Monday Puzzle – Presidents – Answer – Updated

As many readers correctly answered, no U.S. President has ever visited Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I read an interesting article on how President Ford was advised by an aide to make a visit to Hiroshima and give a speech on peace and healing; it’s clear that the Cold War mindset prevailed. It’s stunning to me that no president has made the visit yet. No matter what your politics are, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki are incredible cities and deserve the respect and closure of a presidential visit. I choose to blame Ford for passing the buck and setting a precedent of putting the whole thing off. When a president finally does visit, it’s going to raise an awful stink, especially given the right wing reaction to a simple (awkwardly executed) bow.

(On a side note, Che Guevara famously stole away from his Osaka hotel in the middle of the night so that he could see Hiroshima.)

A couple of readers also noted (update) INCORRECTLY (update) that no presidents have visited Okinawa, and one guessed (correctly I think) that they haven’t visited Taiwan.

The winner this week by random number draw is George. Congrats. Claim your beer when you will.

The puzzle is going on break for the rest of the year. Feel free to send in any puzzle suggestions. If I use your idea, I’ll cite you and link your page.

In the comments, Durf corrects the mistake I made. I have no excuse for Clinton; I searched through the State Department lists but somehow failed to notice that the G8 Summit was held in Okinawa. Ike was news to me. Apparently he had planned a visit to Japan that was cancelled, but still made a one day visit to Okinawa 1960. He doesn’t go down as the first president to visit Japan because the US hadn’t yet returned the island to Japan. Here’s a link to the speech he gave upon arrival, and an interesting policy statement he made with Prime Minister Kishi three years earlier.


Well, it’s Election Day back in the States, so I thought we’d look at party names in translation.

The Republican Party – 共和党 (きょうわとう)

Unsure here, but this looks like a direct translation. 共和 is also used in a lot of country names, such as the Republic of Afghanistan (アフガニスタン共和国) and the Republic of Guatemala (グアテマラ共和国). Exciting.

Break it down by kanji and you get the “together-peace party.” Hmm…suspect.

The Democratic Party – 民主党 (みんしゅとう)

Here we have another direct translation. 民主主義 (みんしゅしゅぎ) is democracy, the theory, and looking on ALC for 民主 delivers a horde of political discourse.

Breaking it down by kanji gives us the “people’s-sovereignty party.” (Yes, the 主 is for 主権, sovereignty.) Hmm…suspect.

Honestly, party names themselves have so little meaning, that direct translation is the only way to go. We are so divorced from the moment when they actually meant something that they only seem like rusty, old institutions, starting to creak with age beneath the weight of generations.

Discourse, my friends, is a lie in any language.

Cool Compound – 発散

Television is a fantastic way to learn Japanese. My first year on JET, I spent two to three hours watching TV almost every evening and felt palpable improvement in my listening comprehension, which eventually spread to my speaking ability. I found a number of shows (mostly comedy) that I enjoyed and forced myself to watch the news twice a day.

The important thing is to channel surf and find something you enjoy watching.

My favorite show is Mecha-Mecha Iketeru! (めちゃ×2イケてるッ!). It’s a variety show led by the manzai combo of Takashi Okamura and Hiroyuki Yabe.

Here’s a clip where I learned a really cool compound. Listen for why Prime Minister Yabe likes to go out drinking (Excuse the poor subtitling. I did it a year ago for the Comedy portion of a Japanese pop culture presentation at JET Fukushima Orientation, and at the time I had little experience with iMovie.):

The phrase in question is 「ご発散(はっさん)みたいな感じ(かんじ)」, which is literally “A feeling like 発散.” 発散 means release, exude, vent, diffuse, exhale, et cetera. So a better translation is “Feels like blowing off some steam” or maybe “Feels nice to blow off some steam.” I took liberties to get it closer to something spoken and ended up with, “Blow off a little steam, ya know.”

I think a good usage of this term would be 発散として. So you could 発散として〜する。Do X to blow off a little steam. (The variable X, not the drug X, although I imagine that would exude all the steam you would ever want to exude.)

I also want to write a little about the bit itself, which is called 「矢部浩之の私が総理大臣になったら...秘書岡村」(Hiroyuki Yabe’s – If I Became Prime Minister… and Okamura Was My Secretary). Prime Minister Abe didn’t last very long, which is unfortunate because I really enjoyed this sketch. It was mainly a play on the similarity between names Yabe and Abe (Yabe even looks a little like Abe), but it is notable as one of the few political satires on Japanese TV.

It mocks:

– The way they put out a special edition of the newspaper (号外, “outside” the issue count) when a new Prime Minister is chosen.

そのまんま東 (Sonomanma Higashi), the comedian who was elected governor of Miyazaki Prefecture. The newspaper reads そのまんまバカ, referring to Yabe, of course.

– The way the newly inaugurated Prime Minister stands with his cabinet on the steps of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in matching suits and is assaulted by thirty minutes of camera flashes.

– The way Japanese Prime Ministers give press conferences.

– A variety of political hot topics. (Which in this case is 事務所費問題, じむしょひもんだい, the misuse of business administration fees.)

It also makes fun of Abe himself. He was infamous for using 外来語 (がいらいご, words of foreign origin) and, I think, long, complex Japanese phrases. The skit suggests that he might have been throwing out these words to impress without understanding their meaning. In this episode, he hears 事務所費問題 and thinks only of 事務所, administrative office. He starts talking about his own (Yabe’s own) offices at Yoshimoto Kogyo (吉本興業 is a Japanese media conglomerate that hires and manages a lot of Japanese comedians), gets sidetracked, and just rambles about a time when he went drinking.

Mecha-ike performed this skit eight times total over five different shows. Each ends with Yabe improvising (judging by Kato and Mitsuura’s laughter, which seems genuine) a way of saying “I have no idea.” In this episode he says 「アイドンノーやね」.

(In other episodes they have him answer the question but stupidly, the way a parody of Bush would. The topic in one of the episodes was 美しい国創り, one of PM Abe’s catch phrases, and when asked what that meant, Yabe replied, “Hakone is beautiful, right? Let’s make it all like Hakone.”)

Mecha-ike has one other sketch that is somewhat satirical. They dress up as police officers and pretend to arrest celebrities for stupid reasons, making fun of the ineptitude of the Japanese police.

ONTV JAPAN is a great website to find out what’s on TV.