Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Era Bowl

This past weekend I went to the Osaka Dome (now called the Kyocera Dome) to watch the New Era Bowl - an American Football match that is in its 10th year. The game is between two teams (the Blue Stars and the White Starts) Each team is made up of players from a number of different schools, including a US university team. This year the Blue Stars featured the University of Hawai'i and the White Starts were assisted by UNLV. About 30 different Japanese Universities contribute a handful of players each. While the level of play was all well and good, the highlight of the event were the team names from the Japanese Universities.

I now present a list of best team names from the New Era Bowl divided by category

In the "That isn't actually a word" category we have

Kyoto Seika University Gawks:

Admittedly this is a word, but not many teams take the third person singular present form of a verb for a team name. And since it makes no sense without an object (gawks at what?) I am putting it in this category.

Kyoto Educational University Grampus:

Grandpa + Grumpy = Grampus. This team name makes me imagine the whole team shouting at other students to "Get off my field!!" I actually think this could become a word. Everyone please start calling your grandfathers grampus when he is being irritable and talking about how great everything was in the know...before Civil Rights? aww...he's just set in his ways.

Hyogo Medical University Siegfried:
Again I suppose technically its a word, but really it is a person's name. And a gay tiger trainer at that. Bonus: The sticker of the side of their helmets is a caduceus

The Osaka University Shrikes:

And in case you were confused, their actual official team slogan is (and I am quoting here)
"We are SHRIKES!"

so hopefully that has cleared things up. Moving On...

In the "Inappropriate use of plurals" category we have

Ryoukoku University Seahorse: (yes...singular)

Technically, this image is more fear-inspiring than the actual name because it has multiple seahorses in it.

I would wager a large sum that the idea of a single seahorse has never been associated with the phrase "struck terror into the hearts of the opponent."
The 'also rans' were:

Ryoukoku University Puffy White Cloud
Ryoukoku University Field of Grass
Ryoukoku University Area Rug
Ryoukoku University Notebooks

side note: The kanji for Ryoukoku is 龍谷 which is literally Dragon Valley...That is the coolest fucking name I have ever heard for a school!

Dude: Dude, where do you go to school.
Wimp: Oh, I go to the Nagasaki School of Art and Culture. How about you
Dude: Dude, I go to Dragon Valley University!
Wimp: Sweeet! That is so cool! Dragon Valley - so what is your team name? It must be awesome! Like the Dragon Valley Fireballs! or the Dragon Valley Bone-crushers!
Dude: We're the Dragon Valley Seahorse! Singular!
Wimp: Despite the 100 kg you have on my and your clearly superior muscle mass, I now feel I have the confidence to beat you up and steal your hot girlfriend.

Osaka University of Law and Economics Blue Thunders:

Just when the singular is appropriate...These guys should send that s over to Ryoukoku, and possibly a list of animals more frightening than a seahorse.

In the "Naming your team for a foreign military force" category we have

Kobe Academy University Navy Seals.

Personally it would feel strange to root for the University of Miami Royal Mounties, or the Boise State French Legion.

In the "A little strange, but in retrospect very cool" category we have

Momoyama Academy University Thundering Legion Lions

So while Ryoukoku makes due with a single seahorse, these guys get not only lions, but legions of them (a Roman legion was about 6,000 but since 1) lions are way tougher and cooler and 2) these legions are thundering, I will arbitrarily assume that there are about 10,000 lions in a thundering legion). I am no psychologist, but if you were about to play a competitive contact sport against a group of large and padded guys in their early twenties, wouldn't you rather ride to battle under the banner of a thundering legion lion than a seahorse?

When I was in high school, our mascot was a mermaid. We were so horrible at sports that ball room dancing was actually considered an acceptable sports option for the winter term. On the upside our mascot was a topless mermaid showing a nipple. To a high school boy this was a perfectly fine alternative to having a good basketball team.

Tenri University Crushing Orcs

This is the team that should be playing in Dragon Valley. The Dragon Valley Crushing Orcs. 3 out of 4 words in that sentence are awesome.

Again with schools failing to match the school name with the team mascot, Tenri (天理) has two characters one meaning 'heaven' and one meaning 'justice, logic or reason' - So it's like the Heaven's Reason Crushing Orcs. Never before has an idea made such a left turn half-way through

And finally - in the "made beer come out my nose while reading the program" we have my favorite - ladies and gentlemen, a warm japanalog cheer for

Wakayama University Blind Sharks:

This name just begs a million questions. What kind of blind - is it blind with rage? blind like blind drunk? blind like you can't see? I get the shark part, clearly - But what the blind is doing there is perplexing. Are we trying to say that these particular sharks are so unconscionably badass that they can murder and destroy with one whole sense out of commission? Or perhaps these sharks are so profoundly battle-tested and veteran that they have sustained extensive wounds that leave them without sight...and yet they fight on?

Then I actually looked up blind sharks - turns out they may be referring to epaulette sharks. Which are small 90cm bottom feeders which survive on crabs and worms. This is why we don't look things up.

Bonus video:

While Japan and Hawai'i are both technically pacific islands, this kick-off return by a UH student demonstrates that there may be a small physical size and strength difference.

Bonus Picture:

Kyocera is normally used for baseball, so the promenade level was lousy with Orix Buffalo shops,
which were apparently selling Orix Buffalo-themed Mexican wrestling masks.

Professional baseball and Mexican wrestling together at last. It's like chocolate and peanut-butter.

Super Extra Last Minute Bonus - the book on the right refers to these as "T-back masks".
Just let that one float around in your head for a while.

More fun with Kanji

Just to remind - Kanji (漢字) are the Chinese characters that are used in Japanese. There are about 10,000 Kanji in use in Japanese, but the total that are part of the official school curriculum is more like 2,000 - this is what you need to really be proficient in reading a newspaper or other printed material. These characters are often described as ideographs or logograms - meaning that each character represents an idea (as opposed to a sound that can be read phonetically, and which has no intrinsic meaning on its own).

When I first studied Japanese, our teacher, in an attempt to lure us into some false sense of confidence, asked us to think of the kanji as pictures of the idea they represented. One example I saw again and again was a picture of a sun morphing flip book-style into 日

It is probably a bad idea to wonder too much why a dot appears in the middle...sun spot I guess.

This is all well and good at first. It doesn't take a massive leap of the imagination to see 一、二、三 as 1, 2, and 3. But why 六 should clearly be six or 忘 is somehow an obvious symbol for 'forget' begins to make that whole 'just a picture' idea start to seem somewhat of a stretch.


It begins to make a little more sense when you think of a complicated character as actually being made up of a number of smaller pieces. For example, the aforementioned 忘 which means 'forget'. I honestly don't know how I would represent the idea of 'forget' in a simple logogram. This is why you don't want me on your Pictionary team. I suppose I would do something like

(don't ask why there is baseball on TV in February)

Clearly this is not a viable option and open to interpretation. What one might see as forget, could be 'nagging' or 'frustration' or even 'evidence in divorce proceedings'.

However, in the case of the kanji, it begins to make a little more sense when you learn that 忘 is made of two smaller parts (called radicals). 心 on the bottom and 亡 up top. The first means 'heart', and the second means 'die' so to forget is actually 'to die in the heart' (Ok, ok, so you clearly need to remember those two small pieces which still don't really seem to look like what they are, but again, the heart has four parts - like the four chambers of you actual heart, and as for die...just remember that.) Another basic radical is 女 which means woman. It kind of looks like a woman making a curtsy, so not too hard to remember (the trick is to remember these smaller radical parts, and when you see a large nasty kanji, just remember it is nothing but a collection of these smaller pieces) so if 女 is woman 姦 (3 women) clearly means 'wicked', 'noisy', or 'mischief' and if 子 means child put woman and child together and you get 好 which means 'like' or even 'love' and the lady shows up again in 怒 which (if you were paying attention) has 'heart' again. The other new part is 'furthermore' So, woman + heart + furthermore = angry. Naturally.

Clearly kanji were developed before women's rights was big. Other combinations include:

'death' + 'woman' = reckless
'stand' + 'woman' = concubine
'old' + 'woman' = mother in law
'man' + 'woman' = loud talking
'limited to' + 'woman' = marriage

Not every character has women. For example there is 凧 which means kite. It is 'wind' + 'cloth'
草 means grass and it is made up of 'plant' and 'quick' or 'early'
Some seem strange now, such as 美 which means beautiful and is made of 'sheep' + 'big'. But I guess when your livelihood depended on sheep, a big one was a beautiful thing.

Insert you New Zealand or Scotland joke here.