Monday, 28 September 2009


From the waterfalls on the way up to Mt Chokkai we made our way to Kisakata, perhaps 20 mins away, in Akita prefecture.  On the seashore at Kisakata are a series of carvings made by a Yamagata based Zen Buddhist monk at the beginning of Meiji era (1864-68 they were made). There were 16 carved, I didn't count to see if any have been worn away.  They are quite impressive.  I'd not heard of them before though; an internet search in English brings up nothing and in Japanese not a whole lot.  
It's a pity Tohoku doesn't market itself better.  Part of the problem is a distinct snobbery to the region from the major cities.  Traditionally Tohoku people are considered backward and dim - American movies that have illbred, illeducated rednecks will have their voice dubbed in a thick Tohoku dialect.
People from Osaka tend to take pride in their regional dialect, whereas Tohoku people, on moving to Tokyo will quickly eliminate any trace of it.
Things may be starting to change though as people Japanese people become nostalgic for old Japan.  In Tohoku conspicious foreigners are few in number (there are many arranged marriages of rural Chinese and Filippina to Tohoku farmers but they tend to prioritise assimiliating), there are mountains, onsen, and traditional foods. 
It would be nice if Japan could take up the Italian example and have every one embracing their region and speaking their own dialect with pride, as well as speaking the standard language.  The difference in different dialects used to be the point where a person with a strong Tohuku dialect and a person with a strong Kyushu dialect (the most southern of the 4 major islands) would be mutually unintelligible.  communication between old dialects was almost complete. Hiro 's oldest uncle, who grew up 20 minutes away from Hiro speaks dialect so strongly that Hiro understands at best 80% of what he is saying!    Realistically though I don't see any kind of revival of dialects coming - they are becoming less strong and less widespread.  Language is one way of enforcing national unity, something the Chinese govt.  appreciates.