May 20, 2009

back to the basics

With so many things to talk about and very little talent, I have been thinking of new ways to introduce Japan. Not only the things I know of well but also the things that I have taken for granted.   Something I can work on for a week or two in between my usual rants...

So, I thought, why not go back to the basics…the “abc” or, like it is said in Japanese, the “i-ro-ha”.

If you have tried to learn the Japanese language before, then you might be thinking…”i-ro-ha?”.

The first three characters (letters) in the Japanese alphabet are “a-i-u”… but in the Heian Period (794-1185) somebody thought of a new way to teach *hiragana and the meaning of a Buddhist chant all in one poem… the “i-ro-ha”.

It is: 
i ro ha ni ho he to chi ri nu ru wo
wa ka yo ta re so tsu ne na ra mu
u i no o ku ya ma ke fu ko he te
a sa ki yu me mi shi e hi mo se su n

I bet there are tons of great translations out there but since this is a learning experience for me as well, this is my own literal interpretation...

Colorful flowers smell fragrant but they fall
Our lives are also not forever
Climbing over the fateful reality of the mountains
I will not watch shortsighted dreams or be intoxicated

Japanese literature aficionados must be cringing now but feel free to add your own translation! ;-)

Oh, and it is also said that there is a secret message inside the poem…but let me try not to bite off more than I can chew at one time.

So, I will soon start my “i-ro-ha” of Japan. Starting with the hiragana letter “i” (い).
I will introduce a word(s), people or things that start with each letter. Some of the things might be old and some new. You may know more about something than I do and I will not pretend to know more than I write so feel free to comment!

A new page in my blog opens...

with "i-ro-ha" and my very bad handwriting...
(the 2 letters with the red arrows pointing at them are not used very often anymore but sometimes appear in names and poems, like the "i-ro-ha")

*The Japanese letters hiragana (a phonetic alphabet) appears during the Heian Period, making the written Japanese language more accessible to a wider audience (Instead of just the high ranking officials and monks). They were designed from the Chinese characters being used until then. 
Of course we still use a lot of the Chinese characters (kanji) now but thanks to hiragana and katakana (another form of phonetic alphabet used exclusively for foreign words or onomatopoeia) it is much easier to read and write Japanese once you have learned the basics. 


B said...

This is so interesting! Looking forward to learning some more!

Merisi said...

I am in awe of anybody who attempts studying Japanese - you are very brave!

Stay healthy (loved the story about throngs of people milling about, waiting to buy masks!)!

moonrat said...

wow--do you know, i've never seen a translation of this! thank you :)

Butternut Squash said...

Thank you for that. I had heard this before but had forgotten.
I was thinking, he no he no mo he ji.

I was looking through your other blog, your novel project. I read it from the beginning and applaud your perseverance. I have files full of bits and pieces, stories started and stopped. The other day, I went to mine them for material, but there was some really stinky stuff in there so I couldn't stay long.

With the move of house and business this summer,I think it will be a while before I am able to write coherently again. Peace.

Chiara.u said...

so fascinating... if I think of how many things we could learn and know in the world and how little time we have to do it... I could cry... it makes me crazy! Fortunately I've got so many bloggy-friends around the world so I can learn something... thank Tulsa :))

I_am_Tulsa said...

B, thank you, I hope I can make this "project" interesting!

Merisi, I still wish I could speak Italian, French, Spanish and German...and loads of other languages...I am so greedy, but far for brave!

Moonrat, I have never seen a translation of the poem either...I didn't want to read one before I did my own interpretation...maybe I should go look for one now!

Butternut Squash, I have quite a few notes tucked away too. It's just that this year has been a year of new things for me and I realized that I keep going around in circles...I think I have to write something in order to start a new chapter in my own life. It's turning out to be a spiritual journey as well! I know you will be busy with the move but I will still be waiting for your book! ;-)

Chiara.u, I learn a lot from you too (still need to fix my oven to make that tempting dish!), and am so grateful for this new world of friends!

Delwyn said...

Wonderful Tulsa...this is going to be a novel and intriguing series.

and stop putting yourself down - we don't agree... You are a lady of many talents, great warmth and interesting ideas...

None of us are experts and we are not judging you - heavens you could tell us anything and we'd believe you. Now I am quite happy if someone can help me out with something I don't know, in fact I find that to be one of the best parts of blogging - all the sharing and the threads of information we build on to.

Happy Days

I_am_Tulsa said...

Oh dearest Delwyn, thank you a million times!

This blogging world is turning out to be informative and full of happiness and warmth. We are achieving a lot of personal goals and global issues all in one sweep!

Polly said...

This is great!! I wanted to learn Japanese since I got fascinated with the country and culture so this is a fantastic introduction and I'm looking forward to more. I know the basic concepts behind hiragana and kanji but that knowledge doesn't go beyond concepts. Many thanks!

Oh, and I've just noticed you have two more blogs...

I_am_Tulsa said...

Polly, I am happy to help! I have written the first post but haven't chosen pictures yet. It should be ready in a few days.

I haven't put a whole lot of work into my other blogs but they are a part of my "identity" as well. When I first started blogging I wasn't sure how to arrange things and since I wanted a Japan oriented site the most I put more "effort" into this blog.

Thank you for stopping by my other blogs too!

Eeek, now I've got to go to work! Toodles!