Monday, March 31 2008

…and three weeks later, we celebrate my other birthday

When I was reading the star-crossed-puppy-love story 野菊の墓, I found myself wondering if the editors at Ask had over-simplified the main conflict, since it boiled down to “you two can never, ever marry, because she’s two years older”. Skimming through the original version (a much slower read, even though it’s easier to look up vocabulary with cut-and-paste), it looks like that really is the reason the whole village is upset about their budding romance, to the point that she’s forced into an unhappy marriage with someone else. Pause for mild culture shock.

One thing that caught my eye, though, was this passage:

小学校卒業したばかりで十五歳数える十三歳何ヶ月という民子十七だけれどそれも生れが晩《おそ》いから、十五少しにしかならない。

Roughly: “Having just finished elementary school, I was 15, or if you counted months, 13 and some change; Tamiko was 17, but since she was born late, she had just turned 15.” [note the use of Aozora Bunko’s 《》 convention for furigana, in this case glossing the character for “evening” with the word for “late”]

The Ask version just gave their ages as 13 and 15, respectively, but clearly there was something going on in the original. I noted the multiple ages as something to look into later, and then spotted the answer by accident while flipping through my collection of reference books: 数え年. In the kazoedoshi system, you’re 1 at birth, and gain a year on New Year’s Day. These days, the most visible use of this system is probably the Shichi-Go-San festival.