JOK Notebook

Letting It All Hang Out

Because kanji appeals to people around the world, there's a good chance you're not from the United States. If that's the case, you may not know how crazy things have become here politically. In some circles, politicians are trying to score points by coming out against birth control and by calling for strict limits on reproductive rights. Some of us look on in amazement and horror at how the political discourse has taken a drastic turn toward lunacy. One new bumper sticker sums it up neatly: OMG GOP WTF.

This really isn't the place for politics, so I won't go into details, but I will say this: I find it interesting that everyone is suddenly talking about female anatomy in graphic terms. In particular, I can't count how many recent public references I've heard to the vagina (especially in the phrase "transvaginal probe"). Before, people tended to couch such discussions in euphemisms, but now we've let it all hang out, so to speak.

As people try to drag this country into the Dark Ages, I can't help but fantasize about moving somewhere else, anywhere else. What a relief it would be to live in a sane place where such things wouldn't happen and where people were, on average, mature, compassionate, reasonable, proactive, and comfortable with certain realities.

What about Japan? Are people there as crazy about reproduction? Well, again, Joy o' Kanji isn't the place for politics, so I'll steer clear of such an investigation. But let's look at things from a kanji perspective, which always makes me feel better!

I've discovered the following word, a wonderful combination of two kun-yomi:

尻叩き (しりたたき)      bottom + to hit

The second kanji is non-Joyo, but the yomi (たたき) is nevertheless very familiar to those of us who like beef tataki (literally, "beaten beef").

The word  尻叩き now means "spanking" but once had an additional meaning: "ritual spanking of a new bride to encourage fertility." Wow. I wonder how effective that was. It seems that if pregnancy was the goal, the attention went to the wrong part of the body.

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Just in case the spanking doesn't have the intended result, one can always attend a fertility festival. These are light-hearted events. For example, at penis-worshipping festivals, women derive great fun from riding on huge wooden penises.

This sign advertises a fertility festival in Shukunegi, a village on Sado Island, northwest of Honshu. I took the photo simply for the kanji, only realizing when I got home that I'd overlooked an image of a sizable penis!

The first word is 宿根木 (しゅくねぎ), the name of the village. To my surprise, the top definition of 宿 on Denshi Jisho is "to be pregnant"! Usually it means "to lodge" or "to dwell (reside) in," which is an interesting take on pregnancy. In order to mean "to conceive" or "to be pregnant with," 宿 must appear in 宿す (やどす), as in 子を宿す (こをやどす: to be pregnant with a child).

Then comes くらし (暮らし: living), so this sign is about life in Shukunegi.

The next words are as follows:

年中 (ねんじゅう: all year round)
行事 (ぎょうじ: event)
たべもの (食べ物: food)

That is to say, 年中行事とたべもの means "events and dishes throughout the year," referring to the chart on the left, which provides a schedule.

As for the only other large word, ちとちんとん, it refers to a phallic piece of wood, as shown in one blog post about the Shukunegi festival. The kanji for this word, 金精棒, breaks down as testicles + sperm + stick. (I didn't know that 金, "gold," could mean "testicles," but my proofreader says it does here. I suppose that, to a man, a testicle is worth its weight in gold! Plus, as he informs me, the Japanese slang for "testicles" is 金玉 (きんたま), which means "golden balls"!) The word 金精棒 is clearly ateji, as the sounds of ちとちんとん don't match the official yomi of those kanji.

Let's imagine that a woman attended this festival, conceived, gave birth, and began nursing. That brings us to the next word. What would you think a "nursing mother's vehicle" would be? The phrase makes me envision a minivan. Do you think it's perhaps a "natural" mode of transportation, such as the one in this picture?

Photo Credit: Kevin Hamilton

Nope! It's a baby carriage:

乳母車 (うばぐるま: baby carriage)    nursing mother (1st 2 kanji) + carriage

The first two kanji break down as milk, breast + mother

And what of the sign? Here's what the kanji on top say:

有償 (ゆうしょう: compensation)
運送 (うんそう: transport)
車両 (しゃりょう: vehicle)

Altogether, this means "paid transport car." Those who are elderly and infirm (or young and infirm) and who live at a certain institution (ハウネス福祉センター, where 福祉 is ふくし, "welfare") can go around town in this vehicle for a small fee.

The kangaroo is the center's logo, probably meaning, "We'll carry you as gently as if you were a kangaroo baby in our pouch."

Hmm, have you ever seen a kangaroo running with a kid in her pouch? I heard that kangaroos can run 40 kilometers per hour, and they apparently don't slow down, no matter whom they're carrying. What a bumpy ride for the young kangaroo, bouncing along at that velocity!

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Roo and Kanga (who is holding an ice-cream cone)!

As long as we're talking about reproductive appendages or accessories, I'd like to introduce one more word:

股火 (またび: warming one's crotch by standing over a hibachi)       crotch + fire

This term may reflect a particular stance in Japan, both literally and figuratively! This word anticipates and embraces pleasure in an unprecedented way. At least, I imagine that this activity would be pleasurable! After all, some like it hot!

Today I've posted essay 1843 on 矛 (long-handled Chinese spear), marking the first of two consecutive weeks of essays on ancient weapons. Next I'll post an essay on 剣, a type of sword. Spears and swords?! How delightfully phallic!

Here's a preview of today's essay:

Have a great weekend!


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