Hello, Kyra here! This is Onamae wa? #48, our weekly encounter where we pick Anime character’s names and look for anything interesting in them.
Hey girl, you are so cool. (I wonder if she would like this one…)
Our guest today is 日下部(kusa.ka.be) 雪(yuki), protagonist of Demi-chan wa Kataritai, a school setting comedy Anime currently airing in Winter 2017. There are spoilers here, though this is not the kind of show that will be affected by such things.
日下部(kusa.ka.be) 雪(yuki) is a 雪女(yuki.onna; Snow Woman), a 妖怪(you.kai; spirit) in Japanese folklore. As far as the Anime is concerned, the official English term is Snow Fairy (source), although even in Japanese there are a myriad of words for this being, including, but not restricted to 雪娘(yuki.musume; Snow Girl) and 雪女子(yuki.onago; Snow Wench). This last one deserves some further details.
Albeit the current usual reading for 女子 is jo.shi, as in this recurring word in Anime culture, 女子高生(jo.shi.kou.sei; High School Student Girl), it was once also read as 女子(onna.go), which itself became 女子(onago). By adding the suffix -衆(-shu), you can create words that describe a group of people, as in 男衆(otoko.shu; men), 女衆(onna.shuu; women) or 民衆(min.shuu; people, the masses). Following a similar fashion, at some point the word 女子衆(ona.go.shuu) was coined to also describe women, but because it was seen as a veiled scornful term, it was eventually labeled as a derogatory word, which in turn led to 女子(ona.go) itself being caught under the same pejorative concept. Thus we have 女子(jo.shi) and 女子(ona.go) originally describing the same idea, but nowadays one is trivial while the other is seen as hate speech. A prime example of how Languages are alive, a frequent expression among Linguists.
Uh, where was I? Oh right, Yuki-chan. Official Site describes her only in terms of her weakness to hot weather due to her racial traits, without diving into personality matters. Earlier depicted as a reclusive girl, by Episode 5 we understand the source of Yuki’s uneasiness, paving up the way for Episode 8 and 9 when her true colors were fully revealed. Let’s check her name out!
Family Name: 日下部(kusa.ka.be)
日下部(kusa.ka.be) is definitely not a rare name, featured in the 902th nationwide, with an estimate 20.700 bearers in Japan. It has a peculiar reading in its first kanji, but it is initially not as unique as 小鳥遊(takanashi), as we have seen when exploring her friend Hikari-chan in [Onamae wa? #40].
日 was briefly seen in 小日向(ko.hi.nata) from Amanchu! in [Onamae wa? #14]. Curiously, she also had a friend called Hikari there! The prevalent idea brought by this kanji to Yuki-chan is her arduous relationship with 日(hi; sun, sunshine), which shouldn’t be confused with 太陽(tai.you; the Sun). Lastly, 日 can also refer to Japan itself or to the Imperial Family.
下 was seen when talking about 下村(shimo.mura) from Ajin in [Onamae wa? #33]. From there I quote:
下 is a very basic kanji used to describe both abstract and concrete ideas of lower, inferior, below. Some words include 目下(me.ka) and 下位(ka.i), both words for subordinate and also in 上下(jou.ge; ruler and ruled relationship), all easily related to Izumi-kun. This last one also coincidentally ties well to Tosaki’s first name, 優(yuu), kanji that can be used to describe something that is superior, further linking the inferior and superior relationship between these two.
I think this inferior/superior concept doesn’t really seems to apply to Yuki at first glance, but we will get back to it in a few paragraphs.
部 is one of the most used kanji in Japanese, mostly as a Suffix, although also used normally as in 部屋(he.ya; room). In Anime it can be seen in School setting shows due to 部活(bu.katsu; Club activities), as in情報処理部(jou.hou.shou.ri.bu; Data Processing Club) from Yuyushiki or 古典部(ko.ten.bu; Classic Literature Club) from Hyouka. Oh, don’t forget about the unique 帰宅部(ki.taku.bu; Go-Home Club), a term for those students who don’t join a Club. School aside, we can also see this kanji in 本部(hon.bu; headquarters) as often mentioned in ACCA or the 辞書編集部(ji.sho.hen.shuu.bu; Dictionary Editing Department) in Fune wo Amu.
Things start to get really interesting once we put these kanji together. In this first possiblity, we can separate 日下部(kusa.ka.be) in 日下 and 部. A first look at 日下 would make it a reduction of 日の下(hi.no.shita; under the sun). Granted, 下 may also be read as ‘ka’, but what about 日 as ‘kusa’? After a bit of research (sources A, B and C, Japanese only), it seems the most relevant theory says that 日下(kusa.ka) originated from the expression 日の下に生い茂っている草地(hinoshita ni oishigetteiru kusachi), translated as an overgrown grassland under the sun, a term used by Emperor Jinmu (660-585 BC), the first Japanese Emperor. This first derived the term 日の下の草香(hinoshita no kusaka), translated as the smell of grass under the sun. As you see ‘kusaka’ appears now, but not as a read of 日の下, but of 草香. Regardless, from this expression it was later derived the term 日下(kusa.ka) as a way to describe something under the sun, dropping the whole grassland idea, but retaining the reading. Woah, another example Language evolution! Adding 部 as a suffix and 日下部(kusa.ka.be) would then mean those who strive under the sun.
A second point of view see this name as 日 + 下部. This second part is also a word on its own, 下部(shimo.be; servant, underling), a term that fits the idea of inferior/superior mentioned above when 下 was introduced. But who would be the superior here? Remember that I said how 日 can refer to the Imperial Family? The origins of 日下部(kusa.ka.be) as a name are often associated with it being a designation for descendants of Emperors, more specifically when talking about Emperor Kaika (157-98 BC) (Source, Japanese only).
Honestly impressed by how much you can talk about a simple name. Once I realized these two point of views are separated by hundreds of years, the first one describing how the word itself was coined and the other how it became a Family Name, I couldn’t help but let out a ‘woah’. Furthermore, it still plays well into Yuki-chan’s premise of dealing badly with heat!
- 日下部(kusa.ka.be) 麻子(asa.ko) from Grisaia series (Special, 2015)
- 日下部(kusa.ka.be) 吉柳(ki.ryuu) from Occultic;Nine (Fall 2016)
- 草壁(kusa.kabe) サツキ(satsuki) from Tonari no Totoro (Movie, 1988)
This last one features the most ‘natural’ way to think about 草壁(kusa.kabe; grass wall, grass fence). This name also involves Imperial Family lineage, as in 草壁皇子(kusakabe no miko; Prince Kusakabe 662-689 AD). Yup. Hundreds of years after the others mentioned above.
Given Name: 雪(yuki)
After all the commotion caused by 日下部(kusa.ka.be), 雪(yuki) comes like a bucket of cold water to calm us down. Hah! Making her a character that likes gags and silly jokes play well into the idea of freezing in this context, of course, but this is not really related to her name so I won’t dwell much here.
日下部(kusa.ka.be) 雪(yuki), the snow fairy striving under the Sun.
Thanks for your time, hope you guys enjoyed your reading. In the scene above Yuki used the expression 同好の志(dou.kou.no.shi), used to describe people who share interests or tastes. As a lover of silly jokes myself, I consider Yuki-chan a 同好の志 too. I chose her because 日下部(kusa.ka.be) is a vivid gem from a Linguistic point of view and if you follow this blog, whether you are aware or not, we also share some sort of 同好の志 through this kind of interest. See you all next weekend!