Language of Four Syllables

Japanese is a four-beat language. Japanese people find four-syllable words comfortable to the ear. In fact, a majority of Japanese abbreviations have four syllables (or moras)—for example, "pa-so-ko-n" for a personal computer, "ko-m-bi-ni" for a convenience store and "O-ni-o-ta" for an Onitsuka otaku.

Even haiku and tanka poems, which have five-seven-five and five-seven-five-seven-seven syllabic patterns respectively, are in fact four-beat:

Hito wa isa / Kokoro mo shirazu,/ Furusato wa / Hana zo mukashi no / Ka ni nioikeru

(Now I cannot see / Through your heart / But in my old hometown / Flowers are giving off sweet perfume / Just as they used to)

Kino Tsurayuki, from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets).

The rest positions may differ from poem to poem:

Aimite no / Nochi no kokoro ni / Kurabureba, / Mukashi wa mono wo / Omowazarikeri

(Compared with / This heart-breaking feeling / After the secret meeting with you / My pensive mood in the past / Now seems like nothing)

Gonchunagon Atsutada (a.k.a. Fujiwara no Atsutada), also from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu.

This four-beat pattern is embedded within Japanese genes so deeply that Japanese are said to be not very good at playing waltzes or three-beat music.

So let me call Mr. Takeshi Kobayashi "Kobatake"-san.



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