January 17, 2006

More about Kirin (and beer)

The question came up in the comments recently, and I thought I'd give myself a bit more room for an answer.

Kirin Beer might be called the Budweiser of Japan. The kanji (麒麟) are the same as those Ono uses, meaning "Chinese unicorn" (also: "giraffe"), though katakana (キリン) is often used in place of these fairly difficult kanji. It was founded in 1870, first used the "kirin" logo in 1888, and officially became the Kirin Brewery Company (麒麟麦酒株式会社) in 1907.

Wikipedia has a good explanation of the kirin's mythological origins here:

Although it looks fearsome, the ki'lin [kirin] only punishes sinners. It can walk on grass and yet not trample the blades and it can also walk on water. Being a peaceful creature, its diet does not include flesh. It takes great care when it walks never to tread on any living thing, and it is said to appear only in areas ruled by a wise and benevolent leader.

So it would seem that Ono is staying very close the kirin's traditional depictions in the Twelve Kingdoms novels.

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