The less I write on this site, the more the writing on this site becomes centered around apologizing for not writing more on this site, but The Hammering Heart was never intended as a blog about not writing, so I will spare any excuses and simply say, “Hello.”
My friend Haru posted the following inspirational verse on Twitter (@mituuharu), and for my life I can’t figure out where it’s from. I have seen it stated as “more crucial than the five Confucian virtues” (though it seems to be a direct extension of those), but I guess some people say that about Darkside of the Moon or Star Trek: The Next Generation, so that’s no hint. It sounds Buddhist to me, but then maybe so is Star Trek.
Years ago, I got into the Japanese film auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa, not to be confused with his non-relative, Akira, toward whom I’m mostly indifferent. I’ve already written at length about the personal impact K. Kurosawa’s “Pulse” (Kairo) had on me, but that account aside, what I mostly love about his movies is that they’re highly thought-provoking and great conversation pieces. What I would not necessarily call them is entertaining. The gratification you get from watching them is delayed and often wholly subjective. You might never get any. These are not movies for date night; they’re ones for your two-month solitary confinement sentence. They require prolonged, undivided attention. Under no circumstances should they be enjoyed while grappling with diarrhea.
It was with utmost sarcasm that I wrote “Atomic Girl,” but underneath its layer of drunken belligerence beat a genuine heart. The song is at once a scathing indictment of the manipulative, self-destructive S and an admission of my own part in creating the terrible situation from which I’d been forced to escape. It’s a step-by-step dissection of a habit I’d developed in my life of being enticed by half-heartedly suicidal girls, allowing them to pull me into their terrible worlds instead of pulling them out. I was protesting the atomic bomb with my finger on the button, and it took a situation as exaggerated as this one to finally allow me to see the caricature I’d become.
I refrained from replying to S’s inexplicably light-hearted text message. But the next day, I received a follow-up message: “You’re not mad, by any chance, are you?”
I decided I should refrain from speaking to her ever again, reasoning that her safety was at stake but actually more concerned for my own. As evening fell, I received a direct call to my cellular. I glanced reluctantly at the screen. It displayed a giant Japanese equivalent of an S, the rest of her name following like the proverbial stalker following the proverbial me.
“Uggh,” I shuddered, hurling the phone into the garbage bin. I stared at the bin until the ringing stopped.
I immediately second-guessed my rash action on account of the phone not being burnable waste. You have to understand that the town of Tajimi, Japan had very stringent waste disposal regulations, as dictated by the iron-fisted town mascot, the Unagappa, in a massive, forty-four-page PDF document.
At roughly midnight, we arrived back at my apartment. My Kiwi friend decided to stay the night at my place to avoid a cumbersome walk home. Just before he went to take a shower, I received a phone call. It was S.
“Did you really. . . believe my story?” She spoke in Japanese. Her voice wavered.
“Well yeah, why wouldn’t I?”
On the other end of the phone, S let out a terrible wail. She wasn’t just crying–she was bawling.
A wise or more occupied man would have stopped frequenting the BL at this point. But roughly two weeks later, I went back, for lack of a better idea. I’m proud to say that it was not in forbidden anticipation of once again encountering S, but rather in spite ofthe possibility of. I’m pretty sure.
The day was the vernal equinox, I believe, which in Japan is a national holiday. My Kiwi friend and I were out drinking “bears,” as he called them, at a gaudy but hidden burger joint called Honey’s Diner. It was one of the few places open on the holiday, but two drinks in, they were closing shop.
“Could sure go for another round,” my friend said. “Any places around here gonna be open?”
“Eh, I guess there is this one place, but. . . if we run into any familiar faces, I’m counting on you to bail me out of a situation.”
So yeah! In my last post on the “unspeakable” foibles of language, I was talking about ate-ji. And then I finished. To summarize, they are kinda neat, kinda annoying, but often serve as a testament to a man or woman’s mastery of kanji. They’re kind of like puns if puns had dignity.
Today I want to talk about the other thing I mentioned in the last post–“fake furigana.”
So first I should probably explain furigana for the noob crowd. Basically, in Japanese you’ve got three writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are what they call “syllabaries,” which is kind of like alphabets, except that each character is a whole syllable, like ka or u or chi or go. Mastering the syllabaries is a simple matter of memorizing some 46 characters (each), which really isn’t that hard at all, given the distinctive vibe possessed by many of these characters; I swear, some of them just inherently look like the sounds they make. か is totally ka and there’s no unseeing it once you’ve seen it.
You can do a lot with the written language–even do things you couldn’t do with the spoken word. Modern Japanese explores this quite a bit through the frequent application of ate-ji and what some people like to call “false furigana” (there may be an actual name for this, in which case, please somebody tell me what it is!)
So let’s look at these. Ate-ji could be described as the creative assigning of substantially irrelevant kanji to a word, in an attempt to provide onlookers all the convenience of a phonetic representation whilst still preserving the tedium of writing with kanji and the confusion of that kanji not having any pertinent meaning.
I am of the opinion that the English language is pretty neato and fun, but I suppose people make that same claim for just about every language. And why shouldn’t they? Language is pretty neato and fun.