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Theme Song:  ~Ame Nochi Hareruya~ by Yuzu

The song is pretty straightforward, but I took a few liberties with the actual title of the song.  "Ame nochi hare" is a term used to describe when the sky clears up after rain.  The song title combines this phrase with Hallelujah (pronounced hareruya in Japanese) to get something along the lines of "Hallelujah for the clear skies!", basically meaning that even when times are tough, they'll get better.

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Episode One
Weekly Title:  いちご一会
I'll start the first episode of every week with a bit of information about the title for the week.  There is a title for each week's worth of episodes, and they all have a play on words that relates to food.  The title for the first week is called "いちご一会"  (ichigo ichie).  This phrase means a "once in a lifetime chance".  The play on words here is that instead of using the original characters for this phrase "一期一会", the title uses the hiragana characters for "ichigo", which means strawberry.  For this reason, I translated the title as "A Once in a Lifetime Strawberry" since Meiko's grandmother had the once in a lifetime opportunity to taste a strawberry before she died. 

Time Periods:
The drama does a bit of skipping around in the first couple of weeks, so I thought it might be useful to put up a quick breakdown of Japanese eras.  Of course, when the current emperor dies, it marks the ending of the current era, and a new one begins back at year one for his successor.  When the drama shows Meiko as a child, it is at the very end of the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912).  Later, when Meiko is student in high school, it is part of the Taisho Era (1912 - 1926).  The drama opens with a scene from right around the end of World War II, which would be 20 years into the Showa Era (1926 - 1989).  I found it a bit odd that taking these dates into account, Meiko is supposedly 40 in the opening scene where she's serving food to the kids (Meiko was born in 1905)!!!

"Kuishinbo" (食いしん坊)
This term is used throughout the drama to describe Meiko.  It translates into "glutton" in English, but doesn't necessarily have quite a negative connotation as it does in English.  In fact, I contemplated using the term "foodie" instead since "glutton" gives off the image of maybe someone who's fat and does nothing but eat (only half of that definition applies to Meiko).  In the end, I settled with saying that she "loves to eat", which you'll see throughout the translation.

"Kaimeiken" (開明軒)














This is the name of Daigo's restaurant.  While the name itself really doesn't have a meaning, it might be a reference to the Japanese term called 文明開化 (Bunmei Kaika), which is a term used to describe Japan opening itself to western influence, literally meaning "cultural enlightenment".  Because this term was quite popular at the time, it goes to reason that this is why Daigo used 2 of the 4 kanji from this term in the name of his restaurant (kai meaning open, and mei meaning bright).  The last character, ken is used to signify a store or restaurant.

Episode Two
Kaki (persimmon) and Gaki (brat) (柿とガキ)
At around the 10 minute mark, Tora has a funny exchange with the monk (priest).  Apparently they have known each other since childhood and still enjoy going at it.  When the monk won't tell her the name of the fruit, she calls him  "Spoiled brat Kazu".   Tora then explains to Meiko that this was her childhood friend who ate the stolen rotten persimmon and got Typhoid Fever.  She says that since he went ahead and stole a spoiled persimmon (Kusatta Kaki), that he was also a spoiled brat (Kusatta Gaki)!  It's a pretty good play on words, especially since "spoiled" can be used to describe food and people alike, just as "kusaru" can be used the same way in Japanese.  Using the same adjective for two different meanings usually doesn't translate well between English and Japanese, but in this case it does.

Also, my apologies for my poor word play translation using PERSimmON and PERSON  :)  I tried my best, but ultimately failed.  I hope this explains it a little better.

Strawberries (イチゴ)
It's hard to watch the first few episodes without thinking "Wow, they didn't have strawberries in Japan back then?"  Strawberries were first grown in France in the 1750's, but truth be told, strawberries didn't make it over to Japan to actually become cultivated until around 1872.  It wasn't until 1955 that it became widely available enough for common people to enjoy.  This would explain why when Meiko was a child (1910's), they were extremely hard to come by and most people did not even know what they were (probably only some horticulturalists like in the drama and the elite rich).  Remember, even the rich company president could only obtain jam from the fruit, saying that the actual fruit was very hard to come by.  Getting some as easily as Meiko did is probably quite a stretch for this time period, but it's important to remember that it is a drama and not everything will be historically 100% accurate.
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Episode Three
Karinto (かりんとう)
At around the 2:30 mark, there is an amusing exchange between Meiko and her grandmother, Tora.  When Meiko decides to not allow Tora and Teru to have a taste of her jam, Tora starts a little game where she plays a peasant offering something (Karinto) to her lord in exchange for something else (Meiko's jam).  Unfortunately for Tora, "her majesty" is not so easily persuaded and in the end denies the peasant's request.  Oh well, it was worth a try.

As a side note, Karinto are a fried tasty snack in Japan, made of flour, yeast, and brown sugar.  Some say they kind of look like dog excrement, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

"It's gonna snow!" (雪でも降るんじゃねえか?)
About 9 minutes into the episode, Genta confronts Meiko in front of the school to ask her what she's brought to school with her.  As Meiko says she brought "medicine" because her stomach hurts, Genta makes a pretty funny comment that literally translates into "Your stomach hurts?  Wow, it's gonna snow, isn't it?"  Basically he's saying something like "now I've heard everything".  Looking back on the episode now, this probably would have been a better translation than "when pigs fly", but it's still the same premise that Genta finds it impossible to believe that Meiko, of all people, could actually have an upset stomach.  Between his comments and facial expressions,  I think little Genta did a really great job in this episode!

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Episode Four
"Kechinbo Meiko" (ケチンボ メイコ)
This is what's written on Meiko's desk in chalk at the beginning of the episode.  "Kechibo" basically means cheapskate or someone who's stingy or miserly.  After not giving any jam to Genta and then seeing the article about her dad charging a lot of money for food that's "nothing special", the boys decided to let Meiko know what they think of her.

”Red Eggplants"(赤ナス)
It actually took me an episode or two to realize what they were talking about when Daigo and Meiko were saying aka nasu.  "Aka" means red, and "nasu" means "eggplant", but I didn't put the two together right away.  This term actually means "tomatoes" and apparently was used during this time before the borrowed word "tomato" (トマト)became the standard term for the vegetable (or is it a fruit?) in Japanese.  It's why even though there is a lot of lines talking about omelet rice (see below), you'll never hear anyone say "toe-mah-toe". 

Fun little tidbits like this are found  throughout Gochisousan.

Omelet Rice (オムライス)
Omelets filled with ketchup rice are pretty big in Japan.  Go to any small hole in the wall restaurant or cafe in Japan, and there's a good chance that you can find this wonderful comfort food.  Up until this episode, Meiko often ate tomato rice (basically the same as making fried rice only mixing ketchup instead of soy sauce) and a plain omelet separately.  However, after the kids reject all the fancy French cuisine, Meiko begs her dad to cook some comforting tomato rice and a big omelet that she knows everyone will love.  After eating them separately as usual, she gets the great idea of combining the two and eating them together.  As they say, the rest is history.  Meiko's dad combined the two and the result is "Omu-rice" that's still very popular in Japan today.  Quite an interesting idea from the producers to have Meiko's dad as the "inventor" of "Omu-rice".    When Meiko gets older, there's even a sign outside the restaurant by the walkway advertising "Omelet Rice" in red lettering.  While Uno Daigo may have invented the dish, I guess it wasn't until years later that the Japanese, in their love of abbreviations, decided to call it "omu-rice" instead.

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Episode Five
Wanted: Kidnapper (人さらひ注意)
Here's the wanted poster for the kidnapper from the end of the episode.  It's a copy of the same poster that the police officer asked the Uno's to put up in their restaurant just a minute earlier into the episode.  Anyway, I thought it might be interested to write exactly what the poster says.  On the far right side, in big letters it says "Be careful of a kidnapper"  Just to the left of that it says "Description" and lists the following:

Height:  6 shaku *
Age: 40's
Long arms and legs, slender build.
To the left of his face, it says "If you see this person, please contact the Hongo West Police Station

*( "shaku" (尺)was a term to describe length before centimeters became the standard in Japan.  Basically 1 shaku is equal to 1 foot (30.3 cm).  While not used often anymore, it still can be found being used as a measurement for things like tatami mats, and among carpenters.)

Getting Water (”水くみにいってくるね。”)
At almost the 6 minute mark, Meiko is doing all she can do help out around the house (even though Iku has to then go back and do it all over again anyway).  After washing the floors, she says that she'll go get some water.  During this time, water had to be brought up from a well, usually located on one's property.  That's why you see Meiko and Teruo coming back with a huge bucket of water that was clearly to heavy for them to handle!

Episode Six
Menko (めんこ)
While Iku is running around looking for Meiko, she comes across Genta and his friends playing a game (around 4:30).  The game they are playing is called "Menko" and is pretty similar to what we call POGs in America.  Menko has been popular since the Edo period (1615 - 1868) and is played by placing some cards in the middle of a circle that have pictures on one side of them.  The players then stand around the outside, holding a round piece that they throw down on the card pile when it's their turn.  The object is to turn a card over due to the wind or force from throwing  the piece down on top or near the card.  If a card does turn over, then the player gets to keep that card.  Play continues until all cards are gone, where the one with the most cards is the champion.  You can watch a demonstration of it below.

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Gochisousama (ご馳走さま)
Even though I tried explaining it the best I could, I realized later that the timing went a bit too fast for this part, so I thought I would describe this part in more detail, especially since it's where the title of the drama comes from.  Grandma Tora takes time to explain the importance of "Gochisousama" to Meiko by telling her about the characters used to make the word.  Going through the trouble of making a meal for someone wasn't just about putting something in a microwave or oven or stopping by your local supermarket.  There was a lot of work that went into getting all the ingredients, including going to many different places.  Saying this term at the end of the meal is to give thanks for all the hard work it took to prepare it, very similar to how Japanese say "Itadakimasu" before the meal.

Go (ご)- A prefix used to show politeness in Japanese
Chi (馳)- This character is used in the verb "haseru", meaning "to hurry (when going somewhere)"
Sou(走)-  This character is used in the verb "hashiru" meaning "to run".
Sama(さま)- Polite form of the suffix "-san" used with people.

Throughout the series, you'll hear this term being used by Meiko even when it's not related to food.  While this term is associated with food, Meiko seemingly uses it anywhere she is thankful for someone's hard work.  Actually, when Genta gives her the strawberry, I was surprised that she only said Arigatou instead of "Gochisousan, Gen-chan!"  In any case, this is why it's very important to say this term at the end of the meal, no matter where you are, to show appreciation.  

As a side note, I always used this kind of as an attitude indicator when I was living in Japan.  On Fridays, I often treated myself to a rice bowl at Matsuya after a long week of work (yeah, I was cheap back then).  Matsuya is a food chain like Yoshinoya that has cheap beef bowls.   You enter the restaurant, go up to a machine where you put in your money and choose what items you want (what kind of bowl, any side items like a salad or raw egg to mix in with your rice bowl, drink, etc), and the machine then dispenses tickets for each item.  You then find a spot to sit at the counter and put your tickets down.  The waiter then grabs the tickets and reads them off to the cooks in the back.  It's a pretty efficient way of ordering, where you know exactly what you're getting and there's little chance of error.  Anyway, as people are leaving the restaurant, most don't say anything.  They just get up when they are finished and leave.  However, some people would say "Gochisousama deshita"  on the way out as a way of showing their gratitude towards the staff who prepared their quick meal.  For some reason, I always found this honorable.  The customers too much in a hurry or who grew up without manners often were the ones leaving without saying a word, while the classy customers always said it, even with a bow, on the way out.  Maybe because it's a fast food joint, people feel like they don't have to say it anymore, but I thought it was a great indicator as to what type of person he/she was.  

So if you're ever at a Matsuya or Yoshinoya in Japan, for the sake of Gaijin everywhere, please say "Gochisousama deshita" on the way out.  You'll still get strange looks, but maybe, just maybe, some of the customers and staff will look at foreigners just a little bit differently.  :)



If there are other things you are curious about, please leave them in the comments below!
 


Comments

dhisashi
11/09/2013 4:50am

Looking forward to these notes.

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sukibeth
11/30/2013 10:53am

Love the comments! Gochisousama~ for all of your hard work!!

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