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It's a shin shin snowfall day

A guest post from NYS Writers Institute graduate assistant Kaori Chen. Born in Tokyo, Japan, Kaori moved to America in 2010. She is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University at Albany and is conducting her ethnographic research with local weavers.



深々

shin shin

by Kaori Chen


Snow is beautiful here in upstate New York. Growing up in Tokyo, I never saw snow falling steadily and silently.


深々– shin shin – is a Japanese onomatopoeia that is used to describe the sound of snow falling silently. A word for a sound of no sound. I did not realize that we had such a beautiful word in Japanese before moving to America. 深々– shin shin – consists of a repetition of the word 深 which literally means deep. The snow is falling steadily and silently as if it is deepening the silence. I am listening the sound of the snow falling silently. I never imagined living in a place like upstate New York where winter would bring gifts of snow.


There are two other Japanese onomatopoeias that people use to describe the certain ways the snow falls. こんこん – kon kon – is used when the snow is falling thick and fast. The other one isちらちら – chira chira –, which means flurry. They do not have the exact sounds that the words describe, but when the snow falls こんこん or ちらちら, it is not silent.

Here is a famous poem titled ゆき by 草野心平 -- Shinpei Kusano (1903-1988) -- one of Japan’s best-loved poets, well known for his use of onomatopoeia. He was recognized for “distinguished service to the culture of the nation” in 1983.


ゆきmeans snow. I learned this poem when I was an elementary school student.


ゆき

Snow       草野心平 しんしんしんしん

shin-shin shin-shin しんしんしんしん

shin-shin shin-shin しんしんしんしん ゆきふりつもる

shin-shin shin-shin snow is falling しんしんしんしん ゆきふりつもる

shin-shin shin-shin snow is falling しんしんしんしん ゆきふりつもる

shin-shin shin-shin snow is falling しんしんしんしん ゆきふりつもる

shin-shin shin-shin snow is falling しんしんしんしん

shin-shin shin-shin しんしんしんしん

shin-shin shin-shin