The house of the rising sun


Kabuki Oiran by Kazen (kazenokibou)

Good evening, folks and good start of the week!

The week’s just started and I’m facing my first insurmountable dilemma:  which title …?

When I first read today’s word by A.Word.A.Day. (monday, to be honest, I’m late as usual) I came to think about Toto’s song Make believe, (second single from their hit album Toto IV, year 1982), you’ll see yourselves the reason why in the next lines. Then I thought this title did not render the idea of  the leitmotiv of this week’s selection, i.e. Japan. A.K.A. the land of the rising sun. A second thought cropped out from the recesses of my mind when I came to this conclusion: rising sun … the House of the rising sun! To be honest, the title of this old traditional folk song (and popular 60s hit by the Animals) has no relation to Japan, as a matter of fact the song is set in New Orleans and the expression ‘house of the rising sun’ is used euphemistically to indicate a brothel (I didn’t know that!), but in the common imaginary the phrase rising sun stands for Japan. If this is no sufficient reason to you, the word Oiran (see name of the illustration) stands for ‘courtesan’, not truly a prostitute, but surely some kind of business woman in the field of sexual services, we might call her the ‘Grandma’ of escorts. You see, the title might not fit perfectly to the subject, but it’s surely more eye-catching …


(kah-BOO-kee, KAH-boo-kee)
1. A form of Japanese drama that includes highly stylized movements, dances, singing, and miming, and all parts are played by males.
2. Done for the show only; make-believe.
From Japanese kabuki, from ka (song) + bu (dance) + ki (skill). Apparently this is a reinterpreted form of the verb kabuku (to lean, deviate, or act dissolutely). Kabuki is the popular form of the older Noh, the classical drama of Japan. Earliest documented use: 1899.
“I think a first date should go like this: The man reaches for the check, the woman offers to split it, the man declines, saying ‘No, I’ve got it.’ It’s a bit of Kabuki theater.”
Andrea Pyros; You’re Paying, Right?; Denver Post (Colorado); Nov 12, 2012.”In the kabuki theatre of British parliamentary politics, great crimes do not happen and criminals go free.”
John Pilger; Let’s Learn from Blair’s Mistakes; New Statesman (London, UK); Feb 20, 2012.”Cokie Roberts: This week though, really, is a kabuki dance. Everybody is going through motions that they know are going to lead nowhere.”
Deadline Still Hangs Over Debt-Ceiling Talks; Morning Edition; National Public Radio (Washington, DC); Jul 18, 2011.


I’ve searched long to find an accurate translation of the term but – as far as I can see – my language does not provide for an equivalent, kabuki’s just kabuki (traditional Japanese theatrical show) and we don’t even use it in the sense of ‘make-believe’, (Italian translation: bluff, finzione). It sounds strange to me, since I’m persuaded that Italians are undisputed masters of farce as far as politics and diplomacy are concerned (fellow Italians, please forgive me for my statement!). Probably we (Italians) are not Japanophile …

About the image on top: I don’t know the true name of the author. Her nickname on DeviantART is ‘kazenokibou’ or just Kazen. I suppose her true name’s Mie, since her own blog is called Mie’s Illustrated Life! I hope she won’t mind that I used her work to illustrate brilliantly this post. Anyway, thank you, Mie!

Your passionate (Italian) Translator


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