Hisone to Masotan – 08


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That’s quite the old plane she’s got there

Remember that line about the bedroom last ep? Turns out that was a proper noun, Fushido. Also we get real religious this episode, so hang tight while we figure out the best way to convey obscure and outdated titles all over the place.

tsuru edit: What’s that? You want to know more about the obscure and outdated titles that are all over the place? Say no more, friend!

First off, we have the organization Haruto belongs to, the 神祇官 (‘jingikan’). We all know that the Jingikan existed both in the Ritsuryou and in the early Meiji, and the two English translations we found were ‘Department of Worship’ and ‘Department of Divinities’. We chose ‘Divinities’ because that’s what 神祇 properly translates to, and ‘worship’ further is a little too close to ‘rites’ (though this was the Ritsuyou’s Chinese predecessor’s name for the equivalent) and then on to ‘ceremonies’, and the ‘Ministry of Ceremonies’ (治部省) was a different Ritsuryou ministry.

‘Department’ comes from its status as a 官, one of two. The other was the Daijoukan (太政官), which was divided into eight subsidiary Ministries (省) including the Ministry of Ceremonies. Thus we associate ‘Department’ with 官 (‘kan’) and ‘Ministries’ with 省 (‘shou’) (note that present-day Japanese government ‘Ministries’ are also all 省). However, the Chinese ‘Three Departments and Six Ministries’, on which the Ritsuryou was based, was actually 三省六部, where the 省 are ‘Departments’ and the 部 are the ‘Ministries’. Note also that five of the eight Daijoukan Ministries had 部 in their title in addition to the actual 省 (including ‘Ministry of Ceremonies’, 治部省).

Anyway, ‘Department of Divinities’ is largely not an issue, especially as in general the English translations used historically aren’t really binding on us (nor are they consistent in general).

The major issue arises with Haruto’s title of ‘taifu’. I will, in general, be looking at things with a bias towards the historical Ritsuryou positions and not the Restoration versions.

‘Shinto in History: Ways of the Kami’ (kind of a chuuni name, isn’t it?) says the Jingikan was headed by ‘a [jingihaku], two assistant heads, two secretaries, two clerks, …’. Japanese Wikipedia agrees, listing the head as the 神祇伯 (‘jingihaku’), followed by the 神祇副 (‘jingifu’) (divided into 大副 (‘taifu’) and 少副 (‘shoufu’)), followed by some others. Oh, hey, 大副 (‘Senior Vice-Minister’, maybe?) is ‘taifu’. Easy, right?

Wrong, because it’s actually 大夫 in the CCs. Is it a typo? Maybe we’ll find out next episode. Assuming it isn’t, we have to find out what 大夫 means, and it turns out it’s awful.

Sidenote: ‘taifu’ is also how you read 大輔, which is the second-highest ranked position in the Ritsuryou Ministries (again, probably something like ‘Vice-Minister’). It’s probably not a coincidence that these are read the same way, but do note that the Jingikan specifically uses 大副 instead.

The dictionary I’m using (weblio) attests 大夫 in the context of e.g. 東宮大夫, which it has as ‘Lord Steward to the Prince Imperial’. In general, 大夫 in the corpus appeared to mean ‘Lord Steward’ or ‘Master of …’ or something around there, and we eventually went with ‘High Steward’ just to avoid the pretty English-y ‘Lord Steward’, though I didn’t think hard about this one (we were a bit rushed this week).

大夫 is a title that crops up everywhere in Imperial China and Japan and honestly probably doesn’t lend itself to a single translation. In the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, for example, there are a few people (mostly Fujiwaras) who have it as part of their titles. Japanese Wikipedia seems to think 大夫 is just a title that’s sometimes given to court officials of sufficient rank (fifth, I believe), but I haven’t really read it carefully (owing to a lack of ability). weblio also has ‘lord steward (formerly the fifth court rank)’, which seems consistent. English Wiktionary does say that it’s a substitutive style for a ‘high ranked courtier, particularly … 5th rank’.

It doesn’t appear to be an actual court rank, however. ‘The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature’ has an appendix on ranks and 大夫 doesn’t appear to be in there, though perhaps it’s just not in the Google preview. ‘taifu’ in fact does not show up in the book at all. Instead, Princeton reads it ‘daibu’, and then we do find it in the main body of the book in titles. It mentions that one Fujiwara Akisue took up residence near Rokujou, and resultantly was given the appellation ‘Rokujou Suri no Daibu’ (something like ‘Daibu of Rokujou’).

It sort of overall reads like 大夫 is just something meaning ‘gentleman’ or ‘exalted person’ (almost an honorific; note that this is exactly what it appears to mean in Chinese and Japanese if you look directly at the characters individually) rather than being a specific position (or rank), but only applicable to officials who are of sufficient rank. Which means, ultimately, that we still haven’t really gotten anywhere in terms of a translation, though I now believe that ‘High Steward’ was probably a mistake.

The genericity of the title leads me immediately to the English ‘Lord’, being a generic title for anybody in the Peerage. The hereditary nature also seems a good fit for Okonogi, who’s obviously inheriting this from his parents (the position of head of the Jingikan appearing also to have been semi-hereditary).

However, though I know little of the kuge or of Japanese nobility in general, there seems to be an issue. Also, let us first focus only on Classical Japan and not on the post-Restoration kazoku.

My understanding is that the kuge were court nobles and bureaucrats, and distinguished from actual landowning feudal lords, which would, if anything, have been daimyou (though perhaps still not). I think Nara and Heian Japan followed the Imperial Chinese system of not really having nobility who explicitly owned land in a hereditary fashion, but only ‘government officials’ who ‘administered it’ ‘on behalf of the Emperor’. There still was a nobility, positions were still often hereditary, and one could still collect proceeds from land, but the system was conceptually fundamentally different. Since the English peerage was based on the feudal system, and a title corresponded directly to rule over an area of land, ‘Lord’ becomes a poorer choice since these are, at their core, different offices. I could be wrong. Especially, though, note that the Fujiwaras and co. spent all their time faffing about in Kyoto writing poetry and stuff instead of actually being out in their domains governing. An extra complicating factor is that things seemed to change in the Kamakura and afterwards, as the daimyou began to gain power. Our focus here is on the Nara-Heian kuge, though. Fujiwaras would be best.

However, if we bring the kazoku into the mix (which contained both kuge and daimyou), ‘Lord’ gets a bit of a second wind. Since the kazoku was explicitly based on the English Peerage, we sort of gain a land-irrelevant basis to use ‘Lord’ (which isn’t in practice tied to land ownership anymore either). Further, despite all the crap I wrote up there, peerage titles like Prince, Duke, and Marquess have very often been used in scholarly renditions of Imperial Chinese titles, so maybe this isn’t so big an issue as I think.

In the contemporary Anglosphere we have ‘the Honourable’ as a sort of mildly official-position-attached thing, but it sounds very Commonwealth to my ear and not really appropriate for a Classical Japanese title. Nothing else comes to my mind.

Ultimately I now sort of feel like ‘Lord’ is the best choice, but this entirely for want of any better ones. I’m all ears if you have other suggestions or corrections to my understanding. If you can come in, smash my argument, tell me I’m stupid, and then give me the perfect translation, please do. If you can’t, I hope you at least found that ramble interesting.

P.S. There’s always ‘-taifu’, as well, and if it’s always just Guy-taifu-dono, maybe we just do that.

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9 thoughts on “Hisone to Masotan – 08

  1. Fancypants

    At 6:54 Hisone calls a movie “shitty”.
    Was the choice of an obscenity rather than “lousy” or “crappy” to show she was speaking very crudely, or is it a literal translation?

    Reply
    1. tsuru

      The Japanese term there was くそ, which is sort of their all-purpose general swear word. It does happen to be a poop word, so it falls into the same category as both ‘crappy’ (which is still an obscenity, just less so) and ‘shitty’, but it’s pretty flexible overall (being in many cases suitable as ‘damn’ or the f-bomb, since the Japanese have a pretty limited vocabulary on this front). Certainly it wouldn’t be just ‘lousy’, and the question then just becomes one of magnitude. ‘Crappy’ or ‘shitty’ is then a pretty fine matter, but the additional contrast from how politely Hisone speaks seemed to justify the latter, which has also already been slung a lot in this series by Nao. Hisone wasn’t really speaking ‘crudely’, per se (where crude speech is usually a lot of abbreviations, corruptions to ‘ee’ forms, etc.), but she does really casually and really surprisingly drop in くそ, and it seemed better to reflect that with a stronger term. It’s also, like, a really bad movie, and to my ear there’s a slight difference between a ‘crappy movie’ and a ‘shitty movie’, and the I find for the latter in this context. Very arguable, though, and if we were keeping the series in general a little more G-rated (we aren’t; see: Nao) ‘crappy’ would certainly be the option. Going all the way down to something not vulgar at all like ‘lousy’, though, wouldn’t be a good choice.

      Reply
  2. acrossdesertsands

    I must say I’m very intrigued and excited to hear about your translational exploits and the extra levels of depth this brings to the anime. I humbly thank you for including this.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: hisone to masotan – 07-08 – animebloggernonichijou

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