steepholm (steepholm) wrote,
steepholm
steepholm

Surprise Hiccoughs!

I've now chosen and received, in roll form, my statement wallpaper. In the end, I decided to square my love of trees and my love of moss by getting a picture of moss-covered trees. What I may not have mentioned here is that my garden, being basically north facing and surrounded on all sides by fences, only gets sunlight on one half, so I'm hoping to make use of that fact to introduce moss there too. Even now, a local company is coming up with designs (which I never could) to transform my square of astroturf into a bird-and-insect-friendly haven of shivering long grasses, moss, culinary herbs and water, with tubes of bamboo that occasionally go bonk. That was the brief I gave them, anyway, but looking over it now, I think it may be hard to turn into a cohesive vision. It's perhaps a bit more like this picture, which hangs at the foot of the stairs to my room:

British hills sign

Meanwhile, I had my AstraZeneca jab, felt ill for a day, recovered, and am busily turning myself into an antibody factory. Bish bash bosh. Now all I need do is avoid catching COVID in the next week or two, by which time the resistance should have built up. I'm not sure I could stand the irony.

I've been reading about The Mikado, and also Gilbert's children's book based on the same, The Story of the Mikado, published in 1921 but written some time between 1907 and his death in 1911, when he was clearly smarting from the temporary banning of all productions during the visit to the UK of Prince Fushimi.

Obviously, the names and so on in The Mikado (Pish Tush, Pooh Bah, Nanki-Poo, etc.) are not making any attempt to sound Japanese, but oddly there are a few snatches of Japanese verse in there, such as the lines Yum-Yum's bridesmaids sing to prevent Kati-sha revealing Nanki-Poo's true identity:

O ni, bikkuri shakkuri to!
O sa, bikkuri shakkuri to!


"O," "ni" and "to" have multiple meanings in Japanese, and it's difficult to pin down just what they're up to here, if anything. But "bikkuri shakkuri" make a sort of sense, being the words for "surprise[d] hiccough." A G&S site I consulted said that no one had been able to make sense of the lines, but I wondered whether "bikkuri shakkuri" might indeed be a set phrase, and duly Googled it. It turns out that "Bikkuri Shakkuri" is at any rate a song from 1980, which can be heard sung by many a Japanese school choir of that time, and perhaps since.




近ごろあんまり おどろかなくなった
ちょっとやそっとじゃ 心がはしゃがない
大人になったと 親は言うけれど
はたして これでいいのだろうか

ぎゅっと目をこすって 空を見上げたら
鼻がムズムズムズ…
くしゃみしゃっくり ワォ!
びっくりしゃっくり びっくりしゃっくり
空がまっ青 ひさしぶり まっ青

小さいころなら 何でもおどろいた
トンボを見てても レンゲを見つけても
そういうもんだと 親は言うけれど
大人になると こうなのかしら

わっと手をひろげて 風を吸いこむと
胸がムズムズムズ…
くしゃみしゃっくり ワォ!
びっくりしゃっくり びっくりしゃっくり
風がまっ青 ひさしぶり まっ青


These days I don't get so surprised
My heart no longer crouches, ready to spring.
My parents say I've grown up, but
I wonder if it's a good thing?

If you close your eyes tight and rub them, then look up at the sky
My nose is itchy ...
Sneezing hiccoughs - wow!
Surprised hiccoughs! Surprised hiccoughs!
The sky is bright blue for the first time in a long time.

When I was little, anything would surprise me;
Even if I looked at a dragonfly or found a lotus.
That's what my parents say
But will I be like that when I grow up?

When you spread your arms and breathe in the wind
My chest is itchy ...
Sneezing hiccoughs - wow!
Surprised hiccoughs! Surprised hiccoughs!
The wind is bright blue for the first time in a long time


As you can see, in the 1980 version the song is about the importance of retaining a sense of childlike wonder, a project on which I am continually working, even by writing this post. Now, my question is, was Akira Ito (who wrote the lyrics) a) drawing on a well-known Japanese phrase, b) making a sly allusion to Gilbert and Sullivan? Might it even be a coincidence?

Child-like minds want to know.
Tags: nippon notes, real life
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