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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

犬猿の仲: Part Two (There are 3 Kinds of People, and They All Have Cuckoos)

For anyone who's learning a foreign language, and who's doing so by immersion, you know that the route to learning is by no means a straight-forward one. You learn by meandering down long, weird side roads, and what you started looking for is not necessarily what you get. With that in mind, please forgive me a lengthy post. I hope that, like me, you find it full of interesting information, must-know phrases, and, as always, impress-your-friends-and-family trivia.

So, remember when we looked at the phrase 犬猿の仲?At the time, I couldn't find any explanations that rang true enough to satisfy me (nor have I yet; this post will not provide that satisfaction). Why are dogs and monkeys so hostile towards each other? Despite having already posted it up on the site, I kept bringing it up to Japanese people: kokugo-senseis, eikawa-students, taxi drivers, anyone who might know something. And one guy (a taxi driver) told me that he heard that the phrase originated from the rivalry between two important figures in Japanese history: Akechi Mitsuhide and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. According to the taxi driver, Akechi's nickname was 犬 and Hideyoshi's was サル; according to others, 犬猿の仲 predates these two in history, and they were nicknamed BECAUSE of the phrase.

Akechi Mitsuhide is famous for being 三日天下: the three day king. While this qualifies as a yo-ji-juku-go, it's not really used except to refer to him. He was a general under Oda Nobunaga, but because of various political intrigues that involved the murder of Mitsuhide's mother, Mitsuhide betrayed Nobunaga, forcing him to commit seppuku at Honno-ji in 1582.

Oda Nobunaga had been a very famous daimyo, leading campaign after campaign until he had conquered and unified over one third of Japan. He inspired fierce loyalty in many of his followers, namely the aforementioned Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu (yes, THE Tokugawa), who raced to avenge Nobunaga's death. Toyotomi was the one to defeat Akechi at the Battle of Yamazaki. Akechi had retained military power for only three days.

Toyotomi went on to unify the rest of Japan, but upon his death the nation split into warring factions once more.

Japan only finally unified after Tokugawa Ieyasu won the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, was declared shogun by Emperor Go-Yozei in 1603, and established the Tokugawa shogunate, which essentially ruled Japan for 250 years.

If you're reading this blog, it's safe to assume that you have some interest in things Japanese, and therefore probably knew most of that, or at least have heard the names. What was new to me was the fact that Japanese people have a system of classifying personalities based on these figures. I was told that this is the kind of thing that Japanese learners "really should know."

According to the system, everyone is one of 3 types of people: Oda type, Toyotomi type, or Tokugawa type. You can tell which one you are by how you would relate to birds, specifically, the cuckoo, or ホトトギス.

Oda Type: 鳴くぬなら、殺してしまう.
If the cuckoo doesn't sing, let's kill it.

Toyotomi Type: 鳴くぬなら、鳴かせてみよう。
If the cuckoo doesn't sing, let's MAKE it sing.

Tokugawa Type: 鳴くぬなら、鳴くまで待とう。
If the cuckoo doesn't sing, let's wait until it does.

So the Oda type is brash and aggressive, and acts hastily. It's important to note that the Toyotomi type is not seen as forceful or demanding, but rather as someone who takes on challenges, a problem solver. And the Tokugawa type is patient. Which one are you? If you've made it all the way through this post, you just might be the Tokugawa type...

Post script: 鳴くなら、is the way the phrase is said. It's means the same as 鳴かないなら, it's just an archaic form. Don't use it to grammar anything else. Yes, I just used 'grammar' as a verb.

2 comments:

BilabialBoxing said...

Fascinating!

Grammarするぬでください!

clayton said...

Don't grammar grammar?

I'll grammar you!