|RANT 'N' RAVE
The Kamikaze Spirit
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
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
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
Many thanks to reader A.J. "Miyagi" Brustein for this Rant.