Category Archives: Sweet Miscellany

Absolutely THE Best Vegetable Music Video EVER!

You thought you knew vegetable songs. We all thought we knew vegetable songs. But believe me, AKB48’s new release, 野菜シスターズ  – Yasai Sisutaazu: Vegetable Sisters  –  re-creates the genre!

AKB48: Vegetable Sisters
Ladies sing the greens

If studying Japanese gives one one thing, it is a fresh (no pun intended) appreciation of vegetables. Whether in Precure or Tonari no Totoro, a visit to a vegetable garden is a thing of delight, accompanied by cries of oishii! Western people take vegetables for granted as they take everything else for granted. I have always been filled with wonder at the sheer abundance and kindness of Our Mother’s world, and so are Japanese people. In so many ways, the Japanese attitude seems to me the natural one and the Western attitude peculiar and perverse.

In Anpanman there is a truly charming character called Okura-chan (Okra-chan — yes, she is a lady-finger) who grows vegetables for all the dear peeples. When she gives a lovely tray of vegetables though, she starts to cry:

さようなら、かぶさん。さようなら、にんじんさん。みんな、みんな、大きく育ってくれました。悲しいけど、お別れです。おいしく食べてもらうのよ。あなたたちのこと、忘れないから。

In Japanese it is really quite lovely. I will give you my translation, which really cannot do it justice, I fear, partly because English language/culture just does not support these sentiments, and partly because vegetable names sound humorous in English in a way that they do not in Japanese, where respect for the eating of life is ingrained. When Japanese people say itadakimasu (I humbly receive) before meals they are giving thanks for the life that has been taken, even vegetable life, to nourish and delight them. That spirit also permeates Okura-chan’s speech:

Sayounara dear vegetable friends.
Okra-chan: Goodbye dear vegetable friends.

Sayounara, turnip-san. Sayounara, carrot-san. All of you, all of you, kindly grew up to be big. It is sad, but the time of farewell has come. Receive the favor of being eaten with appreciation [or, of being eaten and found delicious]. I will never forget you all.

As you see, the translation is very awkward and strange, and not only owing to my poor skills in the matter (though they don’t help). I could have made it sound more naturally English, but only at the expense of what is really being said. This is why English subtitles are so inadequate much of the time. They really cannot convey what is actually said and still sound natural in English, so they tend to say something else that is in the same general area but pervaded with much more cynical and less innocent, straightforward, and fundamentally good cultural assumptions. Modern English does not do innocent well. Nor are the ideas of such things as giving and receiving, mutual kindness and dependence, so deeply embedded in the language.

When I discussed this recurring scene with a Japanese friend, she said that Okura-chan cried because the vegetables were her 大切な友だち (taisetsu na tomodachi) — her precious friends.

So – with a quick run-down of Japanese vegetable culture to prime you, here is 野菜シスターズ  – Yasai Sisutaazu: Vegetable Sisters  – the best vegetable music-kinnie you’ll ever see!

Now with helpful Japanese subtitles for those learning the language*.

Itadakimasu!


*A friend told me that the subtitles are in English, not Japanese, which puzzled me. I now realize that the subtitles default to your YouTube language settings. Since mine are Japanese, I see Japanese subtitles. To change them, go to YouTube and click the CC button that will appear at the bottom of this video. You can then choose the subtitle language.

En(ryo)d note

Having discussed Okura-chan’s vegetable speech another thing occurred to me that I thought might interest you. In the episode 赤ちゃんマンとオクラちゃん (Akachanman and Okurachan) Okura-chan and a bear are in the position of giving and receiving, each with both hands on the tray of vegetables (as in the picture above). Okura-chan begins to cry and makes her sayounara speech to the vegetables.

The bear, disconcerted, says that it is not necessary to receive the vegetables. Okura-chan’s reply is another piece of Japanese that is hard to translate into English:

遠慮なんかしないで。

Enryo nanka shinaide.

Literally this could be translated as “do not show restraint”. But 遠慮 enryo (self-restraint, self-control, self-denial) is a fundamental concept in Japanese culture.

An example of enryo given to me by a friend is that she used to attend formal dinners at a restaurant where everyone had paid for a sumptuous communal meal. The meal would be on a central platter, and no one would be the first to take food. It would become cold and eventually be removed uneaten by the waitresses. No one wished to appear greedy or selfish. Everyone was practicing enryo. This may seem an extreme, but actually is a common, example of enryo.

Okura-chan thus releases the recipient from any obligation of enryo and walks away leaving the bear saying だって “But…”

This is, of course humorous. In my experience, Japanese people view this with equal parts of humor and genuine appreciation of the sentiments.

Fyggs and Wishes

I have enjoyed playing video games for a long, long time.  Sometimes almost too much, I am afraid.  One of the interesting things I have learned is that most of the video games that I have liked over the years come from Japan.  One of the games that I really like is Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the Nintendo DS.  This games has a number of wonderful features for us here at Senshi.  Aside from being an exciting adventure story game, it allows you to have an all girl team and to play dress up with one’s armor and equipment.  The armor and equipment shows in game play, so there are times when one has to choose between fashion and good statistics, which is often a difficult choice!

Fygg ScreenshotAmong many interesting things in this game are subplots that form the basis for a large part of the beginning of the game.  As part of the main plot, fyggs or fruits from a Celestrial Tree fall down below to the terrestrial plane.  These fyggs purport to be able to grant the desires of people that eat the fygg,  Yet, the granting of the desires turns out to be quite problematic.  The fygg turns the person into a monster, that as the heroine, one must defeat.  After the monster is defeated, we find that the original person was usually quite ordinary, with ordinary faults and failings.  These made for quite interesting and often moving subplots to the game.

Those of us who have been watching DokiDoki Precure will likely recognize this theme.  The villains from the Selfish Kingdom “grant the wish” of their victims by turning their heart black, stealing their hearts, and using these dark hearts to create a monster that creates havoc until the Precures come to defeat the Selfishness and return the cleansed hearts to the victims.

So, what is wrong with one’s wishes being granted?  That is a good question, and I think that the answer is a bit complex.  I think that one of the points in both the game and in DokiDoki Precure is that victims wishes are not really being granted.  I think that maybe the best way to explain is that these are the wishes of their False Self, or the part that we all have inside that is not aligned with Good, like the popular Western motif of the little devil on our shoulder.  Our True Self is that which is aligned with the little angel on our shoulder.  As you recall, in DokiDoki, the victim often resists the urge that the villain eventually uses to steal their hearts.

I think that there is an assumption in both Dragon Quest IX and in DokiDoki Precure, that most of us truly wish to be good, and that this wish trumps any self centered desires that we may have.  As the Dragon Quest game proceeds into the larger story line, we find that the fyggs are actually…oh oops…spoilers.  Well, I can say that the fyggs themselves are not evil either, and the wishes of the victims are not evil wishes, they were just corrupted.  In fact, we find out later in the game that fyggs are actually fruits from the Divine in Her Daughter form.  In the Dragon Quest game, after the victim of the corruption is purified, the energy from her wishes are also purified, and the entire town or village benefits.

As I am writing, I am having a really hard time being able to put into words the difference between the corrupt wishes and the purified wishes.  Even if I were to give spoilers and specifics, it would be hard.  I think I am realizing that it is because these concepts do not translate well into English.  I have started learning Japanese as well, but my studies have been cursory and quite basic, unlike the other authors of this site.  I was taught a Japanese term that may explain this somewhat.  There is a Japanese word wa that roughly translates to “harmony.”  I say roughly because harmony in English mostly refers to music, but there is a deeper harmony of life, society, and the cosmos that is reflected in earthly music (or it should be).  The term wa refers to this deeper harmony.  The opposite of wa is fuwa, or disharmony.

This may seem like an aside, but it really is not.  I have noticed that I have not necessarily got as involved in DokiDoki Precure as the other authors of this site.  I think I know the reason why.  It is because I need to watch it with English subtitles.  I have found that the DokiDoki dialogue seems rather strange and awkward in English.  In talking with Cure Dolly, who watches DokiDoki Precure with Japanese subtitles, she has mentioned that she  could imagine how difficult it would be for the translators.

One of the things that she explained was about the Selfish Kingdom and the monsters, “Selfishnesses.”  If I understand correctly, selfish is not really the precise term, but there is no equivalent in Japanese.  From what I have been told, in Japanese culture, there is an expectation that people will think of the group and community first, and to do otherwise is considered quite rude.  For example, it is my understanding that a statement that seems positive to a Western mind, “Do what you want to do,” is considered quite insulting in Japanese culture.  The closest translation to this concept is selfish, from what I have been told.

This takes me back to the premise of this article.  I think that in DokiDoki Precure and in DragonQuest IX, it is not the wishes themselves that are problematic.    We should have dreams and wishes.  What is problematic is when these wishes only relate to one’s own personal well-being without considering the group or the society.  When the wishes become fuwa, or they are granted in a way that is fuwa.  This actually prevents the wishes from being realized in a way that is wa, or in harmony with the group, society, and with the Music of the Spheres.

I have not finished the game DragonQuest IX, but it is getting quite interesting in a metaphysical sense as the story is progressing.  DokiDoki Precure is also getting quite interesting.  For example, it seems that Regina-san can turn people’s heart’s black without their specifically opening the door with “selfish” thoughts.  I wonder how that is possible.

So, I will leave these thoughts as they are at the moment, but there may be more as I get through the game, and as the DokiDoki Precure series progresses.