Category Archives: travel

Wordcatcher Tales: Goze

From The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth (Weatherhill, 1985), p. 130:

Well into the twentieth century this stretch of coast was the haunt of the goze [瞽女 ‘blind-woman’]—blind wandering shamisen players who trudged through the villages of the old province of Echigo, from wedding to wedding, from festival to festival, begging food and lodging in return for a song. All were women (though the shamisen is an instrument traditionally taken up by the blind of both sexes), and most were members of a strictly hierarchical society that organized them into small dependent bands. The younger and more ambitious of the goze might supplement their pittance of an income by selling their bodies at the village fairs, though if this were known to the society, they would quickly find themselves stripped of companionship and forced to wander through the Back of Japan alone, with only a stick and their songs to survive on.

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Wordcatcher Tales: Bandori, Quaintify

From The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth (Weatherhill, 1985), pp. 106-107:

Willow trees line the old green streams that crisscross the streets of Tsuruoka, and the streams are walled like the castle moats they once were. The day was immensely hot, with the humidity of gathering rain. In twenty minutes my clothes were soaked, and before I was even out of the city I stopped to cool off in the Chido Museum and dripped my way round a fine collection of ornamental bandori—the backpacks used by country people for humping firewood, vegetables, and kids. The most elaborate of these were the iwai-bandori, designed for carrying wedding trousseaus, and the colors and patterns reminded me of the Navajo rugs I had once seen in New Mexico. (Speaking of the Navajo, I have often wondered why people who strive to depict the Japanese as quaint have never resorted to the Red Indian ploy. The written character for “moon,” for instance, is the same as the written character for “month,” so the Japanese, like the Hollywood redskins, speak of things happening “many moons ago.” To my knowledge, no one—not even the most frantic quaintifier—has ever translated the expression that way, but the quaintifying industry is alive and kicking, and if the Japanese would only start wearing feathers on their heads the oversight could quickly be expunged.)

In the grounds of the museum stood several “old” buildings—a town hall (1881), a police station (1884)—so revered for having survived a century that they had been lugged from their original sites and painstakingly reconstructed. There was also a fine old three-story farmhouse. (It had a warm thatched roof and high paper windows, and on the timber floors of its second and third stories, the old silkworm trays and frames stood intact. This solid old farmhouse had been trundled plank by plank from a little mountain village some sixteen kilometers outside Tsuruoka, and was now fenced off behind a turnstile earning money for the proprietors of the Chido Museum. I wonder what the villagers had had to say, and whether they had put on their war paint.

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Filed under Japan, language, nationalism, travel, U.S.

Wordcatcher Tales: Kampouyaku

From The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth (Weatherhill, 1985), pp. 141-142:

The city of Toyama is nationally famous for the manufacture of patent medicines, usually sold door to door by elderly enthusiasts in small wooden chests (the medicines, not the enthusiasts), and these chests become part of the household furniture. The preparation of and sale of the medicines, called kampoyaku [漢方薬 kan-pou-yaku ‘China-method-medicine’] (Chinese concoctions), bear all the signs of a small-scale cottage industry, but the entrepreneurial genius of the people of Toyama has parlayed this unlikely source of fortune into a business with an annual wholesale value of more than 190 billion yen. The city’s oldest and best-known kampoyaku manufacturer is Kokando, and I arranged to pay them a visit.

The Kokando factory—opened in 1876 and rebuilt shortly after the war—stands in the southern sector of Toyama near the old tram stop named after it. The who showed me round spoke slowly and precisely and with the solemnity of a preacher who has the undivided attention of a disarmed infidel.

“Before the war our ninety-nine medicines—the widest range of kampoyaku in Japan—were manufactured and packed entirely by hand. Nowadays, of course, we use machines, but the traditions and process remain the same, and the recipes continue to derive from thjose which were imparted to Lord Maeda in the seventeenth century.

“The botanical ingredients include Korean ginseng (a very expensive kind of carrot) and the roots of the Indian ginkgo tree. But more highly prized are the items we obtain from the internal organs of animals. There is, for example, the dried glandular fluid of the male musk deer, drawn off during the rutting season and employed in the manufacture of a powerful stimulant. Originally, in order to obtain this fluid, it was unfortunately necessary to slaughter the deer, but nowadays, thanks to the development of new methods, it can be obtained humanely through plastic tubes. Then there is the bile of the Japanese bear, a pain killer and an agent in the reduction of fevers. The secretion from the poison gland of the Chinese toad is mainly used in the treatment of heart diseases, though it, too, kills pain with remarkable efficacy. And gallstones produced in the bladders of cows are a restorative and an antidote to several toxic substances.”

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Filed under China, disease, drugs, food, industry, Japan, language, travel

Doshisha University’s Debt to Hakodate

From Hokkaido, A History of Ethnic Transition and Development on Japan’s Northern Island, by Ann B. Irish (McFarland, 2009), pp. 93-94:

Hakodate played a small part in the life and adventures of Niijima Jo (westerners have anglicized his name in several ways and have referred to him as Joseph Hardy Neesima). He became a prominent Christian in nineteenth century Japan and is honored today as the founder of a distinguished private university in Kyoto, Doshisha. Niijima grew up in Edo. When he was a youth, a friend who knew of his interest in boats and seamanship told him of a vessel soon to sail to Hakodate. Niijima, who had a secret desire to visit a foreign land, thought he might be able to do so form Hakodate. He knew an influential man who obtained permission for the young man to take a trip north. After arrival in Hakodate in 1864, Niijima’s goal was to meet foreigners who could help him travel abroad. He soon met Father Nikolai, who engaged him as a Japanese language tutor. Meanwhile, an English trader agreed to teach the young Japanese man English.

Niijima desperately wanted to travel outside Japan, despite the government prohibition of this. After several months in Hakodate, his dream took shape. He made arrangements to slip out of the city and secretly board an American ship. Arriving in the United States via China, he studied for some ten years and adopted Christianity. After being baptized, he chose his western name to honor Alpheus Hardy, owner of the ship that had taken him to America. Niijima graduated from Amherst College, the first Japanese student ever to obtain a college degree in the United States. Returning to Japan, he founded the school in 1875 which grew into Doshisha University.

As Niijima’s story shows, because foreigners from several important nations lived in Hakodate, Japanese found the city a good place to study foreign languages and foreign ways, and a number of men who later served as interpreters learned languages there.

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Filed under education, Japan, language, religion, travel, U.S.

Basque Pioneers in the Philippines

From Basques in the Philippines, by Marciano R. de Borja (U. Nevada Press, 2012), pp. 40-41:

Discussions of the outstanding Basque missionaries in the Philippines commonly start with reference to the apostolic work of Saint Francis Xavier, a Navarrese and a famous Jesuit missionary, on the island of Mindanao. Standard Philippine history books, however, do not contain any reference to Saint Francis Xavier’s exploits, since the veracity of his travel and missionary work in Mindanao has yet to be confirmed.

What is certain is that the first Spanish cleric, Fray Pedro de Valderrama, arrived in the islands during the Magellan expedition in March 1521. (There were supposed to be two clerics, but the other, a Frenchman, was left on the coast of Brazil.) His achievement was obviously limited. Although he celebrated the first Catholic mass and officiated the first baptisms, the seeds of Christianity never took root. The impact of the new religion on the natives probably dissipated right after the departure of the remnants of the Magellan expedition. The same thing happened with following Spanish expeditions.

It was only after the successful expedition of Legazpi and Urdaneta [both Basques] in 1565 that the Catholic Church was permanently established in the archipelago, starting in Cebu. As previously described, Urdaneta brought with him to the Philippines a contingent of fellow Augustinian missionaries, all of whom were Basques. Andrés de Aguirre, Pedro de Gamboa, Diego de Herrera, and Martín de Rada. Actually, Lorenzo Jiménez, a non-Basque, was also enlisted by Urdaneta, but he died in the port of Navidad before the expedition disembarked. Thus the Basques became the real pioneers in preaching the gospel and teaching catechism in the archipelago.

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Antarctic Cuisine: Aerovodka and Gristle

From Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine, by Jason C. Anthony (U. Nebraska Press, 2012), pp. 146-148:

One of the exchange scientists who spent a year on a Soviet base [in Antarctica] was glaciologist Charles Swithinbank. At Novolazarevskaya with the 1963–65 Ninth Soviet Antarctic Expedition, he lived a very different life than he used to in England. As Swithinbank relates in Vodka on Ice, he learned while sailing south on a Soviet ship that his diet would be impoverished in both quality and variety. “Apart from feast days,” he wrote bluntly, “the food was not good.” Cabbage soup (borscht or shchi, depending on the type of cabbage), ragout, and compote (“an insipid rust-colored liquid with a faint taste of boiled apples”) became distressingly familiar. The quality of the beef was quite poor, all gristle and bone. Soviet cattle, he learned, fed on sparse grass.

Although the meat was poor, the butter was excellent. So was the black bread. And those feast days really were exceptional. Swithinbank sobered up after a New Year’s celebration full of black and red caviar, pickled herring, pickled mushrooms, sausage, crabmeat, and more. A May Day feast included roast chicken, crab salad, ham, salmon, smoked salmon and sturgeon caviar, apples, oranges, champagne, brandy, and orange juice stoked with airplane de-icing fluid.

Toasts drunk with de-icing fluid, called “aerovodka” by the Russians, were not restricted to holidays. At Molodezhnaya base, where Swithinbank visited en route to Novolazarevskaya, he noted that there was a more frequent aviator’s tradition: “On landing back at base after a long flight, it was the duty of the navigator to drain a litre of fluid from the aircraft’s de-icing system. Unlike some de-icing fluids, this was pure alcohol (ethanol). Once indoors, it was served to the aircrew and passengers.” One observer of a similar U.S. Antartic Program habit—drinking a rocket fuel known as JATO (jet-fuel assisted take-off)—equated the practice to that of a “warrior culture drinking blood.”

At Novolazarevskaya, the dining room was the community social center. One long table fit them all. Here he spent his year of good company, good science, and terrible food. The cook, Ivan Miximovish Sharikov, had spent over thirteen years in the polar regions as a weather observer. “The oldest, tallest, baldest, and humblest man” on staff, Ivan took on the cook’s role at Novolazerevskaya when no weather job was available. For him, as for all Soviet Antarctic staff, the pay was irresistible, since he earned five times what he might make in Russia. Ivan was not much of a cook, though to be fair he had little to work with—much of the better meat left by the previous year’s crew had gone to rot. Ivan was stuck making borcht, shchi, fish soup with bones, boiled potatoes, and lots of ragout, to Swithinbank’s dismay. Ivan’s ragout, he wrote, consisted “of stewed gristle with chips of bone, generally served with macaroni. Aside from the gristle, far, and bone, the amount of lean meat remaining could be held on a teaspoon.”

Ivan at least made a reliable porridge to swallow with the bread and butter each morning. Occasional treats included caviar, sauerkraut, and cheese. Cucumbers and tomatoes grew in window boxes, and ice cream was made from milk powder and freshly drifted snow. Each Russian expedition member also received a monthly five-hundred-gram chocolate ration but married men saved it for their wives, whom they had left behind for a very long time.

After an end-of-year inventory revealed more than one hundred missing bottles of vodka, champagne, and eau de cologne from Novolazarevskaya’s liquor stock, Ivan the cook confessed. He had a habit of taking walks alone after dinner, but Swithinbank “had assumed that it was to get a breath of fresh air as an antidote to the heat of the kitchen.” The eau de cologne was, for some Russians, an “esteemed substitute” when they ran out of vodka.

When Swithinbank returned to England, he had trouble adjusting back to his old diet. Meat, fish, and cheese made him ill. He eventually found a doctor with a good memory of World War II who diagnosed him with prisoner-of-war syndrome. After a year of high-carb meals garnished with stringy meat, Swithinbank’s body could no longer absorb high-protein English food. “The solution,” he wrote, “was simply to wean me slowly from the Russian diet.”

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Filed under England, food, Russia, science, travel, U.K., USSR

Wordcatcher Tales: Japanese nautical terms

I’ve always been fascinated by the great variety and complexity of nautical terminology, especially on sailing ships. I’ve encountered it mostly in my reading. I don’t really have much sailing experience, except as a passenger aboard ferries and ocean liners, plus the occasional opportunity to go aboard a museum ship. The four-masted, sail training ship Nippon Maru, which I explored last month in Yokohama, was a special treat because it offered a glimpse of sailing-ship terminology in two languages, Japanese and English.

rigging-types-signage

Running rigging and standing rigging


Here’s the text of the English translation on an explanatory sign about the rigging on the Nippon Maru. Though phrased rather awkwardly, it is very clear and instructive.

Running Rigging and Standing Rigging
Ropes which are used for moving yards, raising or lowering sails are called running riggings. The ship carries around 1,100 running riggings and the total length of these riggings accounts for 14,938m. The number of blocks fixed with running riggings accounts for 854 in total. Running riggings have different kinds: Halyards, Sheets and Tacks to raise the sails and Downhauls, Clewlines, (Clewgarnet), Buntlines, (Leechlines) and Tripping lines to furl the sails. When spreading, it is necessary to loosen the rigging which is hauled for furling. When moving a yard, Braces will be used and to loosen the starboard side of the yard, the port side will be hauled. Wires to secure the mast and the bowsprit are called standing riggings. The ship carries 168 standing riggings and the total length of these riggings accounts for about 3,678m. These riggings include the pieces of shrouds which are horizontally tied to ratlines to go aloft. Most of the standing riggings are placed at the back of the mast in order to handle loads induced by the wind pressure coming in from the back.

The Japanese terms for ‘running rigging’ and ‘standing rigging’ are 動索 dousaku ‘moving-rope’ and 静索 seisaku ‘still-rope’, respectively. (The matching Korean terms, dongsaek and jeongsaek, are cognate, and the suo ‘cable, rigging’ in Chinese shengsuo ‘rope-rigging’ is also cognate with J. saku and K. saek.) ‘Starboard’ is 右舷側 u-gen-gawa ‘right-gunwale-side’ and ‘port’ is 左舷側 sa-gen-gawa ‘left-gunwale-side’. (The kanji 舷 gen ‘gunwale’ also occurs in 舷灯 gen-tou ‘gunwale-lamp = running lights’ [on each side of the ship], 舷門 gen-mon ‘gunwale-gate = gangway’, and 舷窓 gen-sou ‘gunwale-window = porthole’.) The bow or fore part of the ship is 船首 sen-shu ‘ship-neck’ and the stern or aft part of the ship is 船尾 sen-bi ‘ship-tail’.

These terms were no doubt in use long before Japanese sailors became familiar with European-style sailing ships (before Date Masamune had his first Spanish galleon built in 1613). The same goes for terms like 帆柱 ho-bashira ‘sail-pillar = mast’ and 帆桁 ho-geta ‘sail-beam = yard(arm)’. Nevertheless, the Japanese text begins with the katakana synonym for ‘yard’ (yaado) followed by its kanji equivalent (帆桁) in parentheses, and employs exclusively katakana terms (borrowed from English) for ‘sail’ (seiru), ‘rope’ (roopu), and ‘mast’ (masuto). Why? Because the names for all the subcategories of nautical masts, sails, and rigging have been imported wholesale from English. At eye-level on each of the four masts is its name in katakana: foamasuto ‘foremast’, meinmasuto ‘mainmast’, mizunmasuto ‘mizzenmast’, and jigaamasuto ‘jiggermast’ (and ‘bowsprit’ is bausupritto). There are ways to write ‘front mast’ and ‘back mast’ in kanji, but it is much harder to differentiate four masts using traditional (Sino-Japanese) terminology.

Similarly, the name for every length of rigging on this modern square-rigged four-master is directly imported from English: ‘halyard’ is hariyaado, ‘sheet’ is shiito, ‘tack’ is takku, ‘downhaul’ is danhooru, ‘clewline’ is kuryuu rain, ‘clewgarnet’ is kuryuu gaanetto, ‘buntline’ is banto rain, ‘leechline’ is riichi rain, ‘tripping line’ is torippingu rain, ‘brace’ is bureesu, ‘ratline’ is rattorain, and ‘shroud’ is shuraudo.

The same goes for the names of every spar among the yards, as the following Yards chart shows. ‘Lower topsail yard’ is rowaa toppuseeru yaado, ‘upper (top)gallant yard’ is appaa geran yaado, ‘royal yard’ is roiyaru yaado, ‘spanker gaff’ is supankaa gafu, ‘spanker boom’ is supankaa buumu, and so on. The Korean translation (yadeu) of the chart title suggests that Koreans have also directly imported this specialized English terminology. (In the Chinese title, ‘yard’ is mistranslated as dui-huo-chang ‘stack-goods-place = freight yard’.)

yards-sign

Names of sailing yards

The last chart included here only confirms the extent to which English modern square-rigged sailing ship terminology has been imported wholesale into Japanese naval usage. Its title in Japanese is Jigaa masuto mawari bireingu pin haichizu ‘jigger mast around belaying pin arrangement-diagram’. The nautical terms of English origin, ‘jiggermast’ and ‘belaying pin’, are written in katakana, the native Japanese word for ‘around’ is written in hiragana, and the Sino-Japanese compound translated ‘arrangement-diagram’ is written in kanji. Although the Korean title is written entirely in the Korean alphabet, the breakdown of word origins is the same (and so is the word order): jigeo maseuteu ‘jiggermast’, jubyeon ‘around’, bireing pin ‘belaying pin’, baechido ‘arrangement diagram’.

In the Chinese translation, ‘jiggermast’ is rendered as 船尾小桅 chuanwei xiaowei ‘ship-tail small-mast’ to distinguish it from 后桅 houwei ‘rear-mast’ (= ‘mizzenmast’, cf. 前桅 ‘fore-mast’, 主桅 zhuwei ‘main-mast’). ‘Belaying pin’ is translated rather directly as 系索桩 jisuozhuang ‘fasten-rope-stake’. These Chinese nautical terms do not render the English sounds, as the Japanese and Korean equivalents do.

By the way, there is a mistake in the English translation of the directions at the top and bottom of the chart. Both directions are labeled ‘sternward’ in English, but in Japanese only the top arrow points sternward (sen-bi-gawa ‘ship-tail-ward’), while the bottom arrow points foreward (船首側 sen-shu-gawa ‘ship-neck-ward’).

belaying-pin-chart

Jiggermast belaying pin chart

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