Japan, the Country of Pun!

When I was a small kid, I went to some English speaking country in a school excursion. I was frozen and I decided not to rely on the teacher when I heard the kind teacher saying to waiters in a loud voice at the restaurant.


“More pun, please!”


In Japanese language there are special letters Katakana which are used for transcription of words from foreign languages in modern Japanese. So if we see some words written in Katakana we know that they are not originally Japanese even though we don’t know from where it came. But we tend to think that things written in Katakana came from the USA and the original language is English. I know that this would upset many European people but it is no wonder that many people believe that ‘pun’ is English and the foreign people (especially tall and blond with blue eyes) are American because great many things were brought in Japan from the USA after 1925.

In fact, the bread was brought in Japan in Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573–1603) by a Portuguese missionary. So the Japanese ‘pun’ written in Katakana may have been Portuguese ‘Pão’.



Famous ‘Melon-pun': A great invention of the Japanese; a sweet bread and the outside is crispy and inside is tender and fluffy. Even though it is called melon but it has nothing to do with melon. There is no melon juice nor fruit included in the ingredients. Just a look. The surface of this melon-pun is made to have a look which resembles ”muskmelon’ whose rind is netted such as cantaloupe, Persian melon. Why? Maybe because here in Japan melon is the king of the fruits and we all know that it is expensive and i attracts people!! Those who have never tried Melon-pun, this would be the ‘Must’ when you visit Japan next time!
(cf: Nowadays there are also melon flavored ones or melon cream inside. But, guys, these are bogus!)


Returning from the digression, if you are a reader of ‘2 Hours Drive From Tokyo’ and if you read especially the articles of the Category ‘Saijiki and Koyomi’ you may find ‘Kotodama’ is one of the basic philosophy which lies in Japanese culture and language. You will know why we eat pumpkin on the Winter Solstice in Touji, Shokou.

Kotodama (“word spirit/soul”) is a Japanese belief that words and names have mystical powers. Simply, if you say good words good things may happen and if you say bad words bad things may happen. Sounds can magically affect objects ritual word usages can influence our environment, body, mind, and soul.


But I think ‘Kotodama’ is a pun. Maybe our ancestors liked playing with words. In haiku and waka poetries are full of puns. Many words are used in double meaning and if you don’t know many words you may not know the real meaning of the poetries. Yes. Having a large vocabulary used to be an important aspect of wisdom for ancient Japanese


Nowadays a pun is thought to be insipid and it is even expressed in Japanese as ‘da-jare’ (rubbish joke) or ‘oyaji-gag’ (embarrassing and awkward gag of wise old guy) but I think a pun, Paranomasia or Calembour is one of the important basis of Japanese culture and language!!

Guys, more respectful attitude is required to puns!!!
にほんブログ村 歴史ブログ 日本の伝統・文化へ
にほんブログ村 英語ブログ 英語の日記(和英併記)へ


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