Today’s headline comes again from Mainichi:
“Pre sale tickets have sold out (for the May tournament) in an hour and a half.”
We’ve got a very short headline today that will introduce several important kanji. Again, I’ll break things but you will need to know ALL of this kanji. The whole thing is beginner level.
This first character (前), “mae”, is VERY important. It means “in front” or “before.” You’ll see it on many train stops because there will be a store or some attraction and the station is right in front of that attraction. Mitsukoshi is a popular department store, so Mitsukoshi-mae is the station right in front. It is also used frequently in a temporal sense of “before.” One word of caution, if you watch anime, you will often hear characters us the word “omae,” as “you.” DO NOT OMAE WHEN YOU GO TO JAPAN. IT IS VERY INFORMAL AND RUDE. Instead, people usually use the person’s name with -san afterward, even when talking directly to that person. With the word for to sell (売り), “uri,” we get pre-sales. With “ken” it’s pre-sale tickets.
Telling time in Japanese is obviously an important skill and (時), “ji,” is critical for that. After a number it means “o’clock”. So １時 is 1:00. Many time schedules use a 24-hour clock (military time) over there. The next character is also critically important. In this case, we’re not talking about 1:00. We’re talking about a length of time and that is because of (間) “kan.” This is used after seconds (秒), minutes (分), hours (時), days (日), weeks (週), whatever, to express elapsed time. If you thought we were done with critical characters, we’re not. The next character (半), “han,” means “half.” So we’re talking an hour and a half.
Sold out. You’ll recognize (売) from earlier in the headline as “to sell.”
To show just how important this phrase and these characters are, our translation engines did okay. Google was bang on but the others did okay. Each could tell that we were talking about elapsed time instead of telling the actual time as that is a critical first-level skill for anyone hoping to learn Japanese.
Google: “Advance tickets sold out in an hour and a half.”
Yahoo!: “It is sold out in advance ticket, one and a half hours”
Excite: “It’s sold-out by an advance ticket and 1 hour and a half.”
On a personal note, I love being ahead of the curve. I really like to discover things which are undervalued. I went to an antique store yesterday and picked up four vinyl records costing me a TOTAL of $8. “Bad Co,” The Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense,” The Clash’s “Give ‘Em Enough Rope,” and Styx’ “Paradise Theater”. $8. I’m still in shock. I’m going to play the heck out of these records because there’s not a bad track on here. I just bought tickets to see Michael Kiwanuka at the 9:30 Club this summer for $20. I got to watch the “canceled” tournament in person at Kokugikan for pennies. It was amazing.
Why do I mention this? As sumo becomes more popular with a Japanese Yokozuna, tickets will be more difficult to come by and they’ll be more expensive. It will be harder for us non-Japanese to get in the building as we won’t be connected to fan clubs. So if we don’t want to get shut out, we’re going to need to learn the system and to learn the system, we’ll need to learn the language and try to get the Sumo Kyokai to publish more information in English or our native languages.
Despite the sell out of pre-sale tickets, there’s still a chance to get cancelled tickets and 400 tickets will be put on sale each day of the tournament. But you’re not going to book a flight to Japan if you don’t have a reserved seat, will you? If we can’t get in the building and NHK cuts back its offerings, it will be much harder to find legitimate content. There’s nothing that replaces the experience of being there in person. But we also can’t be there every day of every tournament so we need avenues for watching. And not just the makuuchi. Not just Juryo. The more we watch, the more we learn and appreciate the pomp, ceremony, drama, and nuance to the sport. I want to watch makushita and lower ranked wrestlers, too. Wakaichiro, Shunba, 頑張れ！ Tachiai will continue to bring sumo news and commentary in English because it’s an awesome sport.