Japanese Kotowaza – Karasu no gyouzui-

May 16, 2012 Juju Kurihara Culture, Vocabulary Tags: , 6 Comments

I was on my bike and waiting for a traffic light. It was a cloudy day and was raining during the morning. So there were many puddles on the streets. And in one of those, there was a big grey and black crow, splashing the water.

A Japanese kotowaza (諺 / saying) crossed in my mind.

"Karasu no gyouzui" (カラスの行水)

It describes a person who takes a bath rapidly. Japanese people are well-known as bath lovers who usually take a long time for a bath. For us it´s hard to imagine a house without a bathtub. Just like a Finish house without a sauna. I myself am the same, when I look for a flat or a room, unconsciously look for one with a nice kitchen and a bathroom – with a bathtub. Oh, this is another story anyway.

So if someone who doesn´t take time to bath, people say to that person "sore wa karasu no gyouzui desu ( それはからすの行水です)". 

 

Japanese do believe that a quick bath is not so good. book holderMost of the night, I go in the bath with a glass of water and a book. I don´t have such a fancy gadget like this, so I close a half of the top and put my book on top. Oh, I make sure the bath top is dry. Then I stay in the 42 C° hot water until I start feeling a little dizzy.

 

When I was little, I thought the hot bath was evil. It was too hot to enter to begin with. I would put my toe and especially in winter, as my toes were completely frozen, 40 C° water could feel like 80 C°. After repeating several times, dipped my toe in and out, eventually managed to enter my lower body. Pff, how hard to sink myself up to the chin.

In the hot water, some how I felt a lot of pressure. I always felt like out of oxygen. Then my parents would make me count 1 to 100. Actually, it´s really common in Japan that parents make their kids count big numbers. I think most of Japanese kids learn numbers in the bath. When I became a little older, my parents forced me to say the multiplication table, 1×1 to 9×9. Ohhhh, how painful it was!

up to 100

I guess this is a trick to make kids stay in the bath as long as possible although for little ones, it´s just a torture. The heart starts beating toc toc toc with a full speed, the head becomes a little hazy and whole body turns to red like a boiled octopus.

 

 

But here is an interesting research of Japanese people which might change the image of Japanese being bath lovers. According to the article in gamenews, most of the Japanese people spend only 10-20 minutes in the bath. That´s not so long, they are actually doing Karasu no gyouzui. I know many westerns spend more than half an hour in the shower. 

 

Crows aren´t popular birds. They are even considered as vermin in Japan as they open rubbish bags and sprinkle rubbish all over the streets. But actually they are very clean. They so love washing themselves that they even bath every day. The one I was watching on the street, he flew away each time someone passed by but came back to the puddle many times and continued bathing.

So Karasu no gyouzui isn´t a really appropriated saying for the honour of crows. Look at the video, this crow even takes a bath like a human.

 

Are you a long-bath person or a Karasu no gyouzui person?

 

 

More Japanese saying

Hitono furi mite waga furi naose

Saru mo ki kara ochiru

Sumeba miyako

Mizu ga awanai

Uso mo Houben

Japanese Karuta game

6 Comments

  1. Sumo Joe 7 years Reply

    I enjoyed your post, Juju. It is very interesting, both from the point of learning about a traditional Japanese saying and from learning about the process Japanese children go through in getting used to the ofuro. We Americans have trouble sometimes getting our children to bathe, but it’s mainly because they just don’t want to stop playing! Oh, and I’m amused my the whole matter of crows in Japan. Did you see my post on karasu? If not, then I hope you enjoy it. http://sumojoesays.com/japanese-crows-the-size-of-gojira-godzilla/#more-651

    Sumo Joe

    • juju.kurihara 7 years

      Hi Sumo Joe

       

      Thank you and I´m glad you liked it. Who doesn´t like having a bath? Unfortunately or fortunately (for parents), Japanese bath is too hot to stay such a long time. I remember it was very hard for me as a child to dip myself to the chin that I just wanted to escape. You can imagine how tough to count until 100. As for crows in Japan. I don´t know when they have become so big and they are very agressive. Many people are being attacted when they leave the rubbish bag in a collecting point. It´s really dangerous. 

  2. Karen 8 years Reply

    I enjoyed your blog! Images of poor little Japanese children being boiled in a pot! ha ha I remember the very, very hot bath water when staying with friends in Japan. When I had my own place there, I could control the temperature of the water. But after some time, I was able to stand it hot better and better. I, too, now never live someplace where there is not a big, deep tub for me to soak in, for as long as I can stand it. I feel so good afterward.

    • juju.kurihara 8 years

      Thank you for the comment, Karen.
      When I was small, I´d never understood why I had to suffar in the bath. But now, I´d love to have a long hot bath every night.
      Hahaha, sounds like we are both hot bath addict, aren´t we?

  3. Shruti 8 years Reply

    Lovely and interesting article… 🙂

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