Thursday, February 16, 2023


A pretty picture of Lake Biwa showed up on my screen quite recently, and as one is naturally wont to do, I remembered a tragedy, and a lament. That is to say, I recalled reading about the tragedy, and the lament, which I've heard several times, is a gentle plaintive song. But I've never been to Lake Biwa, though I have been to Japan (Tokyo and Hakushu), and I did not even know it existed when I had the chance to visit. Largest body of fresh water there.

My visit to Japan years ago was whisky-related.
I wish I had stayed there longer.

Language would have been a problem. I don't speak Japanese ('konichiwa', 'ohayo', 'sushi', 'sumimasen', 'boken', 'kohi', 'arigato gozaimas', 'meganeko', and 'mangga') and even though they use Chinese characters, they don't mean the same there, and there are at least two different pronunciations for each character. Sometimes more than that.

珈琲 An ornamental hairpin (jewelry) and a necklace: coffee.
Ga fei in Cantonese, pronounced kohi in Japan.

Man does not live by coffee alone.
Well, perhaps Andy Lau does; he swills twenty or so cups a day. Of course that is neither here nor there, but it does explain some of the "very innovative" things he does during concerts; he's hepped to the gills.

While Japan is fascinating, I have no reason to step up acquisition of their language. As a Caucasian one is always an outsider, strange and outlandish. Far less so in Cantonese. In Cantonese one can be refered to as brother (啊哥 'a ko'), or uncle (啊叔 'a suk'), once one has become a familiar face; in Japan, and this is just my perception, one may never be a familiar face.

One could probably interpret this as a Cantonese fondness for eccentrics.
Even so, there is a strong streak of egalitarianism among them.
Plus "hail fellow well met", and an instinct to give "face".

[One useful term, worth remembering, is 兄弟 ('heng tai'). Which means brother, brothers. Both older and younger. Often used casually when speaking to a complete stranger. 四海之内皆兄弟也 ('sei hoi ji noi gaai heng tai'): all men are brothers. The equivalent term for women is 姊妹 ('ji mui').]

The other day a woman addressed me as 'a ko'. Older brother. That's a bit more informal and friendly than 'a suk' (uncle who is my father's younger brother). I did not think about it at the time, but in retrospect I am immensely chuffed. At home I was always the younger child.

It may take me a while to get used to this.
It's quite a responsible position.
I must act accordingly.

You know, like a mature adult.

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