Giving trash the bird?

(Hakidame ni tsuru; “A crane on a dunghill”)


An especially talented or beautiful person amid mundane folk. A rare gem amid dross; a beautiful crane that has incongruously alit on a midden-heap.


We begin with the same composite noun as last week: 掃き溜め (hakidame), a “pile of waste.” This is followed by the noun 鶴 (tsuru), “(Japanese) crane.” In between, the locational particle に (ni) places the crane on (or in, or at) the heap. And anything further that might have extended the thought or completed the sentence is elided, although see below.


This saying is sourced to a senryuu poem*, a close relative to haiku: 掃溜へ鶴宿下りの総模様 (hakidame e / tsuru yadoori no / soumoyou). While I hesitate to provide a translation at this point, some discussion has suggested that the implication is of someone returning to their family home from their work home (which in Japan, almost always means returning to a relatively isolated village or estate from the capital) and finding themselves out of place, although the meaning has evolved somewhat in the intervening centuries.

(*At this point, it’s unclear to me who actually wrote it.)

Example sentence:


(“Kyoutou-sensei ga itteta kedo, kono chuugakkou no danshi no hanbun gurai ga jibun dake ga hakidame no tsuru da to omotteru sei de maishuu ni, sankai, kenka ga okiteiru rashii yo.”)

[“According to the vice-principal, there have been fights breaking out two or three times a week because about half the boys at this middle school believe that they alone are the crane on the dunghill.”]

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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