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Kamikaze Course on Self Defense Japanese

Article about: Kamikaze Course on Self Defense Japanese What’s a Kamikaze course? I don’t know either, a new word for “crash course” maybe? It is just my discovery that when I use that word everyone reads

  1. #1

    Default Kamikaze Course on Self Defense Japanese

    Kamikaze Course on Self Defense Japanese

    What’s a Kamikaze course? I don’t know either, a new word for “crash course” maybe? It is just my discovery that when I use that word everyone reads the thread as if some divine wind is blowing their attention my way. And when I don’t need that attention, the magic word is “shelter half”.
    Anyway, in another thread about the Kamikaze headband, I demonstrated how a modern $1 tourist souvenir got enshrined in this forum as a war-time item (not as sexy as a pilot’s headband, but still as a genuine factory worker’s headband.). That won’t lead to a very promising collecting future unless you want to specialize in tourist trinkets, so you need to learn a few basic things about the Japanese language.

    Rap and pre-45 Japanese don’t mix

    First of all, many collectors who don’t know Japanese tend to emit a sigh of relief, when they show their new purchase to some Japanese college kid and the kid can easily translate it. At least it has passed the acid test and is legitimate Japanese and not the North American language developed by militaria dealers called Janapese or fake gibberish. But you need to realize that, if a Japanese youth can read it smoothly, it is probably modern day Japanese and not pre-45 Japanese. A modern day youth that listens to rap should normally stare at the object, pondering how embarrassed he should be about not being able to read his own language.

    Like reading backwards with a good sprinkling of Cyrillic.

    Imagine reading everything backwards in English also with every 5th or 6th word written in Russian Cyrillic. That is approximately what you are asking the Japanese kid to do. If he reads it fluently he should forget rap and become a cryptographer instead.

    Japanese is originally written vertically, starting from the top right of the page, each new line shifting to the left. Thus a Japanese book starts at what is the back cover for English or German books. There is no problem with that, as it’s always been that way, even now. But from the end of the 18th century, as the Dutch language became the interface language with the outside world, the Japanese also started to write sideways as well. Particularly with dictionaries, unless the Japanese was also written sideways, you always had to rotate the page 90 degrees to read the Dutch word. Also for scientific papers and some technical items people started to write left to right chiefly, because of the need to incorporate mathematical equations or foreign words. Because of this, some technical items like data plates for planes or machines were written left to right even during war time.

    However, otherwise, even when writing sideways, the Japanese hung onto their habit of starting from the upper right corner and wrote right to left, when the space allotted could not accommodate vertical writing. This was the case for the Yosegaki flags, where the unwritten rule was not to desecrate the sun by writing in the meatball. So the space above and below the orb needed writing sideways from right to left ( there were yosegaki examples with writing in the meatball, but those were iconoclastic gestures, an exception that the fakers know US collectors like, if you know what I mean).

    The Kamikaze headband might be read initially as “Kazekami” by today’s youngsters, as is the current way of reading also represented by modern versions of the head band shown below, but he will figure it out quickly, because even they know about the pilots.
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    The Sprinkling of the Cyrillic part

    Modern Japan, besides writing left to right simplified many of the Chinese characters called Kanji, because being literate in Japan requires you to read and write approx. 5000 Kanji for reading newspapers, etc. There are many, many more actually, but they drew a line for how many you need to know to live a normal life. But still learning Kanji is a stress for kids and also the occupation forces were applying a lot of pressure to have Japan drop kanji completely and switch to alphabet, so in post war Japan, they simplified many characters by reducing the number of strokes. Here is a complete comparison list of pre-45 and post war Kanji. ??????? ?????????????????????????????? - ?????/????? The orange highlighted row on top is the post war version and the yellow green the pre-45. Some are close enough, but others will baffle the Japanese youngster. I need to be familiar with most of this to be able to read documents as far back as from 130 years ago, but for the youth of today this is virgin territory. They don’t get taught this.

    So you have to check whether the Kanji is correctly written in the pre-45 style. This may sound a daunting thing to do, but if you only collect militaria you only need to know 4 or so to tell old from new, which is the list I show below.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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    The first word is country and it is almost impossible to write patriotic blah blah without this word like “Seven lives for the nation, etc”.
    The second is cherry, the symbol of the ephemeral Japanese Weltanschauung of life. Third is the “Ren” from Rentai, meaning regiment and the last one is Dan from Shidan (Division) or Kaiheidan (Seaman’s School). If you find Dan in a flag, chances are that it is a navy member’s flag, commemorating joining the Kaiheidan. Regiments and Divisions you won’t find mentioned in a flag, because that was prohibited for security reasons, so Dan in a flag is mostly navy unless people from the Keiboudan (Civil Defense Group) are signing.

    Yamamoto or Motoyama?

    An added complication is that around 1940 there was a move to switch Japanese to left to right writing, which even the army supported and a bill was actually proposed in 1942 to make this change, but this was criticized by the public as being unpatriotic and officially it remained right to left when writing sideways. So there is a slight chance that the helmet you have might have the family name of such a proponent or scientist on it. Most Japanese family names can be read backwards and still be a name for another family. So when you see Yama and Moto written left to right, normally you should read it as Motoyama, but if you know about this right - left meandering they had at the time, you might become paranoid and think he might have been a progressive type and actually meant Yamamoto. But remember that you are writing your name in a helmet in the hope that it will get returned to you in case it got lost. If a scientist named Yamamoto wrote his name in the order I just did, he certainly did not have enough brains to be in that profession, as the social norm of the time required the finder to return it to a Motoyama instead. If you wanted to avoid confusion you should write it vertically.

    The futility of reading names

    Family names are generally not a problem, but first names written in Kanji can be read in more ways than one most of the time and they can all be legitimate first names. This happens because every Chinese character used in Japan has a minimum of two ways of reading it, the Chinese style pronunciation and the Japanese reading. Japanese and Chinese are totally different languages, but when the Japanese borrowed Chinese characters to write with, they linked it to existing Japanese words that expressed the same concept, but with a totally different sound than the Chinese version of the word. The Japanese retained both pronunciations and variants. So how do you know which reading of the name is correct? The simple answer is you don’t know; only he himself or his family knows.

    So collectors often want to have a Japanese name read “for the sake of research”, but I generally ignore such requests, because we are forced to play a game of probability when we read a first name and spell it out in alphabet. If you just stick to the original Chinese characters of the name you can research him, because the kanji combination is fairly unique unless you have a ultra common name like Ichiro Suzuki but once it’s anglicized, because of the many kanji that have the same reading you can never trace your way back to the original characters. Without the original characters you can never research the person, because the unique link to the person’s identity had been lost just because the collector wanted a name to pronounce. Chances are that the reading was even wrong and you took a big step backwards rather than forwards in the name of research.

    In Japan, when you write your name and address in something you must also provide the reading using katakana, which are phonetic characters, so you write them all twice which is a drag, but that is the price of not having invented our own characters and borrowing it from the Chinese. And if I introduce myself verbally, I need to say “Komiya, written as Little Shrine”, as otherwise they cannot write my name in Kanji.

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    Nick, I Love You!

    Can someone imbed this gif as my appreciation for what Nick has just accomplished?


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    Thanks, Guy.
    I was watching a rerun of a documentary on Japanese swords the other day on German TV. I think the original was a US History Channel show called "Raiders of the Lost Past". It described how the Tokugawa family who were formerly Shogun had to surrender there national treasure swords to the police station in Mejiro for submission to the occupation forces. Many that were found to be national treasure grade material eventually got returned to the owners, but one treasure is still missing. The log book of the Mejiro police had recorded the name of the American Sergeant who picked up the swords as a Cody Bimore or something similar, as the Japanese police officer just wrote down in Katakana what he thought he heard was the name. Ever since numerous attempts had been made to locate the national treasure, but US rosters show no such name, so they could never find the Sergeant and the treasure remains lost. This is what happens when you convert a Japanese name into alphabet or vice versa, so much gets lost in translation.
    I always felt sorry how Guy had to show all the possible permutations of how a first name could be read and thought it would be handy to be able to give a link to a sensible explanation once and for all.
    Last edited by nick komiya; 11-17-2015 at 09:56 PM.

  6. #6


    Quote by nick komiya View Post

    ...I always felt sorry how Guy had to show all the possible permutations of how a first name could be read and thought it would be handy to be able to give a link to a sensible explanation once and for all.

    m(_ _)m


    p.s.: For those who do not "read" Japanese emoji, I just formally bowed in gratitude: 最敬礼 saikeirei [NOT 土下座 Dogeza].

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    Amazing , thanks for the lesson Nick .

    We are the Pilgrims , master, we shall go
    Always a little further : it may be
    Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
    Across that angry or that glimmering sea...

  8. #8
    MAP is offline


    Great thread Nick. My wife is Chinese and I often ask her to try and 'translate' kanji for me. Her typical reply is that it's not that simple...your explanation clears up what she has been trying to tell me for the last 18 years
    My greatest fear is that one day I will die and my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them

    "Don't tell me these are investments if you never intend to sell anything" (Quote: Wife)

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    Speaking as someone who admittedly doesn't know the first thing about the Japanese language or Japanese militaria, I must say that this was a highly interesting read. Many thanks!

    (And yes, that thread title is indeed a perfect attention grabber. It sure worked for me!)

  10. #10


    I started to reread Eternal Zero and was surprised to realize that exactly what I explained here was described in that novel as well. A modern day 26-year old youth sets out to learn about his grandfather that died as a Kamikaze pilot. He writes to vet groups to ask whether anyone knew his grandfather and he gets several replies, but the first problem is that he cannot read what they are saying. He is especially baffled by the old character for regiment, which he couldn't read at all. Although I had read the book twice already, I didn't remember this episode. So the book is highly recommended in more ways than one.

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