Friday, May 30, 2008

Sneaking Mask

The sneaking masks worn by some characters in manga (Happosai often in Ranma, Tenchi's dad in Tenchi Muyo) are Tenugui - hand towels. That the face is still recognizable doesn't matter, they are more symbolic than actual disguises similar to Robin's mask in the teen titans/batman. The theory I heard about how these came about is: During the Heian period a common practice was for guys to sneak into unmarried women's rooms at night and be gone before dawn. The men would wear these sneak masks so that when the girl was asked if she knew the man she could honestly say he was wearing a mask. Supposedly, in the Heian period, if the guy came back three nights in a row she would became betrothed to him and leave her fathers house as a bride.

There is a second theory about how this practice came about as well. A legendary thief around the years 1823-1832 called Nezumi Kozo (Mouse Guy) wore one. He was a Robin Hood type. He would steal from big houses owned by very rich guys doing illegal things and then after making his getaway he would go onto the roof of a house and throw the money to the poor town people who were suffering from such heavy taxes they couldn't afford food to feed their babies. Well the guy did exist and was captured in 1832 many of the stories behind him are probably made up/over blown. He is currently buried in Sumida-ward. Because he was such a lucky guy (took years for the cops to catch him) people would take scrapings from his grave stone for luck. The stone was originally square and is now almost a circle. They put up a fake grave stone for people to take scrapings from.

Tenugui - a rectangular hand dyed cotton cloth about 33X90cm, most commonly used as a towel or head covering. Because Japan is a humid country the tenugui ends are unfinished to dry quicker and will fray after a few washes. If it frays do not pull the strings cut them. This was the most common household item in Japan until a few decades ago when the terry cloth towels (called Seiyo Tengui - western hand wipe) became popular. It has many other uses as well it was/is used as a wiping tool such as a towel or a handkerchief, it was also used as a bandage or a headwear in the old days. Kabuki actors used to print their names onto them and give them out at debut shows. Although everyday use of tenugui dropped significantly, Tenugui remains necessary part of matsuri (festival) costume.

This website shows how it is folded into a hat for Kendo:
This website sells them, explains some of their uses, and tells the history of them:

Speed Racer Ranma reference

Near the end of the new Speed Racer movie, there is a scene in a hotel room where Ninja's attack them. The ninja goes flying and things fall from his pockets, amongst the things that fall from his pockets is his keys which has a P-chan key ring (pictured above).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

More school differences

In an earlier post I wrote about some of the differences between a USA high school and a Japanese high school. That was not the only differences. I now feel like expanding upon the other post. This time I'm going to talk about school rules, bullying in schools, and corporal punishment.

Some Japanese high schools have over 300 school rules and some schools are very strict in enforcing them. Here are some examples of real school rules:

1. If a girl and a boy are talking, there should be at least one other person present, and everyone should stand at least three feet apart.
2. Upon seeing a teacher or visitor in the hallways greet them with a bow.
3. Underwear must be white.
4. Skirts have to be knee length
5. Hair can not be colored, can not be longer than a designated length
6. a few accessories are allowed but they must be solid colors.
7. Uniforms must be worn outside even during holidays.
8. Students will be home before 9 pm
9. Students will not have part time jobs
10. Students will arrive on time.
11. Do not go to video games arcades and karaoke boxes even if you're with your parents
12. Don't stay at another person's house, except your family
13. If you want to go to the movies, watch the movies that the school has permitted.

I'm not saying these types of punishments listed shortly are for every school (or are technically legal) but occasionally these things happen and some times when it gets particularly bad it will make the news. Some schools will have a guy teacher check girls underwear to see if they are white. They will take a ruler to measure the length of hair/skirt and in the case of hair being to long the teacher may cut it. Quite a few schools require that you have your hair cut by the school barber. Types of corporal punishment includes holding buckets in the hallway full of water (rarely used nowadays), hitting the students (example in Azumanga Doiah the teacher hits the students in the head for failing to do the homework), and making the students run laps. Hitting is so common that students coming home bruised is not uncommon and there have been cases where the teachers have gone too far and hospitalized students. If your late to school the school gates will be closed forcing you to miss classes.

These are not new problems. These things have been happening for quite a while and the Japanese education department is trying to change things. The reason that these problems exist though is how Japanese culture is. The Japanese are a homogeneous society not a individualistic society like the US. The students parents and the students put up with these things because they view the person being punished at fault not the person who is doing the punishment. They figure what is the problem they wouldn't be punished if they just followed the rules. People tend to consider that being similar to each other is a virtue. If your different or not conforming your a deviant.

In addition to corporal punishment bullying in schools is a very serious problem in Japan and has been making the news quite frequently. Though bullying is a problem every where. The person that in the US would be considered the victim in Japan is not seen as a victim they are seen as a deviant. Anyone who is different will get bullied for not conforming. Bullying is not punished as much as it should. For example, if a group of students beat up and rob a student it's not a criminal offense. While schools are strict on rules, the police are lenient on children. People committing suicide from being bullied is depressingly common in Japan. It is easy to find stories of children committing suicide because of bullies. Here is one from the BBC:
A more current one dated two days ago can be found in the Washington Post
Some Japanese terms
kosoku - school rules
Ijime - school bullying
tohatsu rules - rules covering hair
fukuso rules - rules covering clothing
toko-jikan rules -rules covering punctuality
Mochimono rules - rules covering personal belongings
katei seikatsu rules - rules covering home life
yasumi-chu no sugoshikata - rules covering behavior while on vacation
kogai de no sugoshikata - rules covering off campus behavior
arubaito -rules covering part time work

These things are seen in the Ranma manga (though usually exagerated), though some were lost in translation. Ranma is considered a deviant enough to bring in Miss Hinako because he doesn't conform. What is worse than him not conforming, from a Japanese point of view, is that he causes the people around him to also not conform. The principal tries to enforce rules covering hair in a way that would really happen in real life - teacher cutting the hair. He tries to make Ranma bow since Ranma should bow. They try and make Ranma wear a uniform since school rules say he has to. The principal tries to make Ranma fail to get to school on time. Ranma saves Gosunkugi from being robbed. etc. The principal and Miss Hinako could expel Ranma but that is not what they want. They want Ranma to conform like everyone else and stop causing other people to buck the system like Ranma does. Expelling Ranma would be a defeat and show that they really can't control the students. Ranma is actually making school life easier for students giving the teachers a target , letting them get away with more than they normally would because he is, won't let the teachers abuse their power and actively puts a stop to bullying several times in the manga.

For further reading on bullying in schools more detailed then mine and very good:

PIS, CIS, and the Idiot Ball

Idiot ball: A moment where a character's stupidity fuels an episode, or a small plot line.

There are several types of idiot balls. I'm going to talk about a few of them and show how they relate to the Ranma manga. First PIS (Plot Induced Stupidity), PIS is when for reasons of a plot a character acts stupid. Quite often a character will fail to properly use their abilities, intelligence, or powers when generally in a similar situation they would. A movie example would be a character who through out the movie had perfectly one shot killed every villain encounters a major villain and instead of shooting this villain in the head like he did every other one he misses or instead shoots the villain in non lethal places. PIS is seen more often in long running series and in comedies.

In the Ranma manga, Ranma suffers a major case of PIS during the Gambling King arc. In that arc Ranma is unable to play cards, fails miserably. He has no ability to bluff, he doesn't notice an obvious worn out card, he falls for and picks a card just because it pushed up some, he can't control his own facial expressions, and he can't read the facial feature of the person who gets quite obviously sad when a bad card and incredibly happy with a good card. Ranma's abilities and intellect falls quite a bit for the comedic plot. This lack of abilities is contradicted by the rest of the manga, that doesn't mean Ranma doesn't occasionally do stupid things (he's overly competitive and impatient which does result in him doing things that in hindsight he'd view as being dumb).

Inability to bluff -Ranma has shown the ability to lie through out the manga. He convincingly lied about destroying instant boy water, lied every time he pretended to be someone he wasn't, lied to Shampoo about his gender, etc., I can go on for awhile.

Unobservant - Ranma not picking up that the guy was cheating and not noticing the card is contradicted by the rest of the manga. While occasionally Ranma will not notice his surroundings and jump on someone his incapability to recognize the card, that the guy was cheating, and not noticing the guy's facial expressions doesn't make sense. This is a person who after just viewing the Umisenken once was able to copy it, viewing the tea ceremony old lady in the proper scooting position was enough to copy it, saw through other peoples disguises (Principal Kuno's, Gosunkugi's, Happosai's), figured out Akane was attracted to Dr Tofu, etc.

Ranma is generally not slow on the uptake. In fact he is generally the very first person to figure things out. He figured out that Kuno was the principals son before anyone else did, figured out the source of Ashura/Rouge's power, figured out that the cursed spatula was really an iron, etc.

Ranma is very competitive and absolutely hates losing. This is shown through out the manga. Yet Ranma is shown to play cards several times both before that story arc and after. If Ranma had been consistently losing, he would have been doing everything in his power to improve or would have stopped playing. We see him play cards with his classmates in school during multiple arcs, for example at the beginning of the Romeo and Juliet arc and we have seen Ranma not losing against other people at cards. Here is an example: He beat both Ryoga and Akane while at Ryoga's house pretending to be Ryoga's sister.

Had Ranma lost or had trouble because he was unlucky that would have been very believable. Ranma's luck through out the manga was very bad. People would walk in on him in compromising positions, dogs would attack him for no reason, he'd encounter magical items, inexplicably slippery banana peels show up in strange places, etc. Had the Gambling King been good at cards, especially with his cheating (which allowed him to beat everyone including Nabiki), or had Ranma not been shown to be able to hide his facial expressions, lie, be observant, etc. I would not have had a problem with that part of the story arc (there are other parts of it that I seriously dislike).

Now onto CIS (character induced stupidity). CIS is similar to PIS, except the character is doing/acting/being stupid not for reasons of plot but natural limitations that characters impose upon themselves that reduce their ability to use their own skills and powers effectively. In other words the character is acting dumb because that's how the character is. The limitation can be because lack of intelligence, morals inhibiting the character from using some tactics, etc.

Akane's inability to swim and how she is very stupid about it is in my opinion CIS. Akane's inability to swim and her thoughts about it is not a one time thing. While it is part of the plot, it is more CIS than PIS. There is not one instance of this there are many. In one storyline she thought that you have to breathe in water to swim. She is unable to even use floating devices. She drowned in water that was ankle deep. Ranma's impatience is the main cause for his CIS moments.

In addition to PIS, CIS, and the idiot ball the later manga also had character decay with some characters becoming more two dimensional. Genma, for example, in the early/mid manga would not have gone to the lengths he did to get something worth only $20, an hour or two of work (Genma did have a job remember). Stealing and attacking Ranma and his wife was in character but going to all the effort he did for something worth so little was out of character at least for early manga Genma. Anime Genma is another thing entirely who doing so would have at least made sense since he was willing to sell Ranma for a small amount of food.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Desire for Brand Name

I was recently reading a story about the lengths that one girl went to get brand name goods - clothing, purse, shoes, etc. While the story was fictional it was based on real people. She at first did paid dating which escalated to selling her self for money and it nearly became worse before someone stopped her. Personally I don't understand the desire for name brand goods. Why pay $200 for a pair of Nike's when you can get a generic brand that is of higher quality for a much lower price? I was never interested in brand names. Quality matters - for instance I don't want polyester I want %100 cotton. Where it comes from matters - I don't want things made in sweat shops. How it looks matters - I don't want something that looks ugly. Comfort matters - If I'm going to wear the stuff for awhile I want it to be comfortable. Price matters - I rather or have to spend my money on other things. Brand name never mattered to me and I don't really know why it does to people or why some people are willing to go to massive lengths to get it. Quite often the name brand item is made by the same people, even same factory as the non-name brand items.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Neighborhoods in Japan tend to be organized in voluntary associations called Chonaikai. These organizations deal with issues concerning it's members. They are funded by small fees called Chonaikaihi. After moving into a neighborhood expect a visit from the local association (as seen in Yotsuba& volume 1 when Fuka brings over the papers to Yotsuba's house). The work is done by volunteers with some chores rotating amongst the members. For more complex events like festivals they have meetings and plan things out.

Some things these associations do:
-generally they circulate Kairanban. Kairanban is like a newsletter that has official announcements, local crime, community news, dates of festivals, etc.
-hold evacuation drills in preparation for earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and so on.
-act as a neighborhood watch
-hold festivals
-Cleaning up the town, cooperation with and instruction of separated collection of recyclable garbage, etc.
-Improvement of social welfare for community residents
-Promotion of and aid for children’s clubs and clubs for the elderly, participation in radio broadcast calisthenics, etc.

Chonaikai shows up a few times in the Ranma manga like in the above picture where a member is asking Soun and Genma to help catch a panty thief (Happosai).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Character dumb down

I generally prefer the source material to any remakes i.e. books better than movie. While that isn't always true, a few movies are better than the books, One thing I noticed is generally the version I like has less dumbing down of the characters. For example the Ranma manga is better than the Ranma anime. Just about every character is smarter in the manga except for Akane who is smarter in the anime. Gourry is much smarter in the original Slayers novels than he is in the anime, not the manga the manga seems to be based more on the anime than the novels. Even with the dumbing down though Slayers Anime is still my favorite anime. Excel (Excel Saga) is smarter in the manga than the anime (particularly later volumes), Osaka is quite a bit smarter in the manga than the anime (she's still forgetful and spacey though), etc.

Why do they dumb the characters down? The smarter more witty versions are much more interesting. Is it easier to write the characters dumber or do people find dumber characters to be more funny?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Japanese Emergency Number

In the United States to call for emergency service (Fire, Police, and Ambulance) you would dial 911. In Japan you dial 110 for police and 119 for fire and ambulance service. It is free to call for emergencies.
Here is what you would say if you need fire or ambulance service.
  1. For a fire : kaji desu. = There is a fire.
    For an ambulance : Kyukyusha desu. = We need an ambulance.
  2. Jusyo wa xxxx desu. = The address is xxxx.
  3. Watashi wa (name) desu. = My name is (name).
    Denwa bango wa xxxx desu. = My telephone number is xxxx.
  4. Chikaku ni (landmark)ga arimasu. = There is a (landmark)nearby.
  5. State what has happened:
    Keganin ga imasu. = Someone is injured.
    Kyubyo desu. = Someone is seriously ill.
    Hito ga taorete imasu. = Someone has fainted.
Picture is from the English fanscan of the Ranma ½ manga where they changed 119 to 911. In addition to that instance the use of these numbers occur at other times in the manga. The memory suppressing shampoo used by Shampoo is 110 (changed to 411, the number for information in the USA, in the translation) and the counter formula is called 119 (changed to 911 in translation).

Evan Almighty

I had put off watching this movie for a long time because Bruce Almighty was a pretty bad movie. So I did not expect much from this movie. Bruce Almighty really did suck. First off why did that guy get chosen to be taught a lesson in that way, there are a lot of people who have much better reasons to hate the way the world works. What the main character did with the power which had no restrictions other than can't mess with free will was stupid. Given damn near unlimited power and he he uses it to give his girlfriend bigger breasts and make the dog pee in the toilet. There are so many things that he could have/should have done with that kind of power. I could continue listing things I hated about that movie but I digress, I intended to write Evan Almighty not Bruce Almighty.

Retelling of the Noah story in the bible. Evan Baxter the newsman from Bruce Almighty that was the rival of that movies main character is elected to Congress. He has a new house and starting a new life when God shows up and tells him to build an arc. Animals start showing up in pairs. People think he is crazy.

Evan Almighty was, in my opinion, a pretty good movie. Part of this is because I did not expect much from it and was actually expecting it to be really bad since Bruce Almighty was bad. I'd probably rate it worse if I was looking at it as a stand alone instead of comparing it to Bruce Almighty. Truthfully the movie was fairly predictable, had some factual errors (like congress parking and the guy being a newscaster while running for office since he would have to quite before running), and wasn't all that funny. I still liked it though. I particularly liked the animals helping build the arc. It was done in such away that I could believe animals could/would help in the manner they did.

Liked that the movie had a green message and actually tried to be green. Some movies or people will say one thing but do another. I like they did what they preached. It is very good that they used bikes instead of cars (also good that they gave bikes to the workers), that they planted 2000 trees to counter their effects on the environment, and possibly best of all that they donated the wood used in the movie (they had actually built an arc) to habitat for humanity to build houses. I hope that more movies will reuse or salvage the material used instead of tossing it in a land fill somewhere.

On the dvd there were some extra's. Including green tips and a game. The green tips are pretty good, though I do wonder how many coffee shops will allow you to bring your own reusable cups? It makes sense to me since less cups would be manufactured, less environmental impact, and cheaper for the coffee shop since they wouldn't have to pay for the cups. That said though some places just won't allow it. Corporate policy or managers decision being that only cups provided are allowed to be used.

The animal round up game was alright and I was happy to have gotten every single question correct (Yay, I know my animal trivia - of course had it been something like sports trivia I wouldn't have gotten them right). I did notice one problem with the trivia questions. The point was to match up the pairs of animals to go on the arc and it had you match up a male lion with a male lion instead of a female lion.

I don't generally think about the amount of work taken to make a movie, or the time it takes, or how much money is spent on the movie but in this case, I kept thinking about it. Getting all those animals and their trainers, building the arc, the amount of cgi needed, etc. Had to have been expensive and time consuming.

Random acts of kindness which is a message in the movie is a good message. Though some random acts of kindness, depending on where you live maybe illegal. For example, adding a coin to a parking meter that is about to expire when the vehicle is not your is illegal in some areas. Cleaning up a park maybe illegal since those parks are supposed to be cleaned by city workers (recently happened in Cleveland where volunteer groups cleaned several parks and the city workers are suing since that is their job). Also some random acts of kindness may not be seen as an act of kindness. For example, some people, most commonly women feminists, will actually get mad at you for holding the door open for them, even though you would hold the door open for anyone in that circumstance.

Ranma on Sluggy Freelance

In the comic Sluggy FreeLance, The character Zoe in her first appearance can be seen wearing a Ranma ½ Tee-Shirt. Ranma is mentioned at other times as well, there is a panda holding a sign with words, the alien eat the one characters Ranma ½ comics, etc. It's an alright comic and has a lot of references to things I like; Star Trek, Ranma, X-files, Twilight Zone, Vampires, Zombies, etc., but most of all a killer rabbit.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Honor, Morals, Ethics, and Guilt as they relate to Ranma

I am of the opinion that having Honor, Morals, Ethics, and feelings of guilt are virtues. If you don't have them your basically a sociopath. While they are virtues, they are also weaknesses since they can be used against you. These concepts are of extreme importance to the Ranma 1/2 storyline; if the characters had different ones from the one's they have the story would be completely different.

Ranma has an honor code, is a moral person, has somewhat questionable ethics, and frequently feels guilty when he has wronged someone. These traits have been shamelessly used against Ranma many times in the manga.

Ranma's honor code is mostly unknown. We do know that part of it is to protect people and fight monsters as both Genma and Ranma have stated this several times in the manga. Several of his largest problems are problems of honor. There are the various engagements which are a problem of honor (not a problem legally since in Japan forced marriage is illegal by the constitution). His mother held and still does at the end of the manga a pledge stating that Ranma has to be manly or commit Seppuku (even after knowing and accepting that he turns into a female she still seems to hold the pledge since after Ranma moved out of the Tendo's and was feeling depressed she went for her sword while commenting that he wasn't being manly) which wouldn't mean anything if Ranma didn't have an honor code since he could run away or go to the authorities (it's technically illegal and even if it was legal Ranma is not an adult and it would violate Article 19 convention of the rights of child). People have also tried to use his honor against him several times in several ways one way being duels of honor with something (often Akane) at stake. If he didn't have honor they'd be meaningless since he just wouldn't abide by them. Genma and Soun make many attempts to use his honor to force him to marry Akane or do something. For example, when it was thought Akane was turned into a duck Soun tried to use Ranma's honor coupled with his feelings of guilt to marry him to Akane. He has used it in other ways as well for example during the Orochi arc after Akane left Soun used Ranma's honor to get Ranma to chase after her, when Akane went on her first date with Ryoga Kasumi and Soun sent Ranma to watch over her, the scheme with the Dojo Destroyer also was using his honor against him.

Like his honor his morals and ethics have been used against him multiple times as well. His morals and his honor compel him to help people like Happosai and the sick perverted kid. Examples of morals being used against him: Every single thing Nabiki has done to him was only possible because of his morals, ethics, and sense of obligation. She used his feelings of guilt and sense of obligation to her advantage when he accidentally destroyed her tickets to get him to buy her expensive sushi (his suggestion as repayment), pose for pictures (again his suggestion since Nabiki viewed the sushi as insufficient repayment), and later blackmail him. The only reason she was able to sell him by the hour to his classmates was because he felt that since they paid for the time he was obligated to spend the time with them, etc.

Even though Ranma is a moral person and tries to do good his methods of doing so are, on occasion, using questionable ethics. For example, to help Pantyhose Taro get his name changed by Happosai Ranma drugged Happosai (chloroform), wrote a play to manipulate Happosai, and used mind altering magic on Happosai (suggestion incense). Another occasion of his loose ethics is using magic to help Ryoga and Akari get together.

If Ranma did not have morals, ethics, honor, and feelings of guilt the manga would be a lot different and Ranma would be much more dangerous. Moral's and feelings of guilt prevent him from beating up girls, prevent him from seriously hurting his opponents like Ryoga, using killing or maiming techniques, blackmailing/manipulating people more often and limit the severity of his machinations, using sneak attacks/being offensive more often, seducing people, only thing keeping Nabiki safe, etc.

Matoi - Fire Banner

A matoi is a banner used in Edo period Japan by firemen to notify people of a fire nearby or within a building. They were placed on the nearby roof of the burning building by the machibikeshi (fire brigade). Each local brigade of firemen in the Edo period had their own matoi to identify themselves. They were also used to identify the place where the brigade would meet. In modern Japan, the matoi is used mainly for ceremonial purposes. The matoi are seen as symbols of courage, hope, and leadership for firefighters.

In Japan, the houses were often made of wood and paper, with thatched roofs so fires were a common occurrence and a real worry (Tokyo/Edo and other Japanese cities have burnt down repeatedly in the past, the Japanese just rebuild). The only way to stop the spread of fires was often to tear down nearby houses to keep them from catching fire and burning as well. The tool used to tear down these buildings was often large wooden mallets such as the one Kodachi uses or the one Kasumi gives to Akane in the Ranma ½ manga.

Kodachi's school in the Ranma ½ manga (pictured above) has a Matoi symbolizing that it was a place where a fire brigade would meet.

Furin - Japanese Wind Chime

Furin are small bells made traditionally from glass but nowadays are made from all sorts of materials including metal, pottery, or bamboo. To help catch the wind and enhance its chime, a feather or more commonly a sturdy sheet of paper that hangs downwards is attached to the bell. The piece of paper commonly has a poem or a brief message written by the person who gave it to you. They are generally hung indoors near a window, or outside from the eaves.

In the late Edo period (1603-1867) glass furin could be heard at every corner of the town of Edo. The peddlers would carry the bells on a pole and use the sound of the bells to draw customers instead of shouting their wares.

Picture is taken from Volume 1 of the Ranma manga but can be seen through out the manga and in many other manga.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ushi no koku mairi - Japanese Voodoo

Ushi no koku mairi is a type of curses that originated around the year 800 at the Kibune Shrine in Kyoto, where a young beautiful woman cursed her husband in a 7 day long ritual for cheating on her. It involves nailing an image (paper or straw doll called wara ningyo) of a person to a tree or shrine gate. Traditionally the person doing this dresses in white and has lit candles on their head. The ritual goes something like this: For 3-7 days you take a doll, preferably with hair or blood from the person you want to curse, and nail it to a tree or shrine gate during the time of the ox (between 1-3 a.m). While nailing it you pray to the kami to curse the person. For best results the doll should be looking to the North-East. The North east direction is considered to be bad luck because according to Chinese philosophy of dual cosmic forces (yin-yang), the northeast is said to be the direction from which devils come.

There are other rituals though for a variety of purposes. If you tie up the doll with a short rope, the targeted person will fall instantly in love with you. It can be used to prevent sickness, diseases and even monsters by tying it up on a tree and hit a nail through the dolls chest. Particularly good at getting rid of Oni.

I tried to find more information on this but it's not easy to find information on. I found a few sites in Japanese that sell the implements but did not find very much information on this. Haitian Voodoo is much easier to find information about than this is. One of the sites did mention that this practice is illegal and people have been arrested for it.

Site that's selling the kits (sites in Japanese but has pictures):

Picture is from the Ranma manga.

Hashi - Chopsticks

Chopstick etiquette
* Hold your chopsticks towards their end, and not in the middle or the front third.
* When you are not using your chopsticks and when you are finished eating place them onto the chopstick rest. Or if there is no chopstick rest place them down in front of you with the tip to left.
* Do not stick your chopsticks so that they are standing straight up. The reason for this is in Japan chopsticks are stuck into rice on altars for the deceased.
* Do not pass food with your chopsticks directly to somebody else's chopsticks. The reason for this is because at funerals the bones of the cremated deceased are passed from person to person in this way.
* Do not spear food with your chopsticks.
* Do not point with your chopsticks to something or somebody.
* Do not move your chopsticks around in the air too much, nor play with them (no drum solos).
* Do not move around plates or bowls with chopsticks.
* To separate a piece of food into two pieces, exert controlled pressure on the chopsticks while moving them apart from each other.
* Use the serving chopsticks/utensils to move food from a shared plate to your own plate. If there are no serving utensils use the opposite end of your chopsticks (the part you didn't stick in your mouth). The reason for this is fairly obvious to stop the spread of germs.
*Do not start eating until everyone has been served.
*Women should cup their other hand beneath their serving when using chopsticks when conveying food from dish/bowl to mouth.

Chopstick etiquette is pretty simple even though people do ignore/forget them occasionally (you know people will play with them, point with them, or take from the shared plates with the part that went into their mouths). It's not that different from and is simpler than the proper etiquette of using knives, forks, spoon, etc., seen in Western Cultures.

The Japanese do eat with knives and forks when eating Western foods like steak simply because those foods are Western and they would be very hard to eat with chopsticks. The Japanese also use spoons for foods that are difficult to eat with chopsticks like curry rice. While eating soups they drink directly from the bowl and use chopsticks to pick out the larger pieces or noodles.

While chopsticks can and have been made from many materials the most common by far is Bamboo because it is cheap, available, heat resistant, and has little noticeable taste or odor. The Japanese rarely use metal chopsticks for eating for two reasons; metal conducts heat and metal chopsticks are used after cremations to break apart the remains of the skull.

At home you will generally have your own chopsticks most likely made from lacquered wood that no one else uses. Quite a few people bring chopsticks every where they go and carry them in a special box called a hashibako.

Disposable chopsticks are called waribashi and are made from a single piece of wood joined at one end so that they can be broken apart. They are usually wrapped in paper with with the restaurants name and phone number on them. Though cheap restaurants or schools will have them bare. Some people break the disposable ones after using them because of a superstition that spirits can attach themselves to the discarded ones and make you ill.

Japanese chopsticks are slightly different from Chinese ones. Chinese chopsticks are usually 9 to 10 inches long and rectangular with a blunt end. Japanese chopsticks are rounded and come to a point. Japanese chopsticks are also shorter 7 inches long for females and 8 inches long for males.

Origin of Chopsticks: Chopsticks have been in use in general for at least 5000 years. The Chinese have been using them as main tableware for more than 3,000 years. By A.D. 500, chopstick use had spread from China to present day Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

In the far past it is believed that people cooked their food in large pots which held heat for a long time and some impatient people would use twigs from trees to retrieve the food. By 400 B.C., because of a large population and dwindling resources, food was chopped into small pieces so it could be cooked rapidly to conserve fuel. The pieces of food were small enough that they negated the need for knives at the dinner table, and thus, chopsticks became staple utensils. It is also thought that Confucius, a vegetarian, advised people not to use knives at the table because knives would remind them of the slaughterhouse.

In Japan, chopsticks were originally used exclusively for religious ceremonies. The earliest Japanese chopsticks used for eating looked like tweezers and were made from one piece of bamboo that was joined at the top. By the 10th Century, chopsticks were constructed into two separate pieces as you see them now.

Picture 1 taken from Ranma manga of Ranma eating with chopsticks. Picture 2 also taken from the Ranma manga shows waribashi (disposable chopsticks) at Ukyo's restaurant.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

mimikaki - ear scoop

A bamboo scoop used to remove excess wax from inside the ear. Ear cleaning is a symbol of intimacy and happiness and is usually done between couples or parents cleaning their children's ears.

There are places in Japan that Mimikaki services can be purchased at. Where the customer lays their head on the thighs of a young woman as she picks the wax out of your ears.

Cologne can be seen cleaning Shampoo's ears in an episode of Ranma 1/2. The picture is from volume 2 of the manga confidential confessions.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Feminine Language in Japan

Men and women speak differently. Basically anywhere you go girls speak somewhat differently than guys. In Japan the differences between how a guy speaks and how a girl speaks is more noticeable. Not counting grammar and syntax, Japanese men generally speak in shortened huffs, while women tend to speak in artificially high octaves, elongating their word endings. Use of feminine words is called onna kotoba and feminine speech habits is called joseigo.

Some differences are:
Girls tend to refer to themselves in the third person more often than guys.
Sentence endings of wa, wa yo, wa ne, no ne, and no yo are feminine. kai, zo, ze, and yo are more masculine.
Women tend to use polite forms more frequently.
Women tend to omit the copula form da in favor of desu. For men, it is the other way around.

A lot of the humor of Ranma 1/2 is lost because in English the difference's between how a guy and a girl talk are much less pronounced. Ranma may call Akane a tomboy but she still talks like a girl. Ukyo, Ranma in girl-form, Shampoo, and Cologne talk like boys. For example, In the Manga Shampoo uses zo to end her sentences often. Ranma, Shampoo, Cologne, and Ukyo tend to use Omae as their preferred way of saying you which is masculine (though Ranma does also use significantly less polite versions as well i.e. insulting). When Ranma is pretending to be a real girl he uses Anta as you most of the time like Nabiki and Akane do. Though he (she at the time) also uses an even more polite form of you Anata like Kasumi and Kodachi do occasionally (btw Kodachi uses the politest most formal language in the manga). Tsubasa and Konatsu used feminine speech patterns. Since I'm already discussing speech patterns, I'd like to point out that Miss Hinako talks like a child even when in adult form.


Takahashi is a master at kakekotoba (Japanese term for a type of pun that uses a word in such a way as to suggest two or more meanings). The Japanese language has many homophones and Takahashi loves to use these. Sadly these do not translate well and the duel (or occasionally even more) meanings of the words are lost. A particular instance of this is the name of the character commonly known as Shampoo in English and really shows this. Depending on whether the reading is Chinese, Japanese, or English (not to mention which kanji you're using), means "hair care product", "unpolished gem", "mountain girl", "she whose breasts are as mountains"... all of which describe the character in some way. There are countless puns like this that are lost particularly the ki blast storyline which was riddled with them and ended up leading to a massive pun. Her other works have these as well for example Urusei Yatsura had them even more frequently than Ranma ½ did.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Japanese girls gym shorts are called Buruma. They are worn by girls at school and they allow a great deal of freedom of movement because they don't cover the legs at all. They look a lot like panties. The word comes from bloomers which were worn by American and European women in the 19th century in a few athletic activities — such as bicycle-riding and gymnastics. The bloomers of the 19th century were more baggy and knee length. Considering what they are guy's really like them, girls generally don't.

In the Ranma manga, Happosai often steals Buruma from the girl's locker room. Most of the girls in the manga are seen wearing them at one point. In the above picture Kodachi and Shampoo are seen wearing Buruma.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Japanese Breakfast

A traditional Japanese breakfast consists of Miso Soup, cooked rice, seaweed, pickled vegetables, and green tea. Many people in Japan eat western breakfasts as well. A western breakfast in Japan consists of bread, yogurt, eggs, jam and sausages or ham. As for the beverage, the most popular choices (in order of popularity) are milk, coffee, green tea and English tea.

People who prepare their own breakfast or factory workers generally prefer the western style breakfast because it takes less time to prepare and to eat. Most people who eat a western style breakfast will finish their meal within five minutes. People who eat a traditional Japanese breakfast take between 15 and 30 minutes. The majority of Japanese people watch television while eating breakfast.

In the picture taken from the Ranma manga, Akane and Ukyo can be seen eating a traditional Japanese breakfast.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Manekineko - beckoning cat

A Manekineko is a statue of a cat sitting with one paw raised. These are talismans of sorts in that they are supposed to bring good fortune. There are seen in store fronts frequently to bring in customers. The origin of this belief dates back to the Edo period. The story goes that a cat brought prosperity to a declining temple by beckoning people passing by during a storm, one of whom was the feudal lord of Hikone. These are seen fairly often in the Ranma manga. Ranma is sitting like one with his aura shaped like one during his first succumbing to the Neko-ken seen in the Manga.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Children's Day (Kodomo no hi)

Before world war 2 this day was a festival for boys. It is now a national holiday in honor of all children both boys and girls. Since it was a day for boys it still is mostly for boy's (girls day was/is in March 3). The Boy's Festival (Tango no Sekku) is celebrated on this day. Families pray for the health and future success of their sons by hanging up carp streamers and displaying samurai dolls, both symbolizing strength, power and success in life. Traditional foods for this day are chimaki (rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves) and kashiwa-mochi (rice cake wrapped in oak leaves -oak leaves symbolize not withering but are not edible so don't eat the leaf). Before world war 2 this day was also called Shobu no Sekku (Iris Festival). The reason for that is because it is the time of year in which Japanese Irises are at their best. Japanese iris leaves are/were used to decorate roofs and put into hot baths as a charm against evil spirits and disease.


Onbu is the way to carry a child papoose style (in other words piggyback). It is customary in Japan to carry a baby tied onto its mother's back using a long sash. The baby faces the mother's back with its legs spread and its hands on her shoulders. Supposedly this gives the child a feeling of security and an attitude of dependency. Whether that is true or not, I don't know, but it is a means of both holding your child and keeping your hands free to do other things.

In the picture Ranma is holding Happosai in this manner after a botched magic potion left Happosai mentally a baby (anyone else wonder why it is Ranma that appears to take care of babyfied Happosai instead of one of the girls, since in Japan taking care of a baby would be a task for women).

Getting a baby into those slings unassisted can be troublesome though. Here is a Youtube video of someone putting their baby in one type of them without someone to help them.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Greenery Day (midori no hi)

Until 2006, Greenery Day was celebrated on April 29, the former Emperor Showa's birthday. Greenery Day is dedicated to nature due to the emperor's love for plants and nature. It is now celebrated on May 4 and is part of the Golden Week. Prior to it's move to May 4 this day was called Between Day and was a national holiday. It was called Between Day because Japanese law says that any day that falls between two national holidays is a national holiday.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Kenpo kinenbi (Constitution Day)

A national holiday remembering the new constitution put into place in 1947. This day is part of Golden week. The new constitution was promulgated on November 3, 1946, and came into effect on May 3, 1947. The current Japanese Constitution was based off of a draft presented by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur at the close of World War II. The Japanese constitution is a point of pride for the citizens of Japan. The Japanese Constitution can be read in English at this website:

Since I talk about Ranma a lot on this blog I'm going to point out the part that Ranma would find the most useful.

Article 24:

Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. 2) With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.
This basically means that Ranma can not legally be forced to marry anyone by Japanese law. Of course most of the Ranma cast don't care about the law in the first place or don't care about Japanese law. Of course Ranma is still honor bound to marry a Tendo and Ukyo, and it's Shampoo's people's laws not Japanese laws that bounds her to him. Remember what is honorable is not always legal and what is legal is not always honorable.