Sunday, August 19, 2012

Where Did Binta Come From? ビンタはどこから来ましたか?

As I am sure I have stated many times before, I love watching Japanese comedy shows, in particular, ガキの使いやあらへんで.  Japanese comedy is very old school in that there is still a lot of focus on physical, slapstick style routines.  In essence, this means everyone is hitting each other all the time.  Just like the Three Stooges, when someone does something stupid, he is punished with a smack on the head or a slap in the face.  It might seem juvenile or too old fashioned to most youth in America today, but I still think it's hilarious.  I guess that makes me juvenile and old fashioned. :)

Now, one of the more potent tools in the comedian's tool box is the "binta" slap, or in its native Japanese katakana, ビンタ.  Please see the example video below.

This video is a clip from the annual ガキの使い New Year's Special in which the cast of the show must endure 24 hours of not being able to laugh or else be punished.  In this particular scene, which has gone on to become one of their best running gags, the very large and imposing former professional wrestler Chono (蝶野) is slighted in some manner, and Yamazaki gets blamed for it.    Chono's favorite weapon of choice is the binta, which comes around 2:34.  To date, Yamazaki has had to endure a binta from Chono every year for about 5 years now.

I've seen these specials countless times and have witnessed more bintas than I can remember, but it was today when I first wondered where the term "binta" actually came from.

蝶野さん, executing his ビンタ on some poor soul.

You see, the word ビンタ is in katakana, which is the Japanese syllabary used primarily for foreign words like hamburger (ハンバーガー) and Television (テレビ).  So which language did Binta come from?  I did some research and couldn't find the word binta or any variation of it in any other language.  Curious.

I delved deeper and discovered that I couldn't find it because it actually is a Japanese word, albeit a bit of a misnomer.  Bin (鬢) is the Japanese word for "sideburn", as in the hair on the side of the face.  When a hand ("te" or 手) is applied to the side of the face, it becomes 鬢手, or "Binte".  Over the years, and through some mix up with regional dialects and pronunciations, it became Binta, and since technically "binta" is not a Japanese word, but rather a bastardization of one, it was relegated to katakana status.

This dude is totally getting slapped in the sideburns.

So, another mystery solved.  I'm so glad I finally figured out where the word for "slap" in Japanese comes from.  But then, where does the word "slap" come from?  Oh man, I've got some more research to do...


(By the way, something got messed up with my imageshack file of my hanko, so it won't be appearing here for a while.  Try not to riot in the streets.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Monterey Bay Aquarium Photo!

A few weeks ago, much to my surprise,  I was contacted at work by someone from The Monterey Bay Aquarium about getting permission for using a photograph I took of Japanese aquarium 'Aquamarine Fukushima' which I subsequently posted on this blog.  I of course gave my permission and my contact informed me that photos would be taken for me to see my work on display.  Here are those photos. I'm so famous now, it's not even funny.

You can read about the exhibit in the pics below but here's the gist.  Aquamarine Fukushima is a "sister aquarium" to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so naturally they were concerned in 2011 when a huge tsunami came and devastated the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region of Japan, right where Aquamarine Fukushima was located.  Long story short, many of the animals were lost and much of the structure was damaged, but it is finally back up and running again and this is Monterey Bay's way of celebrating.  Enjoy!

Some Japanese flags. I believe we are headed in the right direction...
Getting closer to the main event...
That's my photograph!
That's my name!

I'm really excited to see something I created on display for people to enjoy, but I'm even more happy for the fact that I (in a very small way) helped show people a wonderful side of Japan that doesn't normally make it into the travel shows, which is really the whole purpose of this blog; to show people why I love Japan so much and why it is so great.  Thanks for reading!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Big Surprise!

Big Surprise! Watch Below.

Just kidding.  Sorry, but something awesome is coming next month, trust me.  In the mean time, I'll be posting other things as normal.  Later!


Want to know what Tokyo looks like?

I was doing some research today on my big upcoming project when I stumbled upon this pretty cool video.

This is a video of the 2012 Tokyo Marathon course, held in February, and I'm assuming whoever took this video was driving a car.  Otherwise the runner not only won the race, but was very tall and ran very smoothly indeed.

Anyway, it's a cool video of some of Tokyo's streets and neighborhoods.  If you've never been, it's a pretty interesting peek behind the curtain as to how the city is laid out, sort of. 

Also, does the music remind anyone else of Mario Kart?

If you're interested in the Tokyo Marathon, go to their English website here.  If you were hoping to compete, sorry to have to tell you, but all of the spots are already full.  With a maximum amount of 35,500 I'm sure it didn't take long.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Ukiyo-e Heroes

For those of you who are into Japanese woodblock prints, video games, some mixture of these two things or really anything, check out this guy's work.
Credit: Jed Henry

Jed's Kickstarter Page.

If you haven't heard of Kickstarter, it's a fundraising website so people can get creative projects started and out to market.  By backing projects, you are essentially pre-ordering an item from someone, and they use that money to get the thing going from the ground up.

In this particular instance this illustrator, Jed Henry, has designed some fantastic video game inspired wood block prints and an associate of his, a master woodblock carver, is using those designs to make some great traditional Japanese artwork.

You can see more of his work at his blog here.

If you've got some extra cash and want some very unique art for your home, please check out Jed's Kickstarter page.  Thanks!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Big Things in the Works

I've got some plans for new projects and activities in the works and yes, they involve each and everyone one of you readers.  I've been very busy as of late trying to get everything in order and things are a bit of a mess right now.

I should be able to reveal all the new changes coming to the site sometime next month so please stay tuned.  I'm so excited!

See, don't I look excited?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Okinawa The Final: Shuri Castle

Here is my final installment of stories from my week in Okinawa as a 21-year-old.  Unfortunately (for you, not for me) nothing embarrassing or traumatizing happened to me on this venture, everything went according to what I had planned and I successfully saw and documented the site I intended to.  It was my last full day in Okinawa, and I saved it for one of, if not the, coolest things in Okinawa, Shuri Castle.

Thankfully it was located a mere 1.2 miles from my hotel so it was within walking distance.  Ordinarily, this would not be the case, but the past week had given me my "Okinawa Legs" and walking was not big deal at all by this point.  It was mostly uphill though and I was definitely feeling the elevation difference by the time I got there.

The exact date of construction is a bit of a mystery, but estimates put it at sometime in the 14th Century.  It was the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the seat of power and trade.  Parts of the castle had been burned or destroyed over the years, but it was almost completely destroyed in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa.  The main structure was rebuilt as it was originally so, if you go there, be impressed by its history but remember that it's only about 20 years old. :(

Please enjoy these pictures I took while at Shuri Castle.  It afforded great views of the city and you see see for miles and miles from the top of the hill.  For my money, it's the best view in Okinawa.

An old illustrated map of the castle grounds.

Some steps up to even higher elevations.

A well and a fountain.

A view of Naha from one side of the castle complex.

Some of the walls and defenses.

A sundial. 

The best view of Naha.

A swarm of tourists, descending on the main square of the castle grounds.

After the tourists had moved on.

After taking this picture, I dropped my camera and the flash broke. :(

A scale model of what the area around the castle used to look like.
After seeing the castle, I did a little more shopping around Naha and finally called it a day.  The next morning, I hopped on the monorail for the final time and took a plane to Haneda airport, where I would spend another week, but this time, in the big city: Tokyo. 

Some cool leaded glass murals at the Naha Airport.