Monday, January 22, 2007

Yuki--courageous snow.

While walking through the city during Sunday's snow day (refer to the pictures below), it hit me that the word for snow in Japanese ("Yuki") is a very common name (Yuki can mean snow or courage, depending on the kanji that is used to write the name). I wondered how parents in Japan explain to their young children that the soft, pillowy white puffs falling from the winter sky have the same name that they do. It must be pretty hard for little children to understand that their own name was given to them as reverence to something bigger than themselves. Snow is meant to be pure, and is supposed to purify everything, but in Japanese especially, it takes on the special particle of "ga" when being referred to, meaning that the action is natural and that it can never truly be controlled.

The poetic complexity of a Japanese couple naming their child after snow, then, is extremely intense. My own mother once said to me that I "am not her child" and that "she was just borrowing me from the world for eighteen years" and that she hoped to teach me "all that she could" so that I could get along successfully in the world. In the same sense, this speech conveyed the same idea that all Japanese people who name their children Yuki consciously (or, conversely, entirely inadvertently) have--that they can never really control their children;they can only hope that they instill the right lessons in their children so that hopefully all of their decisions are just and that their lives end up falling in just the right place.