Sunday, January 11, 2009

Insults via gestures in Japan

A question I recently received via email is: Ranma is frequently sticking up his middle finger, does it mean the same thing in Japan as it does in the US? Several people have also come to this blog, according to statcounter, to find out what hand gestures are negative in Japan.

Ranma is insulting the person who he shows his middle finger to but it is just an insult in Japan. It does not have the sexual connotations or the severity that it does in the United States. A judge in Japan even ruled that the sign of raising the middle finger with the back of one's right hand down is recognized in Japan as an act signifying insult or provocation. The use of this gesture is not as common in Japan as it is in the US.

Some insulting/rude body gestures in Japan:
-Showing the soles of your feet demonstrates disrespect, exposing the lowest and dirtiest part of your body is insulting.
- Spread fingers slightly apart and tuck the thumb into the palm while thrusting your hand into your target’s face is very insulting. It roughly means animal and was used primarily on Koreans.
-Inserting the thumb between index finger and middle finger, in imitation of the clitoris, is the sexual connotation that the middle finger has in the USA.
-Passing an item to someone with one hand is very rude in Japan, two hands should be used when passing things.
-Form a circle with fingers to indicate O.K. - means okay in the USA. In Japan it means money and depending on the context asking for money would be rude.
-Tugging at the eye, often accompanied by sticking out one's tongue, is a childishly offensive gesture.
-there are more.

For non insulting body language see this post: Japanese Body Language which links to a site that explains some Japanese body language.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ranma Ascii Art

  ____ _____ ____  ____  _____
/ ___|____ | _ \| \(____ |
| | / ___ | | | | | | / ___ |
|_| \_____|_| |_|_|_|_\_____|

I had found this site Dov Sherman's Page of Anime ASCii Art in which the person has quite a few ascii art images of characters from Ranma 1/2. Ascii art has always impressed me, more so than hand drawn pictures. I really don't know why, considering I regard my drawing ability to be poor but I am capable of doing ascii art (just rarely patient or motivated enough to do so). There are tutorials like at Christopher Johnson's site and Ascii generators.

The Ascii art of the word Ranma, above and below, were created via an ascii generator.
'########:::::'###::::'##::: ##:'##::::'##::::'###::::
##.... ##:::'## ##::: ###:: ##: ###::'###:::'## ##:::
##:::: ##::'##:. ##:: ####: ##: ####'####::'##:. ##::
########::'##:::. ##: ## ## ##: ## ### ##:'##:::. ##:
##.. ##::: #########: ##. ####: ##. #: ##: #########:
##::. ##:: ##.... ##: ##:. ###: ##:.:: ##: ##.... ##:
##:::. ##: ##:::: ##: ##::. ##: ##:::: ##: ##:::: ##:

Tōka Ebisu

Tōka Ebisu is a festival held at several shrines in Japan. Ebisu is one of the seven gods of good fortune and associated with monetary success in particular. January 10th is the main festival day with the 9th called the Eve of Ebisu and the 11th is known as the “Last Helping of Luck”. People pray for happiness and business success at this festival. In some places like Osaka this event has occurred since the Edo Period. This is celebrated mostly by purchasing fukusasa (lucky bamboo fronds), good luck mallets, and other lucky charms as well as coin talismans which are placed on peoples kamidana (household shrine). Since Ebisu is thought to be hard of hearing, people shout "we've come" and bang on the shrine walls either bare handed or with the mallet they purchased. In some place colorful palanquins carry geisha and celebrities through lantern-lit streets.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Nanakusa - the seven herbs or grasses.

-Haru no nanakusa are the seven herbs of spring; seri (Japanese parsley), nazuna (shepherd's purse), gogyo (cutweed), hakobe (chickweed), hotokenoza (henbit), suzana (turnip leaves) and suzushiro (garden radish leaves). Traditionally these seven herb are eaten in soup called nanakusagayu or rice gruel on the seventh day of the New Year to ward off disease in the coming year. Since the Meiiji period, on the morning or night before of January 7, people place the nanakusa, rice scoop, and/or wooden pestle on the cutting board and, facing the good-luck direction and chant , chant while cutting the herbs into pieces. Some areas substitute a different local herb for the soup and the chant varies but usually contain stories about the pursuit of either "the bird from the land of China" or "the evening bird." This day is usually called nanakusa no sekku (feast of the seven herbs).

This custom is a left over from an older custom called Jinjitsu (human day), which originally came from China, particularly the Hopei and Hunan regions of China, whereby each of the opening days of the first lunar month was assigned to a particular creature, which it was forbidden to kill on that day: thus the first seven days of the month were Chicken Day, Dog Day, Boar Day, Sheep Day, Cow Day, Horse Day, and Human Day: on this seventh day, no punishments were handed out to criminals. The custom of eating the seven grass soup on jinjitsu spread in the Heian period. In the Edo period, on the morning of this day, it became customary for those under the Shōgun to eat the seven grass soup and then the assembled lords would enter the castle and address the Shōgun. Today, the events of jinjitsu are centered upon making and eating soup containing seven varieties of grasses in it.

-Aki no nanakusa are the seven grasses of autumn; hagi (Japanese bush clover), obana (flowering eulaia), kazu (pueraria), nadeshiko (wild pink), ominaeshi (patrinia), fujibakama (eupatorium), and kikyo (althea). The seven flowers are all indigenous
to Japan and are chosen for their flowers which bring out the atmosphere of the season. These are represented in Japanese art and literature fairly often, for example they show up in Manyoshu (the earliest collection of poetry and song), the Kokinshu (a later collection of poetry) and The Tale of Genji (an eleventh century novel considered to be the first modern novel). Unlike the herbs of spring these are not generally eaten (though some are/can be) and there is no specific day given to them. Though they are generally displayed on Tsukimi.

Tsukimi is a moon viewing party held on August 15th in the lunar calendar or sometime in September or October on the solar calender. Like many things, this custom originated in China from Zhongqiu Jie (the mid-autumn festival - Chinese calendars second most important holiday). Traditionally in Japan, tsukimi dango (dumplings), satoimo (taro potatoes) and Japanese sake are placed on a tray and grasses are arranged in a vase as an offering to the moon. People view the moon quietly at home, parks, shrines, temples, and so on. Various Shinto shrines do various things like have tea ceremonies, dances, poetry readings and music performances.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Holy Sh*t! The world’s weirdest comic books

Holy Sh*t! The world’s weirdest comic books by Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury is an interesting little book. The book gives a description and the cover of several comic books, considered to be weird. Considering that I have been on various image boards (4-chan for example), have seen/read some Japanese doujinshi, and have read web comics; I can think of far weirder comics. Some of the comics aren’t even as weird as some of the mainstream comics like say dead pool, some of the earlier superman comics (you know the type in which he fights weird things like giant monkey’s), or wonder woman (who used to lose her powers when tied up).

The book is a somewhat interesting read, the weirdest thing, in my opinion, is that I had only heard of (or remember) two of these comics prior to reading this book: Popeye personal service careers and Genus (a comic about anthropomorphic lesbian unicorns). The first because I’d seen scans taken from it on the web before and the second because I had looked up Antarctic Press comics (I like Gold digger and Ninja High School -which I was first introduced to by Ranma fan fiction).

While I have no interest in reading most of the comics listed in the book there are a few I would read had I seen them at the library or bargain bin at the comic book store. Two of them look more interesting to me then the others are: Long Shot comics, it is a minimalist comic in which there are black dots representing the people and dialogue. If the dialog is anywhere near as good as the web comic xkcd, which uses stick figures, it would probably be worth reading. Some of the strips which are somewhat amusing are online here: Eyestrain Productions.The second comic which looks like it would be interesting is the Barn of Fear, a comic about farm animals getting revenge on cruel farmers who delight in killing the animals.

Some sites that are similar to this book are (and in the case of at least the first one funnier than this book, mainly because of the commentary):
James Lilek’s Funny Books
Scott Shaw!’s Oddball Comics
What Were They Thinking?!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Darwin Awards

The website, as well as five books, Darwin Awards is very amusing. The site's purpose is to showcase people removing themselves from the gene pool from acts of stupidity. Some are true and verifiable, others are internet rumors/urban legends, it's difficult to separate fact from fiction. Part of the difficulty is that stupidity knows no boundaries and reality can be/is stranger than fiction. It is kind of interesting that men are so much more likely to be awarded this than women are.

It maybe callous to take enjoyment from people's suffering and the loss of life but the people who receive the Darwin awards often deserve it, bring it upon themselves, at least the majority do. I prefer ones in which people did things out of pure stupidity, i.e. they really should have known better, for instance, the one about an electrician using copper wire as kite string near power lines. The stories in which the action was done out of ignorance, rather than stupidity, I generally do not find nearly as amusing; for example there is one in which a person picks up a poisonous snake and makes a comment about not knowing that there were poisonous snakes in that country (Black Adler in Scotland). In those cases I tend to think things like he should have been taught that. Ignorance can be remedied by knowledge, stupidity can not be stopped regardless.

The best ones are stories in which the person was warned repeatedly but did it anyways. Though the ones in which the person should have known beyond any doubt, been doing the job for years are amusing as well. It is best when a truly stupid, purposely ignorant, person is punished.

Of course there are degree's of idiocy, some on the surface aren't very stupid or had the person not taken one more action it would have been fine. Example of one that wasn't stupid that became stupid: sucking up wasps into a vacuum cleaner, is a perfectly valid way to capture wasps. Had the person simply blocked the opening causing the wasps to eventually die of natural causes nothing would have happened. The stupid part was spraying flammable poison into the vacuum which had a hot motor causing it to catch on fire.