Japanese ways (2) - "Chuu-Chuu-Tacho-Kai-Na" (How to count numbers)

We Japanese sometimes say "Chuu-Chuu-Tacho-Kai-Na" that corresponds to "Two-Four-Six-Eight-Ten" in English. This is a special way of counting numbers. The roots of this weird expression go back to Edo-era that started about four hundred years ago and continued about two hundred and seventy years long. "Chuu" came from "Jyuuni (literal meaning is "doubly counted 'two'")" that meant the state of two dices showing two and two by simultaneous tossing. Hence "Jyuuni-Jyuuni" meant "two-two and two-two" and it changed to "Chouni-Chouni", and finally to "Chuu-Chuu." So, this way of counting numbers has roots in the archaic Japanese gamble called "bakuchi" which uses dices.

Let's continue explaining the reason why it changed into "Chuu-Chuu-Tacho-Kai-Na." Above explanation states that "Chuu-Chuu" means four (two and two) plus four (two and two) equals eight. "Eight" inspired our ancestors to include a creature with eight arms or legs. "Tacho" means "octopus" and "kai-na" means "arms/legs." So its final form "Chuu-Chuu-Tacho-Kai-Na" means that octopus has eight arms or legs, and doesn't convey any meaningful message in itself, but it came to be used as a means of counting numbers in the course of two hundred years.

By the way, do you know the interesting examples of counting numbers like this one in other countries?

2007 07 28 [Japanese Ways] | 固定リンク | コメント (0) | トラックバック

Japanese ways (1) – “moshi-moshi”

I’ll start writing a new topic “Japanese ways.” This topic covers my thinking and opinions about Japanese way of life as an introduction to Japan for the foreign people. So many topics exist. I’ll select interesting ones through my limited travel experiences of foreign countries as well as my general knowledge about foreign countries.

I expect some responses from people living outside Japan. Please feel free to write comments on my writings.

This challenge will explain our habit, custom, or traditions from our own viewpoints, and make it possible to compare them with foreign ways of life. I hope this will help dissolve the gaps between Japanese and “Gaijin.”

My first topic will be “moshi-moshi” used in phone conversation.

We say “moshi-moshi” when starting a telephone conversation. This habit has the historical implication to synchronize our conversation when the voice quality over the phones was not good enough to start talking immediately after the establishment of a communication link.

Is this habit the same with “Hello” saying in western countries? I don’t think so. We Japanese usually don’t say “moshi-moshi” in ordinary conversation among us. “Moshi-moshi” is limited to the telephone-conversation only.

I assume “Hello” is not only used in the telephone conversation, but also used in the ordinary conversation. Is that really so?

2007 07 28 [Japanese Ways] | 固定リンク | コメント (2) | トラックバック