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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Let's Get Meishi

I was going to do another book review today, but when push came to shove I couldn't find the darn book. Oh well, another time, ne (eh)?

Since this is my last day of Christmas vacation (I tend to save my year's vacation until mid-December so I don't have to go out in the cold), and I won't have another bot of free time for nigh on 11 more months (that's depressing - Ugh!) - let's keep this fun and sorta short.

Presented here are my official meishi (business cards), purchased on my behalf by the kind folks at the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE).

As you can see from the meishi card at the very top of this article, initially there was a problem with how either the OBOE or the printer spelled my gaijin surname.

I'm guessing it was the printer, because not once prior or during my three-year stay stay on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme did I ever spot anything regarding my name messed up.

The view as shown above is the reverse of my meishi - the English only side. The obverse, seen below, was correct.

I should note that not only did my OBOE become very embarrassed and agitated by the printing error, one of my two bosses, Kanemaru-san, was immediately on the telephone to get it corrected.

Not only did we not have to go and pick up the revised business cards the next day, but they were actually delivered directly to my hand later that very same day. Now that's service.

I did run out of cards that first year, and had a different version made up - this time using a different image and different Japanese kanji. More on that below.

The card above is the meishi I designed myself for my second year at the OBOE. I used artwork from a miniature folding screen I had that was a copy of a famous and old screen painting of an ethereal dragon emerging from the clouds.

Here it is:

My name, by the way, Andrew transcribes into the phonetic katakana alphabet of Japan into "An-Do-Ryu", which if I was to transcribe into the Japanese kanji alphabet borrowed from China, it would translate to "Peaceful-Leader-Dragon". Ryu - NOT pronounced rhy-ew, but rather something you'll never figure out unless you late Japanese language lessons - means dragon.

Being born in the Year of the Dragon, made it even more fortuitous. Joseph (Jo-Se-Fu) translated into "Help-World-Walk). Peaceful leader dragon - Help world walk. Now that's a name with meaning, unlike Andrew, which just means 'masculine'... which as actually pretty good. I feel all tingly inside, but that might just be the hair on my chest.

I actually went through the kanji dictionary to pick out the kanji letters I wanted, as the middle letter do is actually pronounced as "dough" and is said stronger than the first letter of "an". I had become "an-DOH-ryu."

In my odyssey to become more Japanese, this homer became Simpson-ized.

There was NO English on this card - front or back - as by this time I had gone completely native.

I went old school (pun intended) with my third-year meishi, following the formula and image of my OBOE co-workers, just like the first-year card - only all of us used a larger graphic. It not only had rounded edges, but was printed on photographic paper. The green symbol of the O-shaped star is the symbol of Ohtawara, and is on their city flag. It IS on all of the meishi of mine, excluding the one I created myself with the dragon. 

The image is of a painting of the Ohtawara-shi hero Nasu Yoichi (surname first), the horseback-riding kyudo (Japanese archery) warrior. Needless to say, being a citizen (unofficial though I might be), I also practiced kyudo at the Ohtawara Kyudo Club every Wednesday evening, followed by a bicycle ride and takeout at the Mosburger fast-food joint a short distance away from my apartment.

For fun, here's the meishi of my good buddy Matthew Hall. Penis envy aside, the photographic image is of a tengu, a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folk religion and are also considered a type of Shinto god (kami) or yōkai (supernatural beings). The tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. The earliest tengu were pictured with beaks, but this feature has often been humanized as an unnaturally long nose, which today is widely considered the tengu's defining characteristic in the popular imagination. The tengu can apparently shrink or enlarge a person's nose.

So that's what happened to me!

Matthew also had a couple of other nice cards - also with photographic images of the area in which he taught, Yuzakami-mura, including a lovely river (gawa/kawa)scene:

And what on initial sight looks like a small copse of trees, but is in reality a samurai burial mound for multiple warriors killed in a battle.  

I also note that Matthew didn't get to have a city symbol on his cards... poor guy... he lived in Ohtawara-shi, but worked in the outskirts of it. There's a joke there, but I'll leave it alone, suffice to say it involved skirt-chasing.

Andrew Joseph

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