Samurai tradition stresses the importance of horse and rider as one, but this canine contest is completely for comedy.

Because of Japan’s rich linguistic heritage and unique cultural perspectives, Japanese-language philosophical terms have an allure and cachet that extends beyond the country’s borders. For example, the words kaizen and omotenashi often get used even by non-Japanese speakers when discussing Japan’s ideals of continuous improvement or hospitality.

The phenomenon is a point of pride for many Japanese people, so Japanese Twitter user @NJRecalls probably thought of it as a feather in his country’s cap when he was watching a foreign TV show in which the term jinba ittai came up. Meaning “horse and rider as one body,” jinba ittai originates in yabusame, Japanese horseback archery, and describes a skilled rider’s ability to control his steed as though it were an extension of his own body, but it’s also the driving design theme for Mazda’s Roadster/Miata/MX-5 sports car, which is what the foreign TV show’s segment was about.

However, after explaining jinba ittai, the foreign program’s presenter introduced another term: beati dogu, which he described as “Japanese for the ancient art of driving a sports car around a greyhound track faster than a dog.” @NJRecalls was less impressed with another part of the Roadster report, and tweeted:

“Stop stacking lies on top of the truth.”

It turns out, though, that this is as much a case of a pop cultural misunderstanding as it is a traditional cultural one. As seen in the video here, the program @NJRecalls was watching was…

Top Gear, the British motoring program that’s at least as focused on putting its tongue in its cheek as it is the pedal to the metal. That’s co-host Richard Hammond drifting the NC (third-generation) Roadster around the dog track, and his presentation of the term “beati dogu” (i.e. “beat dog”) makes it pretty obvious that it’s meant as a joke.

Oddly enough, though, there is a connection between yabusame and dogs. A one commenter pointed out, back in the Kamakura period (which started in the late 12th century), there used to be a sport called inuoumono, in which mounted archers would ride around an enclosure firing arrows at dogs on the inside.

▼ Somehow, I doubt this is going to be the next minor Japanese sport to get turned into a hot-blooded teen athletes anime.

The inuoumono/yabusame/jinba ittai/beati dogu connection looks to be a pure coincidence, though, and a simple matter of Top Gear wanting a humorous excuse to drive a car on a dog track.

That said, there is one thing to get your linguist feathers ruffled over, if you’re so inclined. First, the Japanese language contains no “ti” sound, so if you’re going to approximate the word “beat” in Japanese, it should sound closer to “beato” than “beati.” Ultimately, though, like with the pseudo-Japanese seen in the live-action Ghost in the Shell and Avengers Endgame filming, accurate linguistics weren’t really Top Gear’s aim.

Source: Twitter/@NJRecalls via Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/Top Gear
Insert image: Wikipedia/ブレイズマン~commonswiki
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