Saturday, May 19, 2012

the four scariest things in life

Here's another daruma doll etegami for you from my Father's Day series. The hand-made card, made from recycled papers, is stiff and bumpy, and repels the inks and colors I usually use for etegami. So I drew the simple image and the words with a black permanent marker.

The writing quotes an old Japanese expression: Jishin, Kaminari, Kaji, Oyaji (Earthquake, Lightning, Fire, and Dad), a list of four of the most terrifying things in life. I first heard it as a child when it was used as the title of a TV drama featuring a fiercely despotic father. Very recently, I was rooting through some linguistic archives on the internet, and I discovered that the word oyaji, as used in this particular expression, is not the word oyaji that means "Dad," but is rather a mutated form of Oo-yama-ji (big-mountain-storm), which used to be another word for Typhoon!  I asked my Japanese friends if they were aware of the original meaning of this once-common expression, and even the oldest among them had never doubted the oyaji = dad interpretation. Probably because they all grew up in an age when "Dad" really did belong on a list of life's most terrifying things.

For those who haven't been following my blog long enough to understand what the daruma dolls represent, or why I find them fascinating, you can catch up a bit by reading one of my earliest Daruma posts. (click here)


  1. Oh goodness. That dreaded statement "Wait til your Father comes home..." ACK! Absolutely. This is funny to me now because my father turned out to be the most gentle and loving father when I grew up. I think we just respected our fathers in a different way then.

  2. "Earthquake, Lightning, Fire, and Dad" -- It says SO much with only five words! It has just that right amount of tension between the truth and the absurd. Your Daruma Dad is wonderful...and I love the texture effect of the recycled paper.

  3. This is brilliant, such a bold picture to go with the quote and I love the paper too.

  4. Such an interesting take. I love the look of the marker on this one!

  5. Wow... that saying is profoundly sad to me... at least its modern interpretation. I'm sure it's true in many households even still, but I hope they are dwindling.

    It occurs to me that your Daruma Dads are legless = incomplete... as though they must give up part of themselves to gain such relentless power...