[generic] The beautiful Japanese language

negromaestro

Demi-God
Disclaimer: Because I cannot read Kanji or Katakana, all non-English words used here are transliterations using Latin letters

刺し子

So every so often I come upon yet another beautiful Japanese word or phrase that encompasses so much more than any equivalent in the English language.

Today I was blessed with "sashiko" and fell into the rabbit hole of learning even more Japanese words and cultural worldview.

Sashiko exemplifies the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi, which has no direct English translation but expresses a sense of beauty in the incomplete and imperfect.
In sashiko, the goal is not to hide the repair but to celebrate it, hence a patch is attached to the inside of the fabric using neat rows of tiny stitches, leaving the tear still visible.

https://psyche.co/ideas/could-the-art-of-sashiko-help-to-mend-our-frayed-world

These words and phrases, to me, make Japanese a beautiful language, in that, short words and phrases can express big concepts without having to say or write a whole lot.

Previously, on The Tavern, we discussed another beautiful Japanese word "tsundoku" which expresses the very real problem of purchasing too many books and not reading most of them, a problem many an RPG collector has with dead trees. Hence, to avoid becoming "tsundoku sensei" I adopted Mari Kondo's tidy philosophy to only purchase those books I believe to bring me joy.

Then another related Japanese word is "otaku" that describes people with all consuming interests, particularly in anime, manga, video games, or computers. And in a very real sense many an RPG otaku turns into an RPG tsundoku sensei, especially, with new editions of RPGs being published every so often, that even before one finishes reading all the published books of a previous edition, those all become outdated as the next new hotness comes knocking (looking at you 6e).

Now, I wonder if it is cultural appropriation to adopt Japanese words in communications within non-Japanese RPG spaces? Or is it more an expression of love in our globalized community?
 
I know only two phrases - aside from the usual cultural osmosis - from Japanese, one of which I learned from Tenchu.
"Haraheta!" - I'm starving! My belly is empty, that sort of thing
"Watashi-wa begetarian desu" - I'm vegetarian.

All I need to get by in Osaka;)
 
I know only two phrases - aside from the usual cultural osmosis - from JI apanese, one of which I learned from Tenchu.
"Haraheta!" - I'm starving! My belly is empty, that sort of thing
"Watashi-wa begetarian desu" - I'm vegetarian.

All I need to get by in Osaka;)
That is interesting in that "vegetarian" does not seem to exist in traditional Japanese if they use the phrase "begetarian desu"
 
One, I don't believe in cultural appropriation as a thing. Not that it hasn't happened, but it's much more about the natural tendency for people to share and blend culture, like a smorgasbord.

Two, the Japanese adore importing foreign words and culture, partly because they are both secure and insecure about whether there's i the best.

Lastly the soft power of others using your words and knowing your culture should never be underestimated, it's always been the same.. or as we say plus ça change plus c'est la même chose.
 
Now, I wonder if it is cultural appropriation to adopt Japanese words in communications within non-Japanese RPG spaces? Or is it more an expression of love in our globalized community?
I've always thought that the badness of appropriation was in taking cool stuff from a less powerful people or culture - punching down, so to speak.
When we borrow from peers, that's surely flattery through imitation...?

But now I'm tying myself up in trying to think of any kind of neutral definition for "peers" and "less powerful" ...
 
I don't subscribe to the notion that borrowing from other cultures can ever be negative. It can make the borrower look ridiculous if done in an ignorant fashion, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Speaking of borrowing, shakkei (借景) was probably my most-used Japanese word when I was working.
 
It's also worth noting that a very large part of Japanese culture is 'borrowed', if one can use such a foolish term: from character sets to Buddhism.. just like us, they stand on the shoulders of giants.
 
It's also worth noting that a very large part of Japanese culture is 'borrowed', if one can use such a foolish term: from character sets to Buddhism.. just like us, they stand on the shoulders of giants.
I have often and fervently wished that they had stuck with hiragana, even katakana at a pinch, but no, they had to go and adopt kanji... it would be such an accessible language without that*. I have never managed to get past about 150 kanji, and my wife tells me my writing looks cute. Like a little kid's. :(

* Well, to be honest, what I really wished - there was a little window in the '80s computer era where it would have been nice if they'd just gone with romanji. But then they had to go and come up with ideogram inputs...
 
On the matter of borrowing cultural elements, I’m inclined to agree, and there has always been mixing so we should never think of cultures as being pure, anyway. But borrowing is one thing. Appropriation is something else. Appropriation means taking something from someone so that they no longer have it. For example, passing laws that forbid the use of a native language, or preventing the transmission of a culture from parent to child, while adopting words and concepts from that culture into your own in a way that misses their full meaning. That’s appropriation. And yes, it’s a thing. It’s not always easy to define, but I don't see how anyone could argue it doesn’t exist.
 
Was the late Karl Lagerfield a "Tsundoku sensei" or do we all think he actually read all those 300,000 plus books in his collection?

I am safe, because you need to cross the 1,000 book threshold to quality and I am far below that.

https://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-book-hoarding-tsundoku-20140724-story.html

1681474648744.png

George Lucas had a modest, 27,000 plus books in comparison. I suddenly feel better now, with just under 400 role playing books and supplements.
Despite my modest volume, I only have about 25 unique game systems (counting all D&D versions as one), and maybe 40 unqiue I.P. franchises.

Star Wars alone is the biggest (hey there, Mr. Lucas) with 39 FFG books, not including the Betas and not counting WEG series, then D&D 5e with 3PP included (10 from AiME alone), then D&D 3.5e and finally 4e. Then AD&D 2e Ravenloft, boy, do I have many adventure booklets for that classic.
And, if I combine all my FFG Warhammer 40K as one, those top up at 59 plus 3 special editions one each of DH, RT, DW that Star Wars lacks.
Finally, Warhammer 4e Fantasy is already treading 12 plus (if I get Lustria and Sea of Claws, could even top 14). Mongoose Traveller 2e at 10 now.

I may have omitted traditional novels, since I do not track those on a Premier League, Champions League lists like I do with RPGs, plus I own less quantity overall in novels.

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Today, loitering around on Labour Day, I stumbled upon another beautiful Japanese word:

Oiran Dochu is a procession-reenactment of processions done by the oiran with a purpose to advertise the houses they worked in. Oiran is also considered a step above the popular geisha, who also specialided in art, music, poetry and embelished entertainment, with the fabled tea ceremonies a must.

img_2_1682949890571.jpg
 
A phrase I should really learn the proper Japanese for is one that inspired me right from my early ventures into garden design, throughout a spiritually (if not financially) rewarding time practising and lecturing in landscape architecture, to how I look at just about everything nowadays. In English it goes something like this:

The garden is complete only when nothing more can be taken away.
 
And today I learned about the "otome" genre of games while browsing Kickstarter.

https://sites.duke.edu/unsuitable/otome-games

Otome games, literally “maiden games”, are a popular Japanese genre of plot-based video games marketed towards women (Kapell). The protagonist, usually female, explores a romantic relationship with male love interests over a main storyline.
 
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