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Thread: February Contest

  1. #1
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    Default February Contest

    Short month; short contest.

    February’s challenge: define onagare as it applies to both a) sake and b) the shinen-kai, bonen-kai, and all the kai-yippee-kai-yo-kai-yeah-kai that permeate apres-geiko in the dojo (and other Japanese-type social groups).

    Bonus points for explaining shaku as it applies to the same events.

    First prize is a set of the handsomely leather bound collection, the “Wit & Wisdom of Popie” (Vol. 1-64).

    Cordially,
    Dave Lowry

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    I'm surprised that it is already March and no one has yet tried to answer this. Perhaps the practice of sake-drinking in the martial arts is dying out.

    As far as I understand it, onagare Œä—¬‚ê (the first character is an honorific) is to receive and drink sake in a cup given by one's master or superior; secondly, at a bonenkai / shinenkai / wedding banquet (especially?) , as a sign of respect to receive and drink sake in a cup given by someone else

    Shaku ŽÞ: is to do the operation from the other side, so to speak. It means to pour sake into a cup (always for someone else), or to drink the sake (in one's own cup) so poured. By extension a shakufu (ŽÞ•w) is a lady who professionally pours sake, and a shakunin (usually a baishakunin?@”}ŽÞ?l) is a go-between or matchmaker in a marriage.

    Is this OK, or am I disqualified because I live here and do this fairly often?

    Best regards to all,
    _______________
    P A Goldsbury,
    Graduate School of Social Sciences,
    Hiroshima University

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    Dear Mr. Goldsbury,
    Congratlations. You are essentially correct and win the prize here. I was hoping someone might address one salient point about onagare that's sort of interesting, though. We'll let this go for a week or so, if you don't mind, to see if anyone has any further comments.

    Cordially,
    Dave Lowry

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    Never developed a taste for Nihonshu and although I learned how to pour other's drinks and allow mine to be poured by others, I never bothered to learn the terminology.

    Guess I need to start drinking more heavily.
    Earl Hartman

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    Earl

    What do you mean "start"?

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    Neil:

    I said MORE heavily. Jeez. Read a little more carefully, OK?
    Earl Hartman

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    One thing that was not perhaps so clear from my previous post is that Œä—¬‚ê implies one cup only, that of one's master or superior: both master and student drink from the same cup. (Thus it is different from two people drinking sake from each other's cups as a pledge of allegiance, sometimes seen in gangster films.) ŽÞ does not have this implication: it simply means to pour sake for someone else, or to drink the sake someone else has poured.

    Regards,
    ______________
    P A Goldsbury,
    Graduate School of Social Sciences,
    Hiroshima University

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    Okay, as Mr. Goldsbury correctly explained, onagare is the sharing of a single sake cup between a junior and senior. To clarify, however, onagare, the “honourable flowing down,” is a specific ritual at a party, celebration, or social gathering. When a senior has drunk some or most of the sake in his cup, the junior asks if he might “do onagare.” What he’s asking is to drink the remainder of the sake in the senior’s cup, showing a willingness to be that close to the senior, that he'll drink the senior's leftovers. The senior, instead of actually giving the cup with sake still in it to the junior, empties the cup into a bowl or some other container, and refills it before passing it on. So it’s a symbolic act that reinforces the cohesiveness of the unit (business, ryu, whatever) as well as the relationship between the junior and senior.
    I’ve seen onagare in rural Japan; readers living in or having long experience with Tokyo would be suited to tell us if it still goes on in the big city.

    Cordially,
    Dave Lowry

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    I don't know about anyone else, but it still happens at the bonenkai I go to anyway.
    Earl Hartman

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    Since my last post I have had some lengthy conversations with Japanese friends and colleagues, including (most recently) talks with some professors from Kitakyushu City University.

    A very clear consensus emerged that (1) the phrase is ‚¨—¬‚ê?i‚¨Šè‚¢?j’¸‘Õ’v‚µ‚Ü‚·, that (2) the phrase is rarely used outside gangster (yakuza) circles, and that (3) it would be more usual for the oyabun to drink the sake in the cup before refilling and handing it to the kobun to drink.

    Thus, you might gather that I believe the custom to be less extensive that might be understood from Mr Lowry's explanation.

    Best Regards,
    ______________
    P A Goldsbury,
    Graduate School of Social Sciences,
    Hiroshima University

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    Dear Mr. Goldsbury,
    I reflexively defer to the knowledge and experience of those living and working in Japan on these matters, for good reason. However, I would suggest too much can and often is invested in the revelations of real, honest-to-goodness Japanese who speak, however well meaning, for an entire civilisation. The myth of “Nihonjin-ron” aside, I have too many times gotten utterly contradictory information from different sources, both insisting they are utterly correct. (I’ve got a lot of experience with this. Was at dinner last night with five older Issei, including a high-ranking ikebana sensei, and a grandson of one of Japan’s Meiji-era’s Ministers of Finance, all well-educated gourmets, passionate about Japanese food. What’s the derivation of the word “oshinko” I needed to know for an article I’m writing and took the opportunity to ask them. Came from this, one said. You’re quite full of crap, replied another; it came from that. And so it went.)
    Even more misleading can be knowledge imparted as universally “Japanese” by one narrow cohort of the population. Your consultation on onagare with colleagues and students and faculty at a university there might be a good example.

    I just saw a few moments of a programme on MTV, devoted to a competition of collegiate scholars on spring sabbatical leave from their readings, in Cancun. They were exhibiting themselves in swimming suits composed wholly of shaving cream, gaining points, apparently, for the most strategic use of the least amount of cream, though not, to my disappointment in the instance of some of the coeds, in the celerity with which that cream dissolved. At any rate, suppose you inserted yourself among those participants and posed this question: do we, following the conventions of etiquette, tip the soup spoon away from us while eating, or toward us? I’m not convinced we’d get a definitive answer to that question in that crowd. That is hardly to conclude there is no answer nor, more to my point, that there aren’t college students out there who do know the answer. The Cancun ‘n’ cream sampling is just too limited.

    In the case of onagare, I have been in the company of groups decidedly un-yakuza-ish, who engaged in it as I described it. Dojo in Nara. Nagamochi-kai in Nagano, three of them, in fact, during a big festival there. I do not for a moment doubt your conclusions that yakuza engage in this custom. But first-hand experience and descriptions I’ve gotten from too many other Japanese lead me to suspect your sampling might have been a tad bit too thin to support large conclusions. The same might be said for urban Japanese who speak for rural doings or vice versa.

    To other readers I hasten to add that, as I began, it’s a very good idea to give considerable weight to the findings and conclusions of those, like Mr. Goldsbury who are there and who have available enormous resources. Their immediate experience and exposure are invaluable to anyone wanting to learn about Japan or the Japanese.

    Cordially,
    Dave Lowry

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    Whether or not Mr. Lowry is correct, I'd like to thank him for giving us another fine example of his wit and accomplished prose. That last missive had me holding my stomach in pain not entirely derived from nagewaza last night...

    I'm not one to even have an inkling of who's right or wrong in this debate. But please keep debating if it will keep Mr. Lowry posting! We don't see enough of him!

    (I don't mean to slight Mr. Goldsbury... But Mr. Lowry *is* a professional writer, and any chance I can get to read more of his writing is a chance I can't pass up.)
    James A. Crippen

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    Mr Lowry,

    Of course, I fully agree with your comments.

    I think everyone who makes comments in this thread does so on the basis of lived experience, and this would also include native speakers of Japanese. I suppose the question would be, what makes a sample random enough, or representative enough, to be a good sample.

    The only advantage I can perhaps claim is to have immediate access to a large pool of native speakers, many of whom think carefully about the language they speak and are familiar with its history.

    But, of course this is still the realm of inductive logic...

    Yours sincerely,
    ______________
    P A Goldsbury,
    Graduate School of Social Sciences,
    Hiroshima University

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