Thursday, October 22, 2009

"I am a uribo"

After seeing this commercial for Mitsui Sumitomo's Visa card on Japan Probe, it made me want to re-read I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki. Even though I don't understand everything that's being said here, I love this spot.

Funny, I don't recall the cat in the book being so bumbling and destructive. Guess that's why I need to read it again.

Despite my attempts at research, I could not find out why a wild boar is Mitsui's mascot. I shouldn't question it; Japanese companies always use cute characters in their advertising. At the beginning of the commercial, the pig says that he's not a cat, he's an uribo; and at the end of the commercial, the announcer says "Let's uribo campaign." I've looked through every Japanese-to-English dictionary at my disposal, and I can't figure out what an uribo is. Is it another name for wild boar? Is it another delightful Japanese play on words that can't be found in a dictionary?

I also can't figure out who the actress is and why they chose and actress to portray such a prominent and important literary figures. I understand it's a parody, but still.

What I do know is that Natsume Sōseki is one of Japan's most revered authors. His likeness currently appears on the 1,000 yen note, although I've read that he's going to be replaced soon. I read his book Kokoro in my Japanese history class when I was a senior in college. That was about a thousand years ago, so I should probably re-read that one, too.


Tammy H. said...

I found this on another blog:

In my Happy New Year post I talked about the boar appearing on this year's nengajo. I also noted that the boar shared space with what looked like a watermelon. I discussed this with friends - what significance does the watermelon have at New Year? One of my friends just got back to me about it - apparently it isn't a watermelon, but a Japanese melon, or uri 瓜。When wild boars are still only boarlets they are striped, and hence look like melons with legs. As a result Japanese people have nicknamed them uribo 瓜坊 which roughly translates as melon-boy ( boya 坊や is a term used to address small boys). Melon. Boar. Either way, delicious.

shrinecastle said...

Thanks, Tammy! That's right - little boars DO look like melons! It all makes sense to me now.