Nationality: Japanese, Mexican, American
Occupation: USC Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Japanese
My informant is a twenty-three year old man who is half-Japanese, half-Mexican. He grew up more with Japanese culture, and was very eager to share the folklore he knew from this culture. The following is from when I interviewed him in the USC Village.
Peter: “My mother and grandmother would do this thing during walks. We would yell ‘Banzai!’ and they would pull my arms in the air while I jumped.”
Me: “What does ‘banzai’ mean?”
Peter: “I’m pretty sure ‘banzai’ is a war cry. Warriors would yell it while bayonet charging… so it’s kinda funny that we would use it for something so lighthearted and playful. It literally means ‘May you live ten-thousand years.’ Actually, the ‘may you live’ is inferred because ‘banzai’ just translates to ‘ten-thousand years.’”
My informant then helped my find the Japanese script and translation with my computer so I could add it to my entry:
~Original script: 万歳
~Roman script: Ban-zai
~Translation: (May you live) ten-thousand years
I then asked my informant if he had any other thoughts to add or any other meaning ‘banzai’ has to them.
Peter: “I was taught that this is something to yell when jumping into a pool or body of water. It’s basically the Japanese version of ‘cannonball.’ [He chuckles]
While I have heard ‘banzai’ being used on the playground as a child, I have never seen it used in a structured play format. In Peter’s account, ‘banzai’ is somewhat like a game: his maternal figures shout it and lift him to assist him in jumping high. It’s also amusing that ‘banzai’ translated later in his life to something fun to yell while jumping in a pool. To me, ‘banzai’ denotes daring in able to have some fun.