I saw a segment on my local morning news where Japanese media were asked how to say certain phrases in Japanese so that Red Sox fans could make Daisuke Matsuzaka feel at home in Fenway. One reporter was asked how we would say “we love you, Daisuke” and he responded 愛してる [ai shite iru, literally there exists love] but emphasized that this is not said man-to-man.
The clip was cut short to fit time constraints, but I’m sure the Japanese reporter went on to explain that this phrase is rarely spoken, even between long-term companions.
Instead 好き [su ki], translated to “like,” is used. The first character is a kanji that combines the symbol for mother/woman and child together, implying the closeness of that relationship; the second symbol is from the hiragana syllabary.
If you really like someone, you could add the character 大 [dai], which means “big.” If that symbol looks familiar, it is indeed the first character from Matsuzaka’s given name, which I explained here. So, “Daisuke daisuki” is a bit strong for anyone but Matsuzaka’s wife to say, but “Matsuzaka-senshu ga suki desu” is appropriate. “Senshu” is an honorific, like “san,” but it is specifically added to athletes’ family names.
The sensation this box artist has caused remains remarkable. The Boston Herald, noting a huge increase in hits from Japan, will be publishing articles on Matsuzaka in Japanese.
Even Mike Plugh of Matsuzaka Watch will continue to follow his favorite pitcher despite the latter’s affiliation. I can’t say I would continue to follow a particular player if he were signed with a rival team, but I can see how Matsuzaka could inspire someone to do so.
I’ve also found a fellow Red Sox fan whose Japanese skills are much better than mine: Nichibei Red Sox Blog is a snazzy new blog headquartered in my birth state. 日米 [nichibei] means Japan-United States; the first symbol means “sun” and the second is “rice.” In his first post Kazuneko provides his translation of the press conference.
It seems like an odd thing that the US is called 米国 [beikoku] in Japanese as that would literally translate as “land of rice.” However, “beikoku” is actually a shortened form of 亜米利加 [amerika]. This particular way of spelling America, where kanji are used phonetically, is called ateji. Words are no longer created in this manner. Instead, the katakana syllabary, which equates each phoneme with a symbol systematically, quite unlike the ad hoc ateji method.