How about umeboshi?

Benign when it’s just a matter of taste

亭主の好きな赤烏帽子
(Teishu no suki na akaeboshi;
“The master’s favored red hat”)

Definition:

When someone with power (e.g. the head of a household) has some odd or nonstandard tendency, everyone under them has to follow along. For example, even though eboshi hats (seen previously) are normally black, if the head of your household prefers red, then that’s what you end up wearing. There is no implicit value judgment in the words themselves, but given Japan’s history of Confucian-inspired patriarchal values, the phrase seems to be at least a little prescriptive.

Breakdown:

We begin with the noun 亭主 (teishu), “master of the house,” by extension a husband, innkeeper, host of an event (especially tea ceremony), or paterfamilias. The associative particle の (no) connects this noun with the following noun phrase, which is governed by the noun 烏帽子 (eboshi), a traditional tall hat. The hat is modified by compounding it with the color 赤 (aka), “red,” and further by using the particle な (na) to attach a noun acting as an adjective. The noun in question is 好き (suki), “a thing that I like,” which itself is derived from the conjunctive form of the verb 好く (suku), “to like,” “to prefer.” This brings us back to の and completes the associated noun phrase.

Notes:

亭主 may be replaced with 旦那 (danna) without any change in meaning. Synonymous phrases replace the red hat with a 薦 (komo), a woven mat generally only worn by beggars, or even with 赤鰯 (akaiwashi), “pickled sardines” – presumably because they’re an acquired taste and/or iwashi was mistaken for eboshi somehow, not because a powerful person might ever decide to wear a pickled fish.

This is the て (te) entry of the Edo iroha karuta set. It is attributed to a 人情本 (ninjoubon) work titled 『恩愛二葉草』 (On’ai futabagusa), literally “Kindness and love, two leaves of grass.”

Example sentence:

亭主の好きな赤烏帽子ってわけで十年間も毎日ピアノの練習をしてきたけれど、成人して別の街へ引っ越してから、今度は自分が亭主になったつもりで音楽は止めてイラストレーターを目指してる」

(Teishu no suki na akaeboshi tte wake de juunenkan mo mainichi piano no renshuu wo shite kita keredo, seijin shite betsu no machi he hikkoshite kara, kondo wa jibun ga teishu ni natta tsumori de ongaku wa yamete irasutoreetaa wo mezashiteru.”)

[“For ten years I practiced piano every day because of how ‘father’s always right.’ But now that I’ve legally become an adult and moved to a different town, as the head of my own household I’m quitting music and trying to become an illustrator.”]

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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