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Lesson Transcript

Natsuko: 第33回日本文化レッスンでございます。Natsukoです。
Yoshi: Yoshiです。
Peter: Peter here. Japanese culture class #33. As always, we are brought to you by Erklaren, the translation and interpretation specialists. Natsuko san, joining us on a Saturday.
Natsuko: こんにちは。
Peter: Today is a very unusual day. You know, usually the day we are talking about…
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Is not the same day as we are broadcasting.
Natsuko: Yeah.
Peter: So today is quite unusual as what we are talking about.
Natsuko: Today.
Peter: Yeah it is actually taking place or actually the day that we are talking about if that made any sense. So let’s get into that but first, Yoshi san is also here. Yoshi san よろしくお願いします。
Yoshi: よろしくお願いします。
Peter: Okay Natsuko san
Natsuko: Yes.

Lesson focus

Peter: Today’s topic is
Natsuko: 天皇誕生日(てんのうたんじょうび)
Peter: The Emperor’s birthday.
Natsuko: Happy birthday to you!
Peter: Yoshi, where are you man? A little late now but that’s actually a good question. Natsuko san, if you don’t sing for the emperor, what do you do for the emperor on his birthday?
Natsuko: You can visit the palace.
Peter: All right yes.
Natsuko: And he comes out from the balcony.
Peter: Don’t give it all away yet.
Natsuko: What?
Peter: We got a order around to you.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: Yoshi san, where should we start off?
Yoshi: How about the background?
Peter: Good idea. Let’s give everyone a little bit of background before we get into actually what you can do on this day and certain things surrounding this day. First things first. The name, one more time Natsuko san?
Natsuko: 天皇誕生日
Peter: So what’s the first word in that?
Natsuko: Emperor.
Peter: Followed by
Natsuko: Birthday.
Peter: Yeah so literal translation here, emperor’s birthday, okay and this is a national holiday.
Natsuko: Yeay!
Peter: Well not this year, it falls on a Saturday.
Natsuko: Yeah right.
Peter: So no extra day off for everybody but if it falls on a weekday, then everybody gets this day off and then Natsuko, you can say
Natsuko: Yeay!
Peter: But not today, just another regular day. So it’s a national holiday but where does this day come from and why is it on December 23rd?
Natsuko: Because the current emperor was born on this day.
Peter: So the present emperor’s birthday determines this day.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: So the current emperor who is by the way?
Natsuko: 明仁(あきひと)
Peter: Was born on this day in Yoshi san, your citizenship is at stake on this one.
Yoshi: The 23rd.
Peter: No. The year.
Yoshi: The year.
Peter: Yoshi san, no peeking.
Yoshi: 1933.
Peter: Yep. So Natsuko san, quick calculation, about how many years ago?
Natsuko: 73 years ago.
Peter: That’s it. So the emperor will be 73 this year. Now before this emperor, the previous emperor’s birthday was on which day Natsuko san.
Natsuko: April 29th.
Peter: Correct which is currently now called
Natsuko: みどりの日
Peter: Greenery Day. So the day will switch according to the present emperor.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Now what’s interesting is, the previous emperor’s holiday remained. So now it’s called みどりの日 or Greenery Day.
Natsuko: Yes, yes.
Peter: But previously, it was the Emperor’s birthday. And then it changed into a national holiday or should we say remained a national holiday?
Natsuko: Yes, yes. I think why it remained is because it’s part of the Golden week long vacation.
Peter: Ah but this one is not too far away from the winter vacation. Maybe this one will stay too.
Natsuko: Yeah I hope so.
Peter: Oh I hope so too. Now let’s just quickly get the name of the previous emperor.
Natsuko: 裕仁(ひろひと)
Peter: So he was born in 1926. I am reading this. I don’t know off hand through and he passed away in 1989.
Natsuko: By the way, we Japanese usually don’t call them by the names.
Peter: So the English we are providing is just a translation but when you speak, you wouldn’t refer to them directly.
Natsuko: No.
Peter: How would we refer to them? For example, how would you refer to this current emperor?
Natsuko: Just simply 天皇 or 天皇陛下
Peter: The emperor.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: And then how about the previous emperor? We mentioned the previous emperor whose name was Emperor Hirohito.
Natsuko: We call him 昭和天皇(しょうわてんのう)
Peter: Which is the name of the period.
Natsuko: Yes, not his name.
Peter: Not his name. So maybe it has something to do with the directness.
Natsuko: Yes because we have to be polite.
Peter: Very…
Natsuko: Yeah.
Peter: Natsuko, not just polite, really polite.
Natsuko: Not just polite, extremely polite. So by calling the name directly, it sounded like you know, not very polite.
Peter: Too informal.
Natsuko: Maybe.
Peter: Hey yo! Emperor! Yeah that doesn’t work. Okay apologies if I offended anybody out there but it was just for giving an example. All right, very interesting piece of news, thank you very much. All right, so we have that. So the current emperor. So now that we know, we don’t refer to the emperor by the name, is there anything else we need to know about the emperors?
Natsuko: I am not sure but most of other countries royalties are like kings and queens and they are not emperor or emperors.
Peter: Yeah I will come to think of it like at the top of my head, I can’t think of anything. China had the last emperor in the early 20th century. Yoshi san, can you think of any country with a emperor?
Yoshi: I am not sure.
Peter: Okay so now Natsuko san, we’ve come full circle. We are talking about what we do on this day. So what do people do on this day? Why don’t we start with the regular person? What does a regular person do on this day? Yoshi san, what do you do on this day?
Yoshi: I might go shopping or something, play with my nieces at home.
Peter: So it’s like a day off for you.
Yoshi: Right.
Peter: Natsuko san
Natsuko: It’s also a day off for me and maybe I can go see the Christmas illuminations in the town.
Peter: Yeah it’s nice this time of the year.
Natsuko: Very nice.
Peter: Yes I think for – we can kind of generalize it and say for most people, this is just another day off.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Now what events do they have on this day, something very, very special that you can only do twice a year?
Natsuko: You can visit the palace to see the emperor.
Peter: Yes and not just visit the palace because if you come to Japan, you can visit the palace but what you are really visiting is a wall.
Natsuko: You are right.
Peter: You could see all four walls and the closed gate.
Natsuko: Yeah.
Peter: And some security guards but on this day, they actually allow you to go in.
Natsuko: Yes general public.
Peter: Yeah. The peasants, the common….sorry Natsuko san,
Natsuko: No, no, no…
Peter: Oh so on this day, you can actually enter into the palace. Now when you enter in, what takes place?
Natsuko: Emperor comes out to greet you right?
Peter: Yeah well kind of…
Natsuko: Well not….
Peter: Kind of out to greet you. He is behind the bulletproof glass and security around him but yeah he comes out, he makes a public appearance, he gives a short speech and greeting just to everybody and he waives a bit.
Natsuko: Yeah it’s like you know looking at a pope.
Peter: Yeah. Now I’ve never been to this and I haven’t to be honest caught it on TV. Now is he alone or is he with the royal – the imperial family. I almost made the mistake there. Is he with the imperial family?
Natsuko: He’s usually with his family.
Peter: Now Yoshi san, who would that family include? Always the difficult ones coming your way.
Yoshi: The empress.
Peter: So the emperor, the empress.
Yoshi: And you might see the kids.
Peter: Oh Yoshi, oh, I want to ______ (0:07:44) little donjons for you because you are going to be spending some time with the kids. No, no, no, no. I believe that they are called the crown prince and crown princess.
Yoshi: And crown grand princess.
Peter: The crown grand? All right Yoshi san, this is your last chance to stay out of the donjon. You know the imperial family is listening to this. We are spreading the knowledge. Natsuko san, what’s that look on your face for?
Natsuko: That’s astonishing. Are they hearing this?
Peter: Yeah we are helping to spread the Japanese language and culture.
Natsuko: You better not.
Peter: We are going to get medals one day.
Natsuko: No I don’t think so.
Peter: Yeah. All right, Yoshi san, this is your big chance. Make the imperial family proud.
Yoshi: The crown prince and the crown princess, prince 秋篠(あきしの) princess 秋篠 and other people.
Peter: Way to read it!
Yoshi: Yeah.
Peter: Yeah. So yeah I mean the naming convention is quite difficult. So the imperial family makes the appearance.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: When you enter the imperial palace, you are handed something. What are you handed Yoshi san?
Yoshi: The Japanese flag.
Peter: Yeah little paper flags. So people wave them when they see the imperial family and probably after a speech. Now Natsuko san or Yoshi san, have you ever been to this?
Natsuko: No.
Yoshi: No.
Peter: Yeah I think what kind of people usually attend this? Young kids or…
Natsuko: I think elderly people.
Peter: Yeah not too many young – well we shouldn’t say that but from our knowledge, not too many young people show up there but actually though a lot of foreigners attend.
Natsuko: Really?
Peter: Yeah because I think it’s very unusual. You know it’s very interesting and intriguing for foreigners and it’s something you can only do again twice a year.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: On this day, the 23rd and on January 2nd.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: So something that you know, you can’t really do. I remember I went to – when I went to England, I wanted to go to Buckingham palace.
Natsuko: Oh yeah sure.
Peter: But you can’t get in. It’s only certain times of the year.
Natsuko: You are right. Oh yes, maybe it might be interesting.
Peter: Yeah because even if you are in Tokyo, it’s not something you could do every day. It’s kind of like a special event. So it seems interesting enough.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: So if you’d like to go, we recommend that you get there early because quite a few people do this.
Natsuko: Yeah it’s always very crowded.
Peter: Very crowded. Now the crowd is not only waving their Japanese flag. What are they yelling, Yoshi san help me out here.
Yoshi: They shout 万歳(ばんざい)!万歳!
Peter: Natsuko san, how about one from you?
Natsuko: ばんざーい!ばんざーい!
Peter: Let me give it a try ばんざーい!ばんざーい! So why are they shouting this?
Natsuko: They are cheering.
Peter: For what?
Natsuko: For emperor’s birthday.
Peter: And in this context, what would the word mean? So sometimes it means like you did something great or what would it mean in this context if you try to do your best to interpret it.
Natsuko: Like congratulations.
Peter: Congratulations.
Natsuko: Or hurray!
Peter: If it was a peasants – I mean a regular person’s birthday, would you say 万歳?
Yoshi: I don’t think so.
Peter: So it’s kind of a custom unique to this holiday.
Natsuko: Maybe.
Peter: Okay. So on this day, if you go to the imperial palace and I met him. Maybe not everybody gets in. So if you are interested on this day, you can head down to the imperial palace, get there fast, get there early. Then they will let you into the gates. When you are going in, they will give you a little Japanese flag, the imperial family will make their appearance, the emperor will give a speech. After the speech, everybody goes crazy waving flags, screaming 万歳. Then after that, you got to go but you can get a quick look around and again as it’s something that you can’t do every day, there is that element of you know, intrigue. You want to see what’s going on. So if you are in Japan or you are in Tokyo looking for something to do on this day or maybe even plan from a long time and go to see this, please let us know how it went. We are really interested to hear about this.
Natsuko: Yes definitely.
Peter: Now a few things. If you are going down there, do not bring any beverages or food as you won’t be allowed to bring them in. Cameras, Yoshi san, do we know anything about cameras or the policy on Cameras?
Yoshi: I don’t know.
Peter: All right. Ha ha ha! Check the blog. There is a chance there may be something there. Now entrance is free which is very, very nice. So you can get in free but again no beverages, no food. Cameras, we are not sure about but we will check into that. So if you are interested, please head down there. Be prepared to let us know what happens and practice your 万歳. Natsuko san, can you break that down for everybody?
Natsuko: ばんざい、万歳
Peter: And one more from you Yoshi san?
Yoshi: Emperor ばんざーい! ばんざーい!


Peter: Okay that is going to do it for today. So next week, we will be having lots more culture classes. Actually we are going to decrease the amount of Japanese classes and kind of tell you what’s going on at the end of the year, foods and other things that you can only get at this time of the year or not only get but are really common and customs at this time of the year. That’s going to do for today.
Natsuko: じゃ、また来週。
Yoshi: またね。


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JapanesePod101.com Verified
December 23rd, 2006 at 06:30 PM
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Mina-san, Here are a few links related to today's lesson! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor's_Birthday http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/天皇誕生日 http://iroha-japan.net/iroha/A02_holiday/15_tenno.html Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!

January 8th, 2007 at 07:01 PM
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Actually, Queen Victoria, who reigned at the height of the British (not English) Empire was styled "Empress" as well as "Queen."

I don't know of any other modern-day emperors either. The topic of empires is rather taboo since the end of the second world war.

Daniel Beck
December 25th, 2006 at 12:23 PM
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My guess would be that England is King/Queen because it was so long before it became an empire. Of course, that still doesn't explain Japan.

In most cases, I think prime ministers are chosen by parliament, while presidents (at least US ones) are chosen by the electorate at large. They are both executives, so that can lead to some confusion regarding the differences in their positions.

In the US system, but having the executive branch be separate from the legislative branch (they are intertwined in the parliamentary system), there is more of a checks and balance in their roles.

In Japan, for example, when former Prime Minister Koizumi stepped down, he remained a part of Diet.

December 25th, 2006 at 09:45 AM
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Thanks for that. It is strange though, because the Queen/King of England has always been a Queen or King, even though for many hundreds of years it was the biggest empire the world has seen.

I never really understood the difference between a Prime Minister and a President either, but that is a whole different story

December 25th, 2006 at 12:13 AM
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in cantonese, banzai is pronounced man sui... close ne? hmm the popular, more slangy use is to say banzai as u use yatta... as in mansui!! school's over!! or you say it as a respectful phrase, like the eunuchs used to have to say it to the emperor though now we use it as a joke among friends...

random question: do you reply to irasshaemase?

December 24th, 2006 at 02:11 PM
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We say 万歳 here in China too, although it's pronounced 'wan sui'.

Over the gates of the Gate Of Heaveny Peace in Beijing, it says '中华人民共和国万岁‘ (Loosely translated as 'Hurray For The People's Republic of China)

We don't do the Japanese 万歳 salute though.

By the way, ‘岁’ is just ’歳’ using simplified Chinese characters.

December 24th, 2006 at 10:51 AM
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Happy Birthday to the Emperor:wink: and also Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2007 to all JP101 staff and listeners!:wink:

I already have my gifts ready to gift and receive, .... YEAH!:cool::mrgreen:

Daniel Beck
December 24th, 2006 at 06:34 AM
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Please be careful. We don't want you to end up in the Imperial dungeon. :shock:

And we are all looking forward to the JP101 crew earning medals of honor for spreading the love of the Japanese langauge! :grin:

BTW, banzai (万歳) literlly means 10,000 years old. So, I think when you call this out, it's like when in Europe they would say something like "long live the king/queen!" In this case "May the Emperor reign for 10,000 years".

Daniel Beck
December 24th, 2006 at 06:02 AM
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According to the dictionary, a king/queen is the ruler of a sovereign state. And an emperor is the ruler of an empire. Of course, these days it's just based on tradition to call the ceremonial head of state of Japan an emperor when he has no empire. It's also a little ironic, since with a few notable exceptions, most of Japan's history was spent in isolation, there usually has not been an empire to rule over. Go figure.

December 24th, 2006 at 04:40 AM
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Interesting lesson. What is the difference between an Emperor and a King/Queen anyway?

December 23rd, 2006 at 07:48 PM
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Lesson comes early these days, no??? :shock: