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The Kamikaze Spirit

The Kamikaze Spirit

Illustration by Dot

Japanese is a special language. It is especially hard to speak, especially hard to write, and it was designed to make it as difficult as possible to learn, especially for us gaijin. Even those of us who think we only know one word, wakarimasen, that's a load of kuso. Us English speakers have taken words from Japanese, just as they have taken from English. We all know sushi, as well as ninja and sayonara. The expats here have a bigger vocabulary. Gaijin, Roppongi, and some of us learned wasabi the hard way. But, there is one word we borrowed and, even though we butchered the pronunciation, this word could only have come from Japan. Correctly spelled, kamikaze.

Yeah, you know it. Those lunatic plane fighters who made extra sure they got their mission accomplished. And, even though the war is long over, the kamikaze spirit lives on. Well, maybe people aren't ready to sacrifice themselves for Uncle Obuchi, but they seem to have no problem risking limbs and children to slip into a closing Yamanote door. Of course, everyone knows the train runs every three minutes, but that's three minutes of pachinko time that could have been. However, the kamikaze spirit is found not only here.

Have you ever spent more on a movie ticket than it actually cost to make the movie? Then you've seen the kamikaze spirit. Who needs lines? In Japan, just jam everyone up as close to the doors as possible and then watch as the chaos unfolds. Dropped your umbrella? Forget it. Lost your wallet? You'll buy a new one. Forgot your kid? That'll teach her to run faster and elbow harder next time. It's of no concern to you, the fact that there are 500 seats for 700 tickets and, with the kamikaze spirit burning inside, you will get that seat.

Or, how about when it rains. Do they purposely make umbrellas with 14 razor sharp points at the end? No matter, this is another time to witness kamikaze spirit, especially in a short, friendly obaasan. Who needs two eyes, they say. You know, kamikaze, the Japanese word, actually means a divine wind. How that came to have any relation to an 85-year-old lady insanely wielding a weapon of mass destruction, well, that's why Japanese is so special.

There are other chances to witness the kamikaze spirit. How about the people sitting in the front row at a sumo match? Or anyone here with a motorcycle license? If only Americans had a word like this in everyday Japanese use. I guess we will have to settle with hamburger.

Many thanks to reader A.J. "Miyagi" Brustein for this Rant.

Metropolis Online
349: Life in the cycle lane
Playing chicken with a ladybike
348: Daisuki na Tokyo
Tokyo's my favorite!
347: Nihongo dake!
Why am I not fluent in Japanese yet?
346: People make the city
The beauty of Tokyo's people
345: Cross Training
Commuting by train in Tokyo
344: Yellow Line Fever
A guide for the blind... and a pain in the neck
343: Welcome to Tokyo
What did you bring me?
342: Positive thinking
Three reasons why we love Japan
341: I'm a rounder...
Veterans of Japan vs. Japan rookies
340: Discard your bank cards
The labour of replacing lost bank cards
339: Shoganai...
It can't be helped
338: Respect your environment
Poluution problem in Tokyo
337: Strike Three - You're Enlightened
How omiyage ruins a vacation
336: Missing manners
No manners outside of Japan
335: Goodbye jitensha
Is stealing bikes a popular pastime in Japan?
334: War of the Words
English borrows from other languages too!
333: ENGLISH ONLY, please
Don't bother writing your name in Japanese
332: A menu carved in stone
No special requests for lunch!
331: The Zen of Looking Busy
The art behind faking work
330: Lyrical Phlegm
Japan's spitting dilemma
329: Rock harder, Japan
Big, bad and ugly concerts
328: Noise Deficiency
The unrelenting quiet that is not Japan
327: Chopstick Diplomat
Constant questioning = constant answering
326: Game over
Cutting off the game for regular scheduled program
325: Grown pains
The hooligan behavior of middle-aged salarymen
324: The Price of Fame
Young teen actors light up on-screen
323: A Customary Affair
The universal language of consumerism
322: Robber barons
JR steals from the rich.. and the poor
321: Tegami Or Not Tegami
Deny the letter to save money
320: The Garbage Men
Variations of the "salaryman"
319: Holidaze
Japan - Home of the lamest holidays in the world
318: Box your ears
Be the karaoke star you've always dreamed of
317: The winter of my discontent
No oden if it's spring please!
316: The Bells
Going insane from bells and voices
315: The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery
No garbage cans + too much garbage= a clean city?
314: The Kamikaze Spirit
The war may be over but the spirit lives on
313: Movie Mania
Laughing alone in the corner
312: Geek parade
What's going on with gaijin men?
311: Gleaming gomi
Rinse it out before you throw it out
310: Lower Mathematics
Teaching practical mathematical equations
309: Escalator clots
Blocking the flow of escalator traffic
308: Sky's the limit
Favorite channel on the hit list
307: Bring on the studmuffins
Thanks to the "Men looking for women"
306: Burning Rubber
Narrowly averting bicycle collisions
305: Fishy Business
The sushi wasn't dead
304: The Invisible Gaijin
When gaijins collide
303: Talk work only
The Japanese perception of idleness
302: From kotatsu, with love
A blanket covered electric coffee table
300: Why 2K?
The millennium bug ain't no big deal

ISSUES 350-381
ISSUES 250-299

ISSUES 233-249