free trade agreement with the U.S.; New Zealand exports will face a new and tough competitor.

Finally, the brain drain has not gone away …

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen posts a response from a Kiwi who maintains that NZ’s domestic economy is laden with a regulatory environment that heavily discourages private capital accumulation and investment, including foreign investment.

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Filed under economics, New Zealand