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Kani hanriru


To get senile. Okinawa is an island with a reputation for healthy longevity, but when people grow senile, they grow thoroughly. Kani is hagane in standard Japanese, which means steel. Kani hanriru is a mental state which lost such heavy restraints1. The elderly in their dotage can be called kani hanritōn rather matter-of-factly. There is a slight sense of humor in that, a spiritual culture that understands and tolerates such things to a certain degree. 

When I frequently visited my grandmother’s island to research for my university thesis, among the many seniors of the village I talked to, there was an old lady with whom I always had an incongruent conversation. She was smiling the whole time, but her dialect got stronger and stronger while what she was saying got more and more incomprehensible. It was kind of fun, so I kept talking on like that. 
 When I was telling my grandmother about the research that night, she grinned and asked me, “Ey, you talked with that obaa, right? You understood what she said?” “Not quite,” I answered, and my grandmother looked amused. “That obaa is kani hanritiru.” Keeping her company made me seem like her kani hanriru mate, which was a bit funny. Like so, it is not that she is left out of the village, but strangely, her existence as a kani hanriteru old lady was a little amusement to the people.
 In the same way, usually, we can say something a bit dumb and someone would point at you laughing “You are young but you seem to be already kani hanriteru.”
 There is a very high chance for me to kanri hanriru in the future. I hope I can prepare well from now on to be able to amuse people when that time comes.

Editor’s Note:

  1. “To loosen the hoop” is a Japanese idiom meaning to lose the restraints, like a barrel that lost its metal hoop.