It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘u’ (う), and focussed on the phrase うまい (umai), meaning ‘delicious’ or ‘good at’. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘e’ (え). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:
Jay Dee suggested ‘ee’ (ええ！), meaning ‘what?!’; and ‘ecchi’ (えっち), meaning ‘perverted’; Japan Australia suggested ‘eeddone’ (ええっとねー), which is one of the many ways to say ‘um’ or ‘er’; ‘erai’ (えらい), meaning ‘great’, ‘superior’, ‘admirable’; and ‘erokakkoii’ (エロかっこいい), which means ‘cool and sexy’; and lovelycomplex22 suggested ‘enryosuru’ (遠慮する / えんりょする), which means ‘to behave with modesty’, or ‘to be reserved’.
(ee ja nai ka)
ええじゃないか (ee ja nai ka) is a phrase I first came across in a historical novel (I forget which one), when some characters were running about the streets in colourful clothing shouting it. The phrase translates as ‘what the hell!’, ‘who cares?’, or ‘why not?’.
‘Ee ja nai ka’ became the name of the movement in which social/political protests and dancing demonstrations occurred between June 1867 and May 1868, at the end of the Edo period (江戸時代) and the start of the Meiji Restoration (明治維新). The phrase was a popular refrain in the songs sung during these events. The movement began in the Kansai region in the form of dancing festivals, and it is said that sacred amulets fell from the skies during these wild parties (the falling of the amulets was known as ‘ofudafuri’ – ‘ofuda’ means ‘amulet’ or ‘lucky charm’). People gave thanks for these mystical gifts, and the lively celebrations continued. They abandoned their everyday lives and danced about the streets with no cares at all, drinking and singing, and leaving their worries behind them. Apparently there was also cross-dressing, and some people took to the streets with no clothes on at all! (There is no evidence that amulets actually fell from the sky, and many people believe the ‘ofuda’ simply symbolised the chaotic state of Japan in 1867. It is also possible that it was just a kind of mass hysteria.)
This all happened at a time when the Tokugawa shogunate (徳川幕府) was crumbling and great changes were coming to Japan. I don’t know enough about Japanese history to fully make the connection between these rebellious ‘ee ja nai ka’ events and the politics of the time, but it seems like people were celebrating the change and potential freedom that came with the start of the Meiji restoration. The Meiji restoration accelerated industrialisation in Japan and saw the country’s ports open to foreign trade.
The ‘ee ja nai ka’ movement spread across Japan and turned into mob violence before coming to an end as the Meiji Restoration began in 1868.
Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘o’ (お), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘ooki’ (おおき) meaning ‘large’ would be acceptable, but ‘Osaka’ (大阪), the place, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v