I have never been to Japan, but imagine it to be a place of poetry, because their words are so beautiful. Japan itself is Chinese for sun rising, Nippon is Japanese for the same, and their language is filled with such word-pictures.
Take karaoke, which I once associated only with those who possess less shame than talent. Then I found that karaoke means empty orchestra and now I cannot hear those plaintive tuneless ululations without imagining the void among the violins, the emptiness filled only in remote repetitions.
And the empty orchestra of karaoke therefore relates to the empty hand of karate.
And manga, the darling of the spotted adolescent, seems pimpled by association until you find that manga means involuntary images, and that the term was popularised, if not coined, back in the 1814 by the great artist Hokusai, who painted the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, and the Great Wave Off Kanagawa.
Yet we have not, dear occidental (and maybe accidental) reader, imported Japan's most delectable phrase: the nightingale floor. A nightingale floor, or uguisubari, is the creaky floorboard that sings as you tread upon in your noctivagant wanderings. Before I had heard the phrase I would get all ratty and worried at the nocturnal noise I made fetching a glass of water or hunting owls. But now that I know that those creaks are the singing of wooden nightingales, they have become beautiful.
In Japan they would make such floors deliberately so that people could not tiptoe into a temple undetected. In England we have been making them accidentally for years, without ever using the proper name.
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