This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.
See his earlier posts: Judging Yourself and Kansha.
I don't know about the United States, but here in Japan it is pretty rare for anyone older than, say, 13 (or, for that matter, younger than about 65) to not have a cell phone. They are literally everywhere. Even I, who for the longest time had a real dislike for these devices, bought one a few years back -- when my brother-in-law's company gave him a cell phone sales quota to meet!
Typically, any time one sees one of these phones, one also sees one of the straps that can be attached to them. There are fancy straps, plain straps, straps with charms attached, straps that can be hooked onto one's belt loops, leather straps, nylon straps, straps that serve as souvenirs of places visited... Just about any type of design that can be imagined can be found!
Until recently, I myself was using a strap that my wife bought for me when we visited Kobe a few years ago. But now I have a new strap (apologies to my wife!), and I thought it might be of some interest here.
To be honest, my new "strap" isn't really a phone strap at all. It is probably best described as a kind of key chain. But I liked it so much that after buying it I modified it so that I could attach it to my phone and carry it with me everywhere I go. You see, my "strap" is basically a piece of black leather with one of my favorite Japanese sayings embroidered (in gold) on it. The Japanese characters that make up the saying are read"fugen-jikko."
"Fu" serves here as a negating prefix, kind of like "non" in English. "Gen" is the character for "words" or "speech." "Ji(tsu)" can have several different meanings, including "truth," "reality" and "to bear fruit." "Ko" in this case is "to do" or "to carry out." When put together, I guess these kanji would literally mean something like "No words, carry (something) out."
One dictionary that I know of translates "fugen-jikko" as, "Actions speak louder than words." Another says that it means, "No talk and all deeds." I guess that either translation will do, but in any case, my new phone strap serves as a constant reminder to me that it is what I actually do -- not what I say -- in my training and in my life that is important.