August 11, 2011

Kids these days

The Story of O-An, first published in 1737, is based on the reminiscences of a young girl escaping with her family from a besieged castle during the Battle of Sekigahara (1600). The account is considered historically accurate.

It's a harrowing tale. Her brother is shot and killed in front of her. Before the castle falls, her father is "allowed" to escape with O-An and her mother by floating them across the moat in a washing tub. A few minutes later, her mother goes into labor.

It was a girl. The adults gave the baby her first bath right there in the paddy water. After they were finished, the father [Haruo Shirane translates it as "her father"] wrapped it in his clothing, swung [her] mother over his shoulder, and fled to Aonogahara.

Note the "kids these days" conclusion (and remember that this would be the mid-to-late seventeenth century):

This is how things were in the old days: nothing was easy. We never even dreamed of eating lunch, and when night fell, there was no supper either. Young people today, with their fancy clothes and free-spending ways and fussy palates, it's truly scandalous.

In her home town, "Granny Hikone," as she was later known, apparently turned into the eighteenth century version of "Grandpa Simpson."

Even now, when an old person starts talking about things were different in their day, people call that a "Hikone."

O-An has a point. Working at McDonald's is one thing. Molding bullets and "putting tags on the heads our side took in battle to remember who they were" is quite another. A little perspective about what constitutes a "bad day" doesn't hurt at times like this.

I've mostly used a translation by Matt Treyvaud. Google Books has a translation by Haruo Shirane (Early Modern Japanese Literature, 1600-1900).

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