Friday, February 17, 2006

Let's Learn Japanese: Kaze ga fuku to okeya ga moukaru

Kaze ga fuku to okeya ga moukaru.
When the wind blows, the bucket shop profits.

To be a teacher in a foreign country is to be a student. Wow, that was zen. What I mean is: As I teach English, I learn fascinating things about Japanese. For example, take just about any English proverb you can think of, and there is likely to be a Japanese counterpart to that proverb. Time is money; Toki wa kane nari. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence; Tonari no shiba ga aoi.

Today I learned Kaze ga fuku to okeya ga moukaru, which is the Japanese sum-up of Chaos Theory. While not a proverb in English, the nearest approximation would be some variation of "When a butterfly flaps its wings in Shanghai, you get rain instead of sunshine in New York."

So how does wind help the business of the bucket shop? Well, it goes like this: When the wind blows, dust flies. Dust gets in people's eyes, and they react by rubbing their eyes. When they do that, they damage their eyes and go blind. Blind people stereotypically play the shamisen, so an increase in blind people yields increased demand for that instrument. Shamisen are made from cat skin, so increased demand for shamisen yields a decrease in the cat population, which in turn yields and increase in the population of mice. Mice chew through your wooden bucket and suddenly you're forking your hard-earned ryo over to the okeya for a new bucket.

And then you're shit-outta-luck because you have no one to blame for your hardships but the wind, baby! Wow, that was kinda zen, too.

Regarding the above illustration: I don't really understand it.

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