Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Surfin' Bird

Japan has a lot of symbols. A lot. So much so that it can border on the ridiculous.

Examples of symbols include: samurai, ninja, karate, judo, Mt. Fuji, farmers urinating in their rice field, dragons, rising sun, short Japanese business men in dark blue suits wearing glasses and carrying a brief case, the people not having a sense of humour, Catholic school girl outfits, Japanimation, sake, white cars, hot babes, Godzilla and way too many to mention until I get around doing so in this blog.

As mentioned many times - the Japanese do have a great sense of humour - but like any country in the world, not everyone does, farmers do pee in their fields (and why not?), dragons are a popular theme, Godzilla hates Tokyo, the girls school outfits are what they are, Japanese women are beautiful, but again, like in every country of the world, some are more beautiful than others.

There are many other symbols, but today, let's look at the tsuru - the crane. I'm not talking about construction equipment, rather, I'm talking or writing about the bird. Because, everybody knows that the bird is the word.

The first thing you need to know is that the crane is not Japan's national bird. It's the pheasant. While I have indeed seen a few cranes eating frogs in a rice paddie, I had no idea there was enough forest area to support a pheasant population in Japan. Just kidding. Sort of.

The crane is the iconic symbol of JAL (Japan Air Lines), and is a symbol of longevity - symbolically living for a 1000 years.  According to mythology, the crane descends from the heavens (not THE heaven) to Earth, as such, it is considered a sacred bird.

According to legend, Japan's (actually, the world's) rice growing began after a crane brought a rice plant down to Earth. By that token, rice is akin to food from the god's (kami). 

One of those symbols I neglected to mention (like the crane) is origami - the folding paper skill that the Japanese perform. While I've made out of paper, a sailboat, and if I place it on my head, a hat, and a paper airplane that will always hit a person in the eye, the Japanese make many complex sculptures. I'm going to direct you to a site where you can learn how to fold over 335 different things.  ORIGAMI

Despite the plethora of designs out there, the most iconic is the paper crane. In the photo above, the teensy tiny paper crane is actually a paper earring I wore once just before dangling earrings went out of style back in 1993. At least for guys. Men... if you are wearing a dangling earring now in 2010, seriously consider not doing so. I haven't worn an earring in decades. That makes me cool, right? Right? Riii-iiight.

The Japanese have something called sembazura, which is a chain of 1000 folded paper cranes that are given to someone sick. Because of the crane's longevity status  - they can live to be over 20 years of age in the wild - it is hoped the sembazura will hasten the sick person back to health.

Somewhere wishing my folding paper was from a bank,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is yelled by The Trashmen: THEWORD and just because I think it's funny, here's a different video: PETER

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