So rock your body right
(Mi wa mi de tooru hadakanbou;
“The body, as the body, passes through (life) naked””)
Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, quirks and skills, station in life, and so on – but we all go on living our lives just the same. Everybody is born naked (and without any possessions) and cremated naked, and in between you’ve got a body that will get you through somehow or other.
We begin with the noun 身 (mi), “body,” or by metaphorical extension one’s position in society, marked as the topic of discussion with the particle は (wa). The comment on this topic begins with another 身, this time marked by the particle で (de) as the means by which an action is performed. The action in question is the verb 通る (tooru), “to pass through,” in prenominal form and preceding a compound noun comprising the nouns 裸 (hadaka), “nakedness,” and 坊 (bou). Most directly this term means “priest” or “boy,” but by extension it can mean “a person characterized by [whatever precedes the 坊].” An extra ん (n) sound is added in between for euphony. We may imagine a copula here, but it has been elided.
This is the み (mi) entry of the Kyoto iroha karuta set. A variant expands the final 坊 to 坊主 (bouzu) without significant change in meaning; it is also possible to abbreviate the phrase to just 見は身で通る.
I’m not sure what to make of this saying. On the one hand, its fatalism seems to fall on the side of optimism: “no matter your troubles, you’ll muddle through somehow or other.” On the other hand, it is fatalism and from my modern perspective it feels like the sort of thing someone with a smooth and easy life would coopt to justify ignoring the suffering of those less fortunate.
When I first spotted this kotowaza I managed to read 通る as 踊る (odoru, “to dance”). This would have been very cute but it is, alas, an error.
(“Wakai toki wa mi wa mi de tooru hadakanbouzu, tada ikitsudzukerareru dake de ureshikatta. Ga shikashi, toshi wo toru to shidai ni jibun no mi no furikata ni tsuite kangaeru you ni natte kita”)
[“When I was young I was glad that I was simply able to go on living in the body I’d been born with. But as I got older, I increasingly thought about the course I wanted to steer through my life.”]