Last night we watched Yasujirō Ozu’s 1959 comedy Good Morning (お早よう, Ohayō); I had no expectation of making a post, but when I realized what it was about, I had no choice but to do so. That took almost half the movie, though. There are two plot lines, which seem to have nothing to do with each other: a group of elementary school students goof around and make fart jokes (apparently Japanese schoolkids make farts that sound like whistling), and a group of neighborhood housewives gossip with each other and wonder who stole the women’s club monthly dues. The turning point of the movie comes when two brothers, Minoru and Isamu, express their resentment at their father’s refusal to get a television set (they have to sneak over to the neighbors to watch sumo and baseball) by going on a silence strike. Being kids, they take it to extremes, refusing to talk even at school, which leads to a teacher visiting their home, or to their neighbor Mrs. Haraguchi, which leads to more gossip.

But before going silent, Minoru angrily tells his father that adults are always saying meaningless things like “good morning” and “nice weather,” so what’s the point of talking? And from there on, you can’t help but hear that in fact much of the dialogue does consist of “Ohayō” (good morning), “Konnichi wa” (good afternoon/day), “Ii o-tenki desu ne” (Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?), and the like; I noticed particularly the frequency of naruhodo, about which my indispensable Rose-Innes Vocabulary of Common Japanese Words says:

An interj. that may indicate a mild form of surprise, wonder or admiration, but is chiefly used by a person who is listening to another’s narrative and shows by an narrative and shows by an occasional naruhodo that he is taking a polite interest in what is being said. It may be translated by: ‘really!’; ‘I see’; etc.

And when the kids finally (spoiler!) resume speaking, one of the first words out of their mouths is “Ohayō!” In other words, the movie is about (inter alia, ça va sans dire) phatic communication, and deserves a place among Movies Featuring Linguists, Linguistics and Languages.


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Yasujirō Ozu

    Must watch Tokyo Story again. (Not only for the altogether luminous Setsuko Hara … but yeah.)

  2. Yes, that’s right up there with La règle du jeu in my pantheon of Greatest Movies Evar. But Ozu is always worth watching.

  3. Others on my list: Vertigo, The Godfather, Mirror, Close-upCitizen Kane? Maybe. Haven’t seen it in a while. Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle, with the proviso that people who aren’t hardcore Godard fans won’t understand why it’s so great. For them, I am willing to substitute À bout de souffle, which everybody can agree on.

  4. David Eddyshaw says


  5. Yeah, Ikiru definitely. And Seven Samurai, come to that.

  6. David Eddyshaw says

    My daughter (as is only right) shares my opinion of Ikiru, but declined to rewatch it with me as she didn’t want to cry in front of me. (Though she wouldn’t have been alone …)

  7. Christopher Culver says

    Over the last year, I watched all of Ozu’s talkies in chronological order. Fun to see the same stable of actors from film to film. I share Eddyshaw’s opinion that Setsuko Hara is a bonus of Tokyo Story, but man, did she suddenly turn frumpy after about 1956. Harsh as it sounds, I wonder if that is why she soon retired. Moreover, I feel like her good looks were particularly compatible with the kind of lighting popular when she debuted, but then film lighting changed.

    Ozu has some other films of linguistic interest, at least for viewers interested in the minutiae of Japanese. Floating Weeds has some old-fashioned theatrical language. And I already forget which film it was (Ozu’s films tend to blur in my mind, since their plots are so similar), but one ends with Chisu Ryu intoning poetry.

  8. Is there a lot of sumo content in the film?

  9. Not a lot, but there is a brief scene of sumo shown on a tiny black-and-white TV.

  10. It’s funny. I think Ikiru is an amazing film, and I actually like Takashi Shimura better as Kurosawa’s leading man than Toshiro Mifune or Tetsuya Nakadai, but I rarely have the desire to rewatch Ikiru. On the other hand, I could watch Seven Samurai over and over and never get bored. The whole ensemble carries it. And now thinking about Japanese baseball, I want to watch Stray Dog with my son. (Both of Kurosawa’s crime movies about the Americanization of Japan are great, but I prefer Stray Dog over High and Low, in part because Shimura’s role in the latter is so tiny.)

  11. David Eddyshaw says

    I knew my younger son was Worthy when he immediately recognised (at the age of about six) that Kambei Shimada in Seven Samurai was played by the same actor as Kyohei Yamane in Godzilla (the two films, astonishingly, came out in the same year.)

    (I’m not sure that he really appreciated Seven Samurai at that age, but, hey, start ’em young.)

    The original Godzilla is, of course, terrific. Still the best.

  12. I could watch Seven Samurai over and over and never get bored.

    Me too. (The same is true of Casablanca.)

  13. Chishu Ryu intoning poetry

    It’s Higanbana 彼岸花 (1958) (after around 41:30 here).

  14. Trond Engen says

    I thought this was going to be about the etymology, which would turn out to be from Eng. Ohio.

  15. Clicking the link in the OP, I saw that Ozu indeed called this film お早よう. My Japanese is weak, but I don’t think I’ve seen that written form — yes おはよう, or maybe お早う、but not お早よう. Maybe the custom was just different in 1959?

  16. By the way, my mention of Rose-Innes in the post led me to look him up; I’d forgotten that, as I wrote long ago on LibraryThing:

    There appears to be no information available on Rose-Innes. Since he had a book published as early as 1910 (1904 if he’s the “Sr Pbtro Arturo Rose-Innes” who wrote Pequeño catecismo de la doctrina cristiana) and seems to have still been alive in the 1930s, he was probably born somewhere in the last third of the 19th century.

    There is an ad for his English-Japanese Conversation Dictionary in the back of this book, which is dated 1878:
    But I think that copy must be a reprint, though unacknowledged as such.

    In 1926 he wrote that he was born in Chile.

    I suppose it’s unlikely that anyone here knows anything more, but if you do, I’d love hearing it!

  17. PlasticPaddy says

    Pseudonym of Arthur Waley? If not a pseudonym, South Africa seems a more likely birthplace than Chile…

  18. The ad at the back of the 1878 book is from 1922

    “Rose Innes, who had come to Japan as Chilean Vice-Consul and invented a new system of looking up characters, for which so many foreign students of Japanese, coming completely new to the written language, have long been grateful”

    Probably a descendant of the merchant George Rose Innes (1830-1882) who came to Valparaiso from Britain.

    Photo of el presbítero señor Arturo Rose-Innes, presumably another relative.

  19. Probably a descendant of the merchant George Rose Innes (1830-1882) who came to Valparaiso from Britain.

    Very likely; thanks for that! It seems odd that Arthur has left no trace other than his books…

  20. You may wonder how well a great, great nephew knows family history, but here’s a blog comment suggesting the presbitero is the scholar of Japanese.

  21. Photo of el presbítero señor Arturo Rose-Innes, presumably another relative.

    I think they’re the same person.

    A 2008 comment here, on a blog post about the same book on the 1906 Valparaiso earthquake that mollymooly linked to the photo in above, says:

    The text almost sanctifies my great, great uncle, a priest, Arturo Rose-Innes, which possibly explains why to this day there is some form of school named after him in Vinar del Mar … Incidentally Arturo/Arthur Rose-Innes, went on to devise the first systematic English dictionary of Chinese-Javanese [a typo, we may assume] characters, doubling up as a Chilean consul in Japan

    A “Liste du Corps diplomatique à Tokio” for June 1923 here (page 11 of the PDF, labelled 0363) gives M. Arturo Rose-Innes as an attaché of the Chilean legation.

  22. I had assumed a priest could not be a modern diplomat except for the Holy See. Perhaps he was laicised by the 1920s.

  23. I like “Vinar del Mar”.

  24. A 2008 comment here, on a blog post about the same book on the 1906 Valparaiso earthquake that mollymooly linked to the photo in above

    Thanks very much for finding that! Still no birth/death dates, but a definite advance in human knowledge.

  25. There are a few passenger lists on Ancestry that include an Arthur Rose-Innes born c 1869 in Chile. Unfortunately I don’t have access to non-US records.

  26. Also, mentions of the catechism written by Arturo, and his role in the construction of the children’s hospital in Valparaiso, as well as his maternal patronymic (? – the patronymic he inherited from his mother), Vives. Which in turn puts you into various genealogical pages, including this one with a birthdate.

    I’m still not entirely convinced it’s the same Arturo/Arthur. Seems pretty likely. But a number of backwards looking sites mention his role with the hospital and his career in the church without saying anything about Japan. You could also see a niece (I was wrong about nephew) mixing up two prominent Art(h)ur(o)s in the family 3 generations back.

  27. Maude Valérie White’s memoirs mention the family but not Arthur; his sister Lizzie married singer Charles Santley.

  28. J.W. Brewer says

    It was not until 1980 that the Vatican finally got around to effectively preventing their priests from serving in the U.S. Congress, so an absolute ban on being Chilean consul or attache in Japan in the earlyish 20th century (a less high-profile role) seems uncertain at best. According to the internet, the Chilean government was an *officially* Catholic regime until the novelty of separation of church and state was included in the new constitution of 1925, although I couldn’t tell you whether that marked a dramatic break in practice or simply official recognition of an evolution that had already largely occurred.

  29. Wow, great work all! I’m adding 1868 as birth year in the LT entry.

  30. David Marjanović says

    Another priest serving in politics in the 1920s was Ignaz Seipel, the “prelate without leniency”; we’ve talked about him before.

  31. There’s another copy of La catástrofe del 16 de agosto de 1906 en la república de Chile uploaded here; if anyone would like to see a higher-resolution version of the photograph of Pbro. Arturo Rose-Innes, it’s on page 240, which is page 219 of the pdf. He is wearing the habit of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. (I was curious about the emblem on his chest: for information on that, see here.)

  32. The Library of Congress* catalog shows a few presumed relatives, including James R.-I. (1855–1942), who was Chief Justice in South Africa; Reginald (1915–2012), author of A manual of Ghana grasses; Jenny, author of the recent Australian designers at home; and others.

    * Of the British Library catalog, we do not speak.

  33. i suspect that the [laughably-not-]Independent State of Croatia’s officialdom included at least a few active catholic priests during its brief run in 1940s, especially given how useful the vatican proved to be in assisting its quisling leadership to continue their careers with as little interruption as possible after the unfortunate (for them) events of 1945.

  34. I guess the Chilean and South African Rose-Inneses are both descended from

    JAMES ROSE, Advocate, b. 11 Aug. 1774; m. 1797, Elizabeth Mary, only child of Thomas Innes, of Monellie, Aberdeen, Writer to the Signet, and niece and heiress of John Innes, of Netherdale, and, in compliance with the terms of his marriage contract, assumed the name of INNES. He d. 4 Aug. 1814, having by her (who d. 17 Jan. 1851) had issue


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_priests_in_public_office has some Slovaks but no Croats ;Tiso != Tito

  35. J.W. Brewer says

    [ETA: as mollymooly already suggested] rozele is overlooking the even more salient example, one unsavory polity over from that iteration of Croatia, of the Slovak Republic of 1939-45 and its president the Rev’d Fr. Jozef Tiso. What is perhaps more salient (given the practical difficulties the Vatican might have experienced in cracking down on bad actors under wartime conditions) is that Fr. Tiso had been an elected member of the prior Czecho-Slovak parliament from 1925 forward under less extreme circumstances. Supposedly at one point his bishop took away one specific ecclesiastical job he held, presumably so that Tiso’s already-controversial political opinions would not be imputed to the bishop or diocese, but apparently never told him he had to choose between being a politician and being a priest.

    ETFA: a fair number of American states (at one point seven of the original thirteen) historically had rules prohibiting clergy from holding elective office, on the theory this conduced to promoting the separation of church and state. Most of these bans were repealed over time, and eventually in 1978 the Supreme Court ruled that they violated the federal Constitution, although they were unable to come up with a consensus on why. It is one of those tricky things where the idea that clergy should stay out of politics is itself (perhaps among other things) an inherently theological opinion about the proper role of the clergy, so if the government is to be neutral on theological disputes …

    Obviously it remains (in the U.S.) the right of any religious body to impose (and enforce via internal discipline) restrictions on the conduct of its own clergy, in this area and many others.

  36. Clicking the link in the OP, I saw that Ozu indeed called this film お早よう. My Japanese is weak, but I don’t think I’ve seen that written form — yes おはよう, or maybe お早う、but not お早よう. Maybe the custom was just different in 1959?

    FWIW, this appears to reflect a change in okurigana rules. お早よう seems to have been used in the name of “Good Morning Japan” radio programs in the 1970s and early 1980s, and my venerable Nelson’s kanji dictionary (second revised edition, 1974) for 早 (entry number 2100) shows “(o)hai(yō)” for the okurigana.

    However, the entry for “ohayou” in the rather modern Meikyo Japanese Dictionary (p. 901) contains the following admonition: “Caution: do not use okurigana お早よう.”

    A Japanese blog (“Inagara cinema”) noted in a 2013 post about the film that: “According to current okurigana rules, it is written as ‘おはよよう’, but of course it is ‘おはよう’.”

    I suspect that this change from お早よう to お早う arose during deliberations leading up to the 1981 kanji reform. Gottlieb (1994) wrote: “The new rules for okurigana likewise involved a backing away from earlier policy: in many words the number of syllables to be written in hiragana after the character was decreased, and hence a corresponding increased importance attached to the character itself.”

  37. Fascinating — I love that kind of historical detail!

  38. I rented the Noriko Trilogy without knowing it wasn’t that kind of trilogy. I spent the middle half of Early Summer getting more and more confused. I must petition to rename it Three Norikos Trilogy or Noriko “Trilogy”.

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