A 3000 kilometer long dark cloud has enveloped Japan. It appears to have been completely missed by the experts, and we are concerned not to have once seen warnings on the weather reports. It seems to have gone completely unnoticed and yet is having a profound effect on the entire country. It has been detected recently by many of us at stippy, and after further investigation, is being widely referred to as the “Taihen Cloud”.
It is almost impossible to recognize the Taihen Cloud when one is on the ground surrounded by it, but once you know where to look, it is glaringly obvious, and its scope and intensity startling. Everything that lies under the cloud is affected by its unique power, and it affects every single person in Japan, every single day.
Said to be the northern hemisphere opposite of the cloud covering the “Land of the Long White Cloud” (Aotearoa, the land mass off the Eastern coast of Australia), the Taihen Cloud covers Japan almost completely from the tropical south to the freezing north. It is however said to be concentrated in relation to population density, therefore large cities like Tokyo and Osaka have the highest Taihen concentration levels.
A loose English translation of “taihen” (大変） is “it is hard, or difficult”. Everything that is taihen is much more difficult to do than usual. And the spread of the Taihen Cloud over the whole country has ensured that now almost everything has become difficult to do. This is not to be confused with “mendokusai” (面倒くさい), which means “it is a hassle for me to do”, which is not a reflection of difficulty, but more of the motivation or laziness of the person concerned.
The correct Japanese pronunciation for the cloud is taihen-kumo (大変雲), but is often mispronounced by young and old as taihen-kamo (大変かも), which also means, “it might be taihen”, and is commonly used in this nuance.
The Taihen Cloud makes everything about life, well, taihen. It is what raises the stress levels of people in Japan to unnecessary heights, and forces the difficulty levels of even the simplest tasks through the roof. It is what has caused Japan to lead the world in previously unknown phenomena such as Monday Morning Suicides, and “karoshi” (過労死, commonly referred to as death from overwork, however karoshi is not possible independent of the Taihen Cloud). It is what causes groups of people to stand around for excruciatingly long periods of time deciding simple matters such as what to eat for dinner, and then just as long to scrutinize the menu to make the difficult decision of what to eat. An advanced symptom is feeling the effect of the Taihen Cloud is the ad nauseas use of the phrase “dou shiyou!?” (どうしよう？ what shall I/we do?).
The moment when most people will feel the actual existence of the Taihen Cloud, is when they take off in a plane, rocket up into the sky and out of the local atmosphere. The subsequent feeling of having shed some weight, is the Taihen Cloud falling away from your shoulders. Unfortunately though, an adverse effect of the Taihen Cloud is that after a long period under its presence, it begins to permeate into the core of those affected, covering all, like a thick cloud of Taihen fog. As a result, when many people (even the unwary gaijin), fly up out of Japan into a taihen-less environment, for a period of time things can still appear taihen. The best therapy for this is simply time away in a relaxed environment, and can be accelerated by an afternoon or two of fishing brown trout out of a serene lake in the mountains.
One of the reasons the Taihen Cloud has grown so quickly, and on a national scale is its contagiousness. One person saying “dou shiyou”, can spark off others, and before anyone can stop it, brows become ruffled, and everything is too hard – the taihen pandemic.
As an unnatural meteorological phenomenon, theoretically the population of Japan should be able to take measures to effect the dissipation of the Taihen Cloud. However without the charisma and marketing budget of Al Gore, our inconvenient truth is that we do not have the means to undertake the national campaigns, lobbying and other efforts necessary to make it disappear over night. And in any case, this is probably much too taihen.
However, over time, with the right steps, we still hope that the Taihen Cloud can be overcome. The first step we would like to suggest, and here at stippy.com are considering petitioning the Japanese Government, is that the phrase “dou shiyou” be completely removed from the Japanese language. We would also suggest that this is complemented with the introduction of new educational programs focused on building vocabulary, to fill the obvious and uncomfortable hole in speech left by “dou shiyou”.
The old adage that realizing the problem is 50 percent of its solution likely rings true in the case also. With more awareness of the Taihen Cloud and its symptoms, and a concerted effort to introduce popular foreign phrases such as “no worries”, and “heaps of time”, things may not be as taihen as they seem.
13 thoughts on “Japan Enveloped by Huge Cloud!”
Great bit of cultural insight! Top job.
After 5 years out of Japan, my wife has finally purged the last remnants of the Taihen Cloud Effect. She often says “no worries mate” in an affected aussie accent and the japanese phrase “nantoka naru” (roughly: “something will work out” or “she’ll be right mate”)
But some weird stroke of fate, I now say “dou shiyou” much more often >_
What is it about Japan. All gaijins constantly complain about it, and why they shouldn’t be here and that they are planning to go home (some day..). But, whilst saying so, they are looking into housing loans, having babies, looking for which junior school to enrol their kids in. Even though we are covered by the taihen cload at all times, there is a subterranean force that draws us back, no matter how we draw up escape plans. I feel like I am on and island like in the TV series “lost”. If you watch it, you’ll know what I mean..
Everyday I see a specific example of the Taihen Cloud:
In Japan there is an “Elevator taihen-cloud.” Many people are in a rush to get where they are going, never more so in a crowded elevator. Japanese people try to show their consideration to others. In elevators they do this by conducting an amazing contortionist effort. As the Japanese person leaves the elevator, he recognizes that he has maliciously stopped the elevator midway, making everyone else in the elevator wait, while he gets out. Upon this realization he feels there is only one way he can ever be forgiven. Thats when the contortionist act begins. The left foot exits the elevator, the right hand reaches to the left. As his body-proper leaves the elevator his arm remains inside, mystically reaching–and finding–the “close door” button (standard button in Japan elevators). Thus, feeling redeemed and thinking his taihen-cloud has lightened somewhat, he removes his arm from the close button and rushes off to his office, heading to other awaiting taihen-clouds. Granted, when his hand finds the close button the door does begin to close until, of course, the door-sensor picks up movement and the door opens again. Yes, little does he know, the prat’s arm, as leaving the elevator has defeated his whole time-saving exercise and taihen-cloud gratification. Meanwhile, the gaijins waiting in the elevator roll their eyes…
This is when a group of people in an elevator. When the door opens at a floor mid-way up, the person on his way out, after stepping out of the elevator, has this taihen feeling that he must press the “close door” button in supposed consideration for his fellow elevator riders. What he forgets in his taihen-ness is that firstly there are a number of people already in the elevator trying to get their fingers on that damn close door button so they can get upstairs 0.75 seconds quicker, and also that there is an infrared sensor being broken by his arm, which means that he cant actually close the door anyway!
One thing that kind of blew my mind when I was back in Japan was how every single person in my office said the exact same thing on September 11th (I guess it was the 12th in Japan). I walk into the office.
Yeah, pretty taihen. A few seconds later,
After the 10th taihen, it started to get creepy. Did everyone in Japan hold an emergency meeting and decide what they should say to Americans about the “Simultaneous multiple occurrence terrorism incident”?
Now I know better… it was the taihen cloud all along!
I just found your site and spent about 2hr internetting the day away. Enjoyed this article, good humor. I so know what you mean about the taihen thing!
Top notch satire! Loved the pictures that went with the article, as well. 🙂
“Taihen” has definitely got to be one of the most overused words in the entire Japanese language.
I love it! It is so funny, and so true. Everything from a missed bus to death in the family could be “taihen”. Ahh, brings back memories…
For a better insight, I think a Japanese person should write an article about the “I am sorry-cloud” in Western societies. As you know (or so I hope), in Japanese you cannot use sumimasen or gomen nasai to show empathy for some problem of which you are not responsible, because they are expressions of apology, and do not express grief. There are many expressions of grief, certainly (o-ki-no-doku and the lot), but they sound too profound or too sarcastic, so that’s where “taihen” appears. If you ever watch any foreign movie / show in Japan and try to read the Japanese subtitles, you will notice how when someone is complaining and other character tells them “I’m so sorry” that is rendered as “taihen desu ne…” in Japanese. That’s because “I’m sorry” –apart from (1) “I am sad for what I did to you, so please pardon me”– also means (2) “I’m grieving / I’m sad (for what happened to you, even though I am unrelated to it)”, while “sumimasen / gomen nasai” only bears that first meaning. I guess many Americans where told “taihen desu ne” by Japanese speakers on September 11th (see 5th comment). That’s their way of expressing condolence and concern –in my native country, Spain, they would have been told, “I am sorry (for what happened in your country)” hundreds of times too. If your mother dies, or you are getting divorced, or you lose your wallet, people around you will probably tell you, “I am sorry” –and I think this works for most countries in Europe and the Americas. In Japanese you cannot say “sumimasen” or “gomen nasai” because you would find yourself apologizing. One of the most appropriate expressions in these cases is “Taihen desu ne”. So what’s all the fuss about the word “taihen” being used?? I think that translating it as “hard, difficult”, instead of trying to seize its wider meaning, usage and function, is what is making a lot of gaijin be confused about an apparently taihenized Japanese society. The sole fact of saying “taihen means hard, difficult” proves that most people here are missing the point. Probably because they are being deceived by dictionaries, and by the fantasy that one word in one language is always perfectly and exactly equivalent to other word in other language.
So again, try to think about the “I am sorry-cloud” that I mentioned… Bunches of Western people saying it continuously… when most of them, or all of them most of the time, aren’t really sorry about anything. If I’m not sorry for something happening to _you_, at least by saying “taihen” (you are in trouble / you must be struggling, suffering / the situation is grave), I am saying the truth.
“I am sorry” for my bad English, it must be very “taihen” for you to cope with my grammar 😛
Years ago one August my Japanese wife and I went to a movie theatre in our provincial town for a double feature ( those used to be quite common back then but have seemingly disappeared). We took our seats and the movie began. Just a few minutes later I watched a female employee open a box on the wall and shut off the air conditioning completely. By the end of the first movie everyone had their handkerchiefs out wiping their faces muttering how hot it was. We were enveloped in the “taihen cloud.” I told my wife certainly someone would complain and the A/C would be turned back on. No one did as the cloud had settled among the seats and produced a fog so thick that no one could break free of it and find the lobby. Except me. I got up and sprayed the two slackers at the counter with my own version of the “taihen cloud.” We watched the 2nd movie in air conditioned comfort.
This certainly is related to the “shouganai” cloud, which has surrounded Japan and been felt since prior to the occupation…