Ozu reference to jealousy & pickles

Trond Trondsen trondsen
Thu Nov 6 01:58:49 EST 2003

The saying you refer to is deeply rooted in traditional
Japanese family life.  It is my understanding that most
young Japanese will not understand its implications,
as so many social habits and customs have been lost to
americanization (&c), over time.

As for the meaning, I had this picture painted for me:

Pickles are, or at least used to be, commonly served at
family meals.  Who serves it?  The housewife, of course, -
or a female family member.  Takuan refers to salted and
fermented radish (Daikon).  The Daikon is quite thick,
full of nutrients. It extends a long thick root into the
ground, ("As fat as a woman's leg," the Japanese say).  and
thus has a rather hard, tough surface layer.

Imagine that you have a skillful hand...  you, as a woman in a
Japanese household, prepare dishes for the family.  The main
dish is already served.  Now, some routine work: cutting the
takuan.  You cut it quite absentmindedly, you have done it a
million times before, and your mind wanders off.  It takes
you off into your inner world where you may remember what
happened in your recent past, unpleasant things regarding
your business, or between you and your new stepmother, your
father's new partner or your husband...  It may distract
your attention from the daily routine (that is, the cutting of the
takuan), and lo' and behold you find the takuan in a chain!
Remember, the daikon has that thick covering, and you have
to be skillful & concentrated to cut it quickly & properly.
So, the Japanese used to have this saying:  "Takuan in a
chain proves your inner jealousy toward mother, husband,
some other family member." - one thinks of the pieces in the
chain as corresponding to psychological associations/fragments
of ideas affected by jealousy.

You may naively blame it all on a clumsy hand, but the old
Japanese had an astounding insight into the more subtle aspects
of daily life,...  an insight now all but lost.  (This is why I
personally love the Tora-san films, they give such a vivid
description of the old family scene in Japan). There is much
more to it, I am painting a somewhat naive/simplified picture that
even a Western brain (like mine) can grasp. I am sure  native
Japanese on this list can expand on it quite a bit.

Hope this helps.


On Nov 5,  4:29pm, Frako Loden wrote:
> Subject: Ozu reference to jealousy & pickles
> Even my Japanese mother can't answer this one! In Ozu's 1949
> "Banshun" (Late Spring), the Hara Setsuko character says that she's
> the jealous type--after all, when she slices pickles (takuan), they
> stay strung together, i.e. she doesn't slice them all the way
> through. She flirts with a man in the film twice with this
> information. Can anybody explain to me how semisliced pickles would
> relate to jealousy?
> Frako Loden
>-- End of excerpt from Frako Loden

  Trond S. Trondsen trondsen at phys.ucalgary.ca ve6nor at amsat.org 
  Institute for Space Research (ISR), Calgary, Alberta, Canada 
  URL: http://www.phys.ucalgary.ca/~trondsen  

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