“Dandara” is a wordplay pun based on the 17-syllable haiku format, with its seven-syllable part represented by two expressions or phrases that are homonymous but have completely different meanings when written.

Here is an example, penned by Umeko Morioka: “Aishiteru/ watashitoiteyo watashitoiteyo/ seikyuusho.”

The first five-syllable word ("aishiteru") translates as “I love you.”

The last five-syllable word ("seikyuusho") denotes a bill or an invoice.

Sandwiched between them are two seven-syllable homonyms ("watashitoiteyo"), the first of which translates as, “Please stay with me” and the second as, “Please hand it (to someone).”

The scene initially visualized by the reader of this “poem” is that of a man being seduced by an alluring woman.

But in the second half, a piece of paper is all the hapless man is left with.

This drastic turn of events is quite clever and funny.

Dandara is said to have a history spanning nearly 300 years, according to Isao Kimura, the author of “Fushigina Nihongo Dandara” (Dandara, intriguing Japanese).

In the past, Ishikawa Prefecture’s famed Wajima lacquerware craftsmen embraced dandara as their “workplace literature” and ensured the preservation of this tradition.

When I visited Wajima last month, I noticed posters bearing dandara pun poetry in front of many destroyed shops around the city.

They must have been posted for a while, put up for the enjoyment of tourists exploring the city on foot.

There was this piece by Nobuo Sakamoto: “Noto Jishin/yokishinakatta yokishinakatta/asaichi-de.” (The Noto Earthquake/ I did not anticipate it/ I bought a good item/ At the morning market.)

The central part of Wajima was jolted in 2007 by a powerful earthquake with an intensity of upper 6 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7, and eventually recovered from the damage.

Nobody could have imagined that another devastating earthquake would turn the city center into burnt-out ruins on the first day of 2024.

Eight weeks have elapsed since then.

Thirty percent of the city’s water service is finally back and flowing, according to the Ishikawa Prefecture edition of The Asahi Shimbun on Feb. 21.

I have nothing but the deepest respect for people from all over the nation who are supporting the post-disaster reconstruction work.

But the road ahead is still long and arduous.

To speed reconstruction by reducing the commuting time for workers between Kanazawa and Wajima, the prefectural government is planning to build accommodations for them on construction sites.

I cannot wait for the cities and towns of Ishikawa to regain their vibrance.

Here is Koji Takama’s dandara about the prefecture in early summer: “Kanko wa/ Noto, Kanazawa de/ nodokana sawa de/ Hototogisu.” (Sightseeing/ In Noto and Kanazawa/ At a peaceful marsh/ A Japanese cuckoo."

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 22

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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VOX POPULI: ‘Dandara’ puns still entertain amid destroyed shops of Wajima

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22.02.2024

“Dandara” is a wordplay pun based on the 17-syllable haiku format, with its seven-syllable part represented by two expressions or phrases that are homonymous but have completely different meanings when written.

Here is an example, penned by Umeko Morioka: “Aishiteru/ watashitoiteyo watashitoiteyo/ seikyuusho.”

The first five-syllable word ("aishiteru") translates as “I love you.”

The last five-syllable word ("seikyuusho") denotes a bill or an invoice.

Sandwiched between them are two seven-syllable homonyms ("watashitoiteyo"), the first of which translates as, “Please stay with me” and the second as, “Please hand it (to someone).”

The scene initially visualized by the reader of this “poem” is that of a man being seduced by an alluring woman.

But in the........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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