| Nov 17, 2014

Double up on your kanji to avoid homonym mixups

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Although the Japanese and Chinese languages differ considerably in their syntax and pronunciation, one characteristic they share, along with use of kanji, is lots of homonyms. Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary, for example, lists 70 characters with the pronunciation shih (or shi, when transcribed in hanyu ...

Subtle humor of haiku's cousin senryū is on a roll

| Oct 20, 2014

Subtle humor of haiku's cousin senryū is on a roll

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“Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,” philosophizes the long-winded Polonius in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” That’s also a fitting description of senryū — a form of short poetry defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a three-line unrhymed Japanese poem structurally similar to haiku, but ...

| Sep 22, 2014

A peculiar perspective on the capricious word hen

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One major event in Japan’s 16th-century civil war — which is the focus of “Gunshi Kanbei (Strategist Kanbei),” NHK’s current Sunday-night drama series — involves the duplicitous warlord Akechi Mitsuhide. Probably moved by personal jealousy, Mitsuhide betrayed his lord and ally, Oda Nobunaga, by ...

Somewhere, a grandfather is rolling in his grave

| Aug 11, 2014

Somewhere, a grandfather is rolling in his grave

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Summertime in Japan is tinged with sadness, not just because we have to drag ourselves through this kirokutekina mōsho (記録的な猛暑, record-breaking heat), but because we must deal with the annual arrival of the “shūsenkinenbi (終戦記念日, the anniversary of the end of the Pacific War),” ...