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Friday, October 20, 2017

Ariki

ありき



ariki is a word you sometimes see or hear in Japanese that is usually used after the word ketsuron, which means "conclusion."

ari is from the word aru (to have, to be - depending on the context) and the now antiquated ki, which was an auxiliary verb used to express reminiscing. Reminiscing is always about the past, so ariki was, in effect, the past tense of aru, or, what is now atta.

Setting aside the ketsuron ariki phrase for a moment (which we'll get to in a bit), the most famous use of ariki is in the Japanese translation of the Bible, specifically the opening verse of the Gospel of John which, in English, goes, "In the beginning was the Word." In Japanese this is hajime ni kotoba ariki はじめに言葉ありき.

The autobiography of the prolific Japanese author, Ayako Miura (1922-99) was called Michi Ariki (renamed "The Wind is Howling" in the English language version), meaning "in the beginning was the road" - no doubt reflecting her conversion to Christianity later in life.

So from its original meaning back in ancient times of simply referring to something in the past, ariki now has the meaning of "in the beginning." Apply that to "conclusion" (ketsuron ariki) and you have the meaning of the conclusion, the outcome, having come first. We have a phrase for this in English, a foregone conclusion, which, as with ketsuron ariki, usually has negative connotations.

ketsuron ariki is very much part of the politician's verbal armory in Japan, used when criticizing an outcome that the speaker believes was decided on beforehand, whatever may come - therefore implying that the result was rigged, and that the discussions or procedures gone through prior to the outcome were fake and for show only.

Yet, in common parlance ariki can have a much more pedestrian meaning. I was recently wondering where to eat in the delightfully bohemian Shimokitazawa district of Tokyo, and looked up a few reviews on Tabelog.com, a restaurant information site in Japanese. One restaurant I went to, a pizzeria in Shimokitazawa called Da Oggi was described by a reviewer as making pizza that was guzai ariki, i.e., that "started with the topping," - in other words, it was a pizzeria that put its all into getting the toppings right" as opposed to the normal approach of "kiji ariki" or "starting with the crust" which, he believed, was the approach most pizzerias took, getting the crust just the right consistency before worrying about getting the topping right. I could kind of see what he meant. The crust wasn't as chewy as I was used to, but it certainly wasn't crisp, either - but the topping on my Margherita was out of this world!

If you've read this far, then I have a confession to make. In sitting down to write this, I was more interested in getting you to go to my new Shimokitazawa Cafes and Restaurants page than have you understand the meaning of ariki. Yes, this conclusion is well and truly foregone! Go on - shout it at me: "Ketsuron ariki yaro!" ("yaro" being an intensifier when yelling abuse at someone). But I hope you like the page. I'll be adding to it following more trips to that coolest of spots, Shimokitazawa, with some great little places to people-watch and dine, and with its wonderful Shimokitazawa shopping scene.

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