28 August 2013

Emptying the Ottoman Palace, 1909

From The Sultans, by Noel Barber (Simon & Schuster, 1973), pp. 216-217:
As the lions in the zoo roared with hunger, the Committee started clearing out the Yilditz, which resembled nothing so much as an immense junk shop. 'No large city store, and still less the household of any other monarch, could produce an array of contents to compare with that of Yilditz.' wrote Alma Wittlin in Abdul Hamid: Shadow of God. 'There was an immense cupboard containing nothing but shirts – thousands of them. Nor could these be hurriedly piled up and removed. Each individual shirt had to be searched for the costly objects which were found concealed in some of the garments – strings of pearls whose value ran into tens of thousands of pounds, small bags of precious stones. One drawer contained two hundred medals mixed up with rubies and railway shares, and probably stowed away in this fashion by Abdul Hamid himself. Whole bookcases were filled with five-pound notes.'

The parasites who infested Yilditz also had to be ejected. Those who had not escaped – servants, spies, astrologers – left in a dismal rainsoaked procession half a mile long. Most were well treated, though known 'criminals' were hanged in public on Galata Bridge by gipsy executioners who received a fee of ten shillings per head. Among them was the grotesque bloated Kislar Aga, known for his cruelty, and Mehmed Pasha, the head executioner, whose favourite method was to drown suspects by slow degrees.

The Committee had to face another problem: what to do with the harem? Out of the thousands who had fled, there still remained some 900 women of the harem – odalisques and their servants – together with hundreds who had served in the suites of the sons and daughters of the Sultan. They could hardly be turned out into the streets, for most had spent their adult lives under a fairly beneficent umbrella of protections. Mostly slaves, mostly unversed in the ways of the world, 'freedom' to them must have been an unpleasant prospect.

Accordingly, with a touch of modern panache, the Young Turks advertised in the newspapers, requesting anyone whose daughters had been kidnapped for the harem to come to Constantinople at the Government's expense and claim their relatives. They cicularised the Circassian villages, for generations a centre of the slave trade. The reponse was remarkable, culminating in a long procession of women and eunuchs, passing for the first time in history out of the harem and into the streets of Constantinople. It was followed by a bizarre scene. At the head of a long room sat a Commissioner of the Young Turks. Down one side sat the ladies of the harem, down the other an assortment of roughly dressed tribesmen, mostly armed. At a word of polite command, the concubines, protesting and praying, unveiled in public for the first time in their lives, to recognise or be recognised by long-lost fathers and brothers. Scores were reunited and, after tearful farewells with their fellow odalisques, set off for the rigours of a life in the mountain homes of their families – with regret or relief no one will ever know.

Many relatives were never traced. Some girls disappeared. The rest made their way to the old Grand Seraglio Palace, where they joined the ranks of discarded concubines from past imperial harems. It was comfortable, at least, and secluded from the problems of the outside world. This was the end of the harem life, the last link with the excesses and debauchery of an era that had closed.

The new dawn had broken. And the excesses and debauchery would be of a different kind.

The Turkish Defeat at Plevna, 1877

From The Sultans, by Noel Barber (Simon & Schuster, 1973), pp. 189-191:
The breakout was, of course, doomed from the start. And yet Osman Pasha all but brought off another miracle. Security in Plevna had been so strict that the Russians were quite unaware of the plans until a Polish spy woke up Skobeleff at 4 a.m. on the day. The Russian troops had hardly assembled before masses of Turkish troops started streaming across the snowy plain west of the town. At their head rode Osman Pasha on a chestnut stallion. Behind them rumbled thousands of wagons. Without wavering 2000 picked Turkish troops, with bands blazing and banners unfurled, charged the Russian trenches. By 8.30 a.m. they had annihilated one Russian regiment and broken the first links in the iron ring.

Without hesitation Osman charged into the attack on the inner Russian defence line, but here the opposition was stiffer as nearly 50,000 Turks and Russians fought hand to hand. Yet the Turks were holding their own against heavy odds and might well have succeeded, but for a catastrophe. A stray bullet wounded Osman Pasha. Those around him saw him lurch, then fall from his horse. In fact he was only wounded in the leg, but in a matter of moments the rumour galloped through the Turkish ranks that he had been killed. It was more than the half-starved, half-sick men could bear, and in a panic they streamed away from the Russian defences. By the time they had been regrouped, it was too late, and the Russians had occupied the Turkish redoubts, cutting off any hope of reaching a temporary sanctuary there. By one o'clock, the last shot was fired in a siege that had lasted 143 days, and from a house near the bridge, where the wounded Osman had taken refuge, a white flag fluttered.

Osman Pasha was treated as a hero by the Russians. When the Grand Duke Nicholas finally came face to face with him, he shook his hand and cried, 'I compliment you on your defence of Plevna. It is one of the most splendid exploits in history.' The immaculately booted Russian officers echoed, 'Bravo!' And when Osman Pasha first met the general in white uniform and realised it was Skobeleff, he took his hand and said to him, 'One day you will be commander-in-chief of the Russian Army.'

The Czar invited Osman Pasha to luncheon, and when Osman removed his sword the Czar returned it to him. As Osman prepared to leave for internment in Kharkov, a member of the Czar's staff offered him a sprig of myrtle – a traditional Russian sign that he was no longer their enemy.

A very different fate was reserved for the soldiers of the line. Despite repeated Russian promises that prisoners would be well treated, nearly 45,000 Turks were kept in the bitterly cold open air of Plevna for two weeks. They received virtually no food, drugs, medical aid; nor could then even drink the water of the River Vid which was contaminated by hundreds of corpses. Three thousand men died before the rest set off in the snow to various interment camps. Of the 42,000 men who started, often barefoot, on the long march to prison, barely 15,000 reached Russia. A fate as terrible awaited the seriously wounded left behind by Osman. The Bulgarians, conveniently ignoring their promises, dragged them from the hospitals and massacred every man.

One last and gruesome echo of the heroic siege of Plevna appeared in, of all places, a Bristol newspaper. It consisted of one paragraph that escaped general notice in England. In an article dealing with fertilizers, it read simply: 'Thirty tons of human bones, comprising thirty thousand skeletons, have just been landed at Bristol from Plevna.'

25 August 2013

Ottoman Sultans Raised in the Cage

From The Sultans, by Noel Barber (Simon & Schuster, 1973), pp. 77-81.
Mahomet [Mehmed III]... was the last sultan ever to be trusted with liberty during the lifetime of his predecessor. And his nineteen brothers were the last to be strangled under the law of fratricide. (This did not prevent some future heirs to the Sultan from living in terror of the bowstring, often with reason.)

Not long afterwards [his Venetian mother, Safiye Sultan Sofia Bellicui] Baffo was strangled in her bed; her death did not mark the end of the harem rule, but another influence dominated the lives of the princes who followed Mahomet. It was a fate in many ways more grim than death itself. To make certain they would never become involved in plots against the reigning Sultan, any possible heirs were immured in a building in the Grand Seraglio. It was called the Kafes. Its literal translation is 'The Cage'.

The Kafes was not a barred cage in the accepted sense of the word, but it was most certainly bolted. It consisted of a two-storied grey building tucked away behind a high wall in the heart of the Grand Seraglio, almost opposite the rooms of the first Sultana. It had handsome courtyards and gardens, and its tiled walls were among the most beautiful in the Seraglio. There was, however, one sinister note. There were no windows on the ground floor, though those on the second floor looked out to sea.

For the next two centuries heirs to the throne were immured, sometimes from the age of two, until they were either called to the throne, or their miserable lives were mercifully ended with the bowstring. One heir was to remain nearly fifty years without ever leaving the building, and when he emerged to be proclaimed Sultan he had all but lost the power of speech. The princes' only companions were deaf mutes [who also served as the Sultan's assassins] unable to give news of the outside world, and a modest harem of concubines, the only living creatures to who they could talk. Once inside, the odalisques suffered the fate of their masters. They never left the Cage unless one carelessly became pregnant, in which case she was immediately drowned. This happened very rarely for great care was taken to make these women barren – either by the removal of their ovaries or by the use of pessaries (made up by the Seraglio doctors from a bewildering assortment of ingredients, including musk, amber, aloes, cardamom, ginger, pepper and cloves.)

Sultan Ahmed I, who succeeded Mahomet in 1603, founded the cages because he rebelled against the barbaric custom of fratricide; perhaps he was ever proud of discovering such a humane method of guarding his brothers' lives. But it is not difficult to imagine the debasing effects of years of solitary confinement on men who were expected to take up the reins of office at a moment's notice after half a lifetime in which their minds and bodies had vegetated. As N. M. Penzer, a leading authority on the harem, wrote, 'The Kafes has been the scene of of more wanton cruelty, misery and bloodshed than any palace room in the whole of Europe. To its institution are due the weakness, vices and imbecility of so many of the Sultans and, to a large extent, the gradual decay and fall of the Ottoman Empire.' ...

During Ahmed's reign Mustafa, who succeeded him, spent more than ten years in the Cage, providing the first terrible evidence of its effect on human beings, as each succeeding sultan seemed more made, avaricious, debauched and besotted than his predecessor. By the time Mustafa I became Sultan he was completely demented. He appointed to favourite pages – scarcely out of their infancy – to be Governors of Cairo and Damascus. He dismissed a high-ranking officer so that he could offer the post to a peasant who gave him a drink of water when hunting. He clapped the French Ambassodor in the Castle of Seven Towers on the flimsiest pretext. After three months he was deposed – very politely. A five-day hunting trip was arranged for his enjoyment, and when he returned he was no longer Sultan. He went back to the Cage. His nephew Osman II, who succeeded him in 1618 ... was even madder. His favorite pastime was archery, but he only enjoyed the sport when using live targets. Prisoners of war were considered fair game for the Sultan, but when there was an insufficient supply. After four years of misrule – or, rather, no rule at all – the Janissaries decided he must go.... It was the first regicide in Ottoman history.

21 August 2013

Punahou and Baseball in the Hawaiian Kingdom

From: Missionaries, Cartwright, and Spalding: The Development of Baseball in Nineteenth-Century Hawaii, by Frank Ardolino, in NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 10(2002):27-45 (Project MUSE subscription required).
The person usually credited with the introduction of the Massachusetts form of early baseball is Captain James H. Black, a Boston printer.... The game flourished at Punahou School.... Daniel Dole, the school's first principal (1841-54), was a noted baseball enthusiast and player.... The school promoted baseball on campus and in the community, arranging match games with other schools and supporting town leagues. Punahou's encouragement of the game as a major recreational pastime resulted in the flowering of baseball in Hawaii from 1866 to 1890, a period that will be discussed in greater detail after Cartwright's influence in analyzed.

Alexander Joy Cartwright is considered an important baseball pioneer because he helped to create the New York Knickerbocker ball club in the 1840s and formulated rules for the version of the game that evolved into the national pastime. In March 1849, he left New York for the gold fields of California and on his cross-country journey became a kind of Johnny Appleseed for baseball by introducing the game to American Indians and settlers, as he recorded in his diary. When he quickly grew disenchanted with California, he decided to sail home via China, but he disembarked in Honolulu at the end of August 1849 and soon determined to settle there permanently, bringing his family from New York in 1852.

In the next two decades, Cartwright not only prospered in shipping, whaling, insurance, and real estate but also became a community builder who helped to construct a new Hawaii. He was the organizer and first chief of the Honolulu Fire Department, one of the founders of the Queen's Hospital, organizer and president of the Honolulu Library and numismatics society, and founder of Masonic Lodge 21, among numerous other achievements. As a result of his business and legal acumen, he also served as financial advisor to five monarchs.

Despite Cartwright's considerable presence in the political, economic, and legal sectors of Hawaii, there exists little evidence for his similar role in the development of baseball....

Cartwright's last two children, his sons Bruce and Allie, were born in Hawaii and attended Punahou from 1864 to 1869. There are contemporary references to their participation in the game. The Punahou Reporter recounts the minutes for the meeting of the Whangdoodle Base Ball Club--composed of Punahou students and graduates--on May 14, 1872, in which the club announces that it expects the Cartwright brothers to resume their ball playing when they return from school in the United States. In the following year, Allie is listed in the Punahou tally book as the captain of the club. Further, the box score from the Hawaiian Gazette of August 18, 1875, records Allie as the Whangdoodle second baseman who scored 2 runs in a 11-10 loss to the Pacifics. Bruce is mentioned as a member of the Married Men's Baseball Club in 1884, and, finally, at the annual meeting of the Hawaiian Base Ball League on March 10, 1886, Bruce was chosen as one of the official scorers for the upcoming season....

The influence of Punahou and Alexander Cartwright as promoters of baseball resulted in its flourishing between 1866 and 1890. The game's growing popularity resulted in the creation of league play and match games, an increase in the number of ball fields, and innovations in the rules, equipment, tally book, and box scores, which appeared in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, the Hawaiian Gazette, and the Punahou Mirror, Reporter....

During this period, the foreign population of Hawaii increased from 4,000 to 49,000, and the native population decreased from 58,000 to 40,000. Although Punahou's enrollment grew slowly, only tripling its initial enrollment of thirty-four pupils by 1880, its influence on the changing community went far beyond its numbers. Richard Henry Dana, the author of Two Years Before the Mast and a visitor to Hawaii in 1860, described how Punahou extended its system of excellence by sending its graduates to mainland colleges, where they not only were trained to be future teachers at Punahou but also attracted prestigious recruits to teach there. 24 One illustrious mainland recruit was William H. Chickering, who came to Hawaii in 1871 to teach the classics. He had played shortstop for Amherst College, and at Punahou he served as umpire and catcher for both teams, as well as joining the Whangdoodles, "a downtown club composed of Punahou boys, old and new ...

In his Reminiscences, W.R. Castle attests to the central role Punahou played in the development of baseball. Castle was the son of pioneer lay missionary Samuel N. Castle, who also founded the firm of Castle and Cooke, which became one of the Big Five corporations that controlled the sugar industry in Hawaii. W.R. Castle attended Punahou from 1860 to 1864 and then went to Oberlin College for two years. When he returned to Hawaii in 1866, he introduced the New York version to the Punahou Baseball club ... When he traveled to the other Hawaiian Islands in 1869, Castle attended games played with enthusiasm and skill by residents who called baseball "the gift of Punahou."... They used a lively rubber ball but had no mitts, masks, or body protectors....

In 1866, an official league was created composed of the Pacifics and the Pioneers, who were joined in a few years by the Whangdoodles, Pensacolas, and Athletics. At the first organizational meeting on June 1, 1866, the original teams adopted the regulations of the California National Baseball Convention. Future meetings were held at various firehouses, perhaps reflecting Cartwright's influence on the organization of the league. Rules were enforced, fines levied, and sometimes teams disbanded, with their members joining other teams or forming new ones....

The popularity of baseball was also demonstrated by the scheduling of match games between the Whangdoodles and sailors, the infantry and cavalry on King Kamehameha Day, and interisland teams. The Whangdoodles won 2 games, one at the end of 1871 by the whopping score of 88-43 against the Mariners, a team composed of the officers and sailors from the whaling fleet that had been shipwrecked in the Arctic Ocean....

As the popularity of baseball spread throughout the community, both attendance and the number of fields available for play increased. Women would attend games on horseback, and some fans arrived in carriages. So many new spectators came to see the games at Makiki Reserve that in June 1884 a new and larger attendance stand was erected to accommodate them. At this time, nine fields, representing a geographical spectrum of playing areas within and without the boundaries of what then constituted the city of Honolulu, were used: Punahou Field, the Esplanade behind the Custom House, the field on the grounds where Central Union Church now stands in central Honolulu, Makiki Reserve, the area behind historic Kawaihao Church, and the fields on the prison and parade grounds.

17 August 2013

Ottoman Marriage and Divorce Practices, c. 1600

From The Sultans, by Noel Barber (Simon & Schuster, 1973), pp. 70-71:
Most Turks at this time seem to have been reasonably happy with one wife, perhaps because the dowry was given by the bridegroom, or because divorce in those days was easy — understandably so, since many boys married at thirteen or fourteen to girls of eleven and twelve whom they never saw before the nuptials.

But easy divorce had several curious consequences. A man could not marry a divorced woman until she had been divorced from her husband for four and a half months. If a man divorced his wife twice, he could take her back. But if, as sometimes happened after marital tiffs, he divorced her a third time, and then realised he still loved her, she could not return to him until she had been married to someone else. This was meant as a check against abusing easy divorce but it soon produced a professional intermediary willing to marry the lady for one night. He was usually old, paid for his services, and expected not to be over-enthusiastic in the performance of his duties.

Divorces — often followed by remarriage — were common among one class in Constantinople: the men who did have one or more concubines. Inevitably this led to friction, scenes of jealousy, and often physical violence, particularly if the wife felt that she was being cheated of her marital rights, for though the husband could call for his concubines six nights a week every Friday was strictly reserved for his wife.

Circassian Beauty Health Tips, c. 1600

From The Sultans, by Noel Barber (Simon & Schuster, 1973), pp. 69-70:
The servant problem was non-existent, for the Constantinople slave market was open daily, except on Fridays, from 8 a.m. to midday. Behind an enormous wooden gate a large colonnaded courtyard was surrounded by small chambers (and a coffee shop for would-be purchasers who liked to dawdle). This was the slave market for 'domestic servants', mostly negresses, whose teeth, muscles, legs were examined with the methodical attention of a horse-trader. It was, of course, quite another matter to purchase a beautiful Georgian or Circassian girl as a mistress, for the best were inevitably snapped up for the Sultan, and indeed there was such a shortage that the Circassians, so it is said, soon had to start their own slave farms where 'they grew beautiful women as other countries might grown wheat or cattle — for sale'. At least the slave farms produced one benefit for posterity, for 'the avid demand for them in Istanbul encouraged parents to preserve their girl children from the disfigurement of the widespread smallpox by innoculation' [by variolation].

It was from Circassia that innoculation spread westwards to the many European doctors living in Constantinople. However skilful the medical men might have been, their chances of curing female patients was somewhat restricted because they were never allowed to see them. They did the best they could — and it usually consisted of delivering a few leeches to bleed a patient, for leeches could be applied by eunuchs or slaves in the harem. They were a government monopoly, and huge numbers were exported to Germany and Russia. The best ones came from Anatolia — 'they are said to be more eager to perform their duty' — and when the cure was ended the haemorrhage was arrested by the Turkish equivalent of a modern styptic, a coating of pounded coffee, which was not uncomfortable unless the patient had to remain in bed, for as the coffee dried and fell off the bed became covered with grit.

15 August 2013

Match-fixing as rite of passage in sumo

From Sumo: A Thinking Fan's Guide to Japan's National Sport, by David Benjamin (Tuttle, 2010), pp. 208-210:
As I've pondered yaocho [match-fixing]... I've developed a grudging admiration for the Sumo Association's almost mystical power to oversee it without seeing it. Sumo's elders keep their little cheating problem in check first by the skillful use of the schedule, giving rikishi every chance to avoid the last-day crisis [finding themselves at 7-7, with the final match deciding whether they will rise in rank with a winning record or fall with a losing one]. Extending this sense of control beyond one basho, I've notice that yaochozumo follows a kind of ebb and flow, proliferating for a while, until some silent signal from the Sumo Association curtails it abruptly.

It appears — Kitao/Futahaguro's disavowal supports the supposition — that many young rikishi are weaned gradually (perhaps reluctantly) into the ways of yaocho. The secret is kept away from those (like, perhaps, Futahaguro) who don't need help, from those who wouldn't benefit enough from it, and especially from those who might be indiscreet. By allowing it but holding the secret tightly within a chosen brotherhood, sumo's elders control yaocho more effectively than if they tried to ban it.

Yaocho's profoundest hold on rikishi — and the reason, I think, that the secret is so well guarded — lies in its use as a rite of passage into sumo's inner circle.

As he reflected on his ten years in sumo, one of Kitao/Futahaguro's most heartfelt remarks was this: "The rikishi bow to each other before the match and after. Sumo people say that sumo begins with politeness and ends with politeness. That's a beautiful tradition, one of the things I miss most of all."

In saying this, Kitao/Futahaguro used the word "rei," for "politeness."

Eventually, in that spirit of "beginning with politeness," each rikishi, at some point, is initiated into sumo's secret brotherhood by accepting sport's politest offer. What higher act of rei than to concede the victory to an opponent who needs it? And what better sign of rei in the initiate than the gracious acceptance of the offer? And what better test of a rikishi's commitment to the brotherhood than his willingness to subordinate his competitive passion to the greater good of all, the collective need? Especially when he knows that he won't get in trouble for it! And even better that he knows it will help break down those icy walls that stand between sumobeya, and will make him feel — once and for all — like one of the guys!

Yaocho prevents great upheavals in the ranks, and makes change a gentle process. All the new blood is filtered and diluted by the humbling process of yaocho. One of the sumo nuances that the observant fan eventually perceives is that a young rikishi proves his readiness to compete at the highest level not by showing that he can win in makuuchi, but by developing a talent for judicious defeat.

Conversely, yaocho also identifies dissenters, those whose pride inhibits them from losing even a meaningless match, even to help a colleague. Those rikishi aren't cast out indiscreetly (perhaps for fear that they might speak up), but their path becomes harder, their progress slower, their status always a little shaky. Among the most prominent of these uneasy princes in past years were Onokuni and Asahifuji. If they submitted to yaocho, they didn't do it often enough or with the proper alacrity. Some rikishi, I think — especially former collegiate wrestlers — are never initiated into the yaocho club at all, because they might not be trustworthy. Sumo gets them too late in life, too fully formed, and too ethically fastidious.

And some sumobeya are more inclined to play the game than others. The boys from Sadogatake-beya, for example, are always ready to make a deal. But the Kasugano rikishi, not so much.

As they govern all other aspects of their sport, sumo's elders govern yaocho with a politeness that borders on intimidation. No one, even a yaocho resister, ever steps very far out of line. To betray the group is tantamount to betraying one's family. When a rikishi resorts to yaocho, he's expected to use it sparingly, silently, with dignity (rei), and with a consciousness that yaocho serves not to further his private glory, but to keep the family in balance.

Yaocho is an invisible, but palpable presence in sumo. Look for it, and you'll never spot it. Even resisters — and I'm certain that there are some — will deny its existence. By comparison, the Cheshire cat's smile is a bite on the ass. But yaocho is there, and will stay there because it ameliorates one of sumo's greatest problems, the loneliness and persistent mediocrity of most rikishi. When someone takes a dive on your behalf, it keeps you afloat. When you tank a match for another guy, you feel a little more deeply the sympathy of your group, your sense of belonging. If you're really talented, you can win day in and day out all by your lonesome. But cheating needs company.

08 August 2013

The Most Brutal Schedules in Sumo

From Sumo: A Thinking Fan's Guide to Japan's National Sport, by David Benjamin (Tuttle, 2010), pp. 177-179:
THE TIGHTROPE: A sekiwake is neither here nor there. He's better than almost all those maegashira down below. He's one notch above komusubi — otherwise known as the Meatgrinder. His schedule includes everyone in the upper ranks, and he scores the occasional upset among the Elite [ozeki and yokozuna]. But he's generally a kachikoshi [winning record (8-7 or better)] kinda guy, just trying to stay where he is. He's negotiating a crowded tightrope; there are guys approaching from both ends, eager to push him off.

Rikishi reach the Tightrope and stay there for a while, usually because they have a very effective technique, or some physical feature, that makes them tough to beat. Kotogaume, perhaps sumo's all-time most dangerous Butterball, for instance, was built low to the ground and incredibly dense. He lingered at sekiwake for six straight basho in 1989-90. Terao, a fanatic battler who was able to overwhelm almost anyone for a period of five seconds, established himself in 1990 as a Tightrope level rikishi and spent five basho there. In the 2000's Baruto ... depended on his height to frustrate opponents and cling to the Tightrope.

When a sekiwake like Baruto can't expand his repertoire in response to the intense demands of the Tightrope, gravity will get him by and by — with a stop (possibly even a recovery) in the Meatgrinder on the way down. Kirishima was the rare tightroper who was still learning and growing when he reached sekiwake. For him, the Tightrope was a one-basho pause on his way to the Elite.

For most, the Tightrope is more likely a place from which to fall. And to fall means into the next lower designation, komusubi — not a pleasant fate. I refer to this detention cell for rising and falling rikishi instructively as...

THE MEATGRINDER. The Sumo Association uses the Meatgrinder for three distinct and practical purposes:

To punish maegashira wrestlers who have succeeded excessively in matches at the lower levels, perhaps by racking up a 10-5 or 11-4 record from some lowly rung like maegashira No. 8. The average number of wins per basho for komusubi is 6.5. The Meatgrinder is the schedule-master's way of saying, "OK, smartass, you think you're hot stuff? We have a few large gentlemen we'd like you to meet."

As an entrance exam for rising stars, to see if they're ready for prime time....

The Meatgrinder also serves as a safety net for sekiwake on their way down after makekoshi [a losing record (7-8 or worse)]. The schedule is little different, but after losing at sekiwake, komusubi is the falling rikishi's second chance before he gets kicked down among the riffraff.

How tough is the Meatgrinder? It means you have to wrestle every rikishi ranked above you before you get a break and fight a few of the guys underneath. This is the sumo version of Hell Week. By the time you get to the lower-ranked wrestlers, your form and self-esteem are so shattered that beating anyone — including your grandmother — is beyond your wildest dreams. The Meatgrinder is as high as most rikishi ever go. In almost every case, it's a ticket down.

04 August 2013

Wordcatcher Tales: Japanese nautical terms

I've always been fascinated by the great variety and complexity of nautical terminology, especially on sailing ships. I've encountered it mostly in my reading. I don't really have much sailing experience, except as a passenger aboard ferries and ocean liners, plus the occasional opportunity to go aboard a museum ship. The four-masted, sail training ship Nippon Maru, which I explored last month in Yokohama, was a special treat because it offered a glimpse of sailing-ship terminology in two languages, Japanese and English.

Here's the text of the English translation on an explanatory sign about the rigging on the Nippon Maru. Though phrased rather awkwardly, it is very clear and instructive.

rigging-types-signage
Running Rigging and Standing Rigging
Ropes which are used for moving yards, raising or lowering sails are called running riggings. The ship carries around 1,100 running riggings and the total length of these riggings accounts for 14,938m. The number of blocks fixed with running riggings accounts for 854 in total. Running riggings have different kinds: Halyards, Sheets and Tacks to raise the sails and Downhauls, Clewlines, (Clewgarnet), Buntlines, (Leechlines) and Tripping lines to furl the sails. When spreading, it is necessary to loosen the rigging which is hauled for furling. When moving a yard, Braces will be used and to loosen the starboard side of the yard, the port side will be hauled. Wires to secure the mast and the bowsprit are called standing riggings. The ship carries 168 standing riggings and the total length of these riggings accounts for about 3,678m. These riggings include the pieces of shrouds which are horizontally tied to ratlines to go aloft. Most of the standing riggings are placed at the back of the mast in order to handle loads induced by the wind pressure coming in from the back.
The Japanese terms for 'running rigging' and 'standing rigging' are 動索 dousaku 'moving-rope' and 静索 seisaku 'still-rope', respectively. (The matching Korean terms, dongsaek and jeongsaek, are cognate, and the suo 'cable, rigging' in Chinese shengsuo 'rope-rigging' is also cognate with J. saku and K. saek.) 'Starboard' is 右舷側 u-gen-gawa 'right-gunwale-side' and 'port' is 左舷側 sa-gen-gawa 'left-gunwale-side'. (The kanji 舷 gen 'gunwale' also occurs in 舷灯 gen-tou 'gunwale-lamp = running lights' [on each side of the ship], 舷門 gen-mon 'gunwale-gate = gangway', and 舷窓 gen-sou 'gunwale-window = porthole'.) The bow or fore part of the ship is 船首 sen-shu 'ship-neck' and the stern or aft part of the ship is 船尾 sen-bi 'ship-tail'.

These terms were no doubt in use long before Japanese sailors became familiar with European-style sailing ships (before Date Masamune had his first Spanish galleon built in 1613). The same goes for terms like 帆柱 ho-bashira 'sail-pillar = mast' and 帆桁 ho-geta 'sail-beam = yard(arm)'. Nevertheless, the Japanese text begins with the katakana synonym for 'yard' (yaado) followed by its kanji equivalent (帆桁) in parentheses, and employs exclusively katakana terms (borrowed from English) for 'sail' (seiru), 'rope' (roopu), and 'mast' (masuto). Why? Because the names for all the subcategories of nautical masts, sails, and rigging have been imported wholesale from English. At eye-level on each of the four masts is its name in katakana: foamasuto 'foremast', meinmasuto 'mainmast', mizunmasuto 'mizzenmast', and jigaamasuto 'jiggermast' (and 'bowsprit' is bausupritto). There are ways to write 'front mast' and 'back mast' in kanji, but it is much harder to differentiate four masts using traditional (Sino-Japanese) terminology.

Similarly, the name for every length of rigging on this modern square-rigged four-master is directly imported from English: 'halyard' is hariyaado, 'sheet' is shiito, 'tack' is takku, 'downhaul' is danhooru, 'clewline' is kuryuu rain, 'clewgarnet' is kuryuu gaanetto, 'buntline' is banto rain, 'leechline' is riichi rain, 'tripping line' is torippingu rain, 'brace' is bureesu, 'ratline' is rattorain, and 'shroud' is shuraudo.

The same goes for the names of every spar among the yards, as the following Yards chart shows. 'Lower topsail yard' is rowaa toppuseeru yaado, 'upper (top)gallant yard' is appaa geran yaado, 'royal yard' is roiyaru yaado, 'spanker gaff' is supankaa gafu, 'spanker boom' is supankaa buumu, and so on. The Korean translation (yadeu) of the chart title suggests that Koreans have also directly imported this specialized English terminology. (In the Chinese title, 'yard' is mistranslated as dui-huo-chang 'stack-goods-place = freight yard'.)

yards-sign

The last chart included here only confirms the extent to which English modern square-rigged sailing ship terminology has been imported wholesale into Japanese naval usage. Its title in Japanese is Jigaa masuto mawari bireingu pin haichizu 'jigger mast around belaying pin arrangement-diagram'. The nautical terms of English origin, 'jiggermast' and 'belaying pin', are written in katakana, the native Japanese word for 'around' is written in hiragana, and the Sino-Japanese compound translated 'arrangement-diagram' is written in kanji. Although the Korean title is written entirely in the Korean alphabet, the breakdown of word origins is the same (and so is the word order): jigeo maseuteu 'jiggermast', jubyeon 'around', bireing pin 'belaying pin', baechido 'arrangement diagram'.

In the Chinese translation, 'jiggermast' is rendered as 船尾小桅 chuanwei xiaowei 'ship-tail small-mast' to distinguish it from 后桅 houwei 'rear-mast' (= 'mizzenmast', cf. 前桅 'fore-mast', 主桅 zhuwei 'main-mast'). 'Belaying pin' is translated rather directly as 系索桩 jisuozhuang 'fasten-rope-stake'. These Chinese nautical terms do not render the English sounds, as the Japanese and Korean equivalents do.

By the way, there is a mistake in the English translation of the directions at the top and bottom of the chart. Both directions are labeled 'sternward' in English, but in Japanese only the top arrow points sternward (sen-bi-gawa 'ship-tail-ward'), while the bottom arrow points foreward (船首側 sen-shu-gawa 'ship-neck-ward').

belaying-pin-chart