Tuesday, August 18 2009

Memory grass and naughty wives

I started out on an innocent quest: find something short and interesting to prep for the upcoming quarter’s Japanese reading class. I still have some leftovers from Spring (a song and the preface to a biography), but I wanted to try something different. I thought a short travel piece would be nice, and when I was visiting my sister in Chicago, I found a 30-year-old tourist guide in a used-book store. It’s a guide to Kyoto, and judging from the ads, it’s aimed primarily at female travelers.

It’s full of short blurbs about neighborhoods, temples, and shrines, and I picked the section on Arashiyama to scan in and prepare a vocabulary list for. At the bottom of the last page, in small, blue print, I found the following footnote:

直指庵では女の子がジッとダマッテ「想出草」を見て何時間も座っているのです。オソロシー!

Vaguely translated, “At Jikishian Temple, girls stay quiet, look at ‘omoidegusa’, and remain seated for many hours. Dreadful!”

Omoidegusa (想出草) does not appear in any of my dictionaries. Literally translated, it would be “memory grass”, but the third kanji is also used to refer to handwritten notes. Using the Japanese search engine goo.ne.jp, I found a few pages that mentioned it in the context of letters written by women, with a hint of confession.

So I searched Amazon Japan, to see where it might turn up. First thing on the list:

Delicious Wife

The title translates as “Delicious Wife [someone else’s]”. Related books include “Darling Landlady”, “Neighborhood Wives”, “Aunt [younger than your parent] and Classmate”, “There are Four Beautiful Older Women at My School, and two that create new words by appending 蜜 (honey) and 獄 (jail) to 淫 (lewd) (for “Throbbing Lewd Jail” and “Lewd Honey Pilgrimage”, respectively).

This is far from where I started, but not a bad place to end up.

Not Safe For Class, however…