(= be useless like beating the air; be waste of time)
You will often see Noren (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noren) at the entrance of shops and stores in Japan. Usually you push Noren and enter the store. Back in old days, there were no entrance doors at stores and shops. They were totally open to the public during their business hours. All those Noren separated inside from outside. Since Noren is made of some fabric (most likely of cotton), anybody (even toddlers if they reach Noren) can split it with his hand and enter the shop. So, the action “pushing (“Oshi”) Noren by hand (“Ude”)” is as easy as breathing.
On the other hand, “Udeoshi” also means “Udezumo (Arm Wrestling).” What if you do arm wrestling with Noren!? Do you think your opponent is your good match? I don’t think so. You feel, “What am I doing after all?” You feel as if you were beating the air, don’t you?
(This is arm wrestling, isn’t it?)
(Good Old Days…)
As a result, “Noren-ni Udeoshi (Arm wrestling against Noren)” means that something is completely useless like beating the air.
(Example) Nanjikan Shabetta Tokoro-de “Noren-ni Udeoshi” de, Tanaka-san-wo Tokihuserukoto-nado Dekinai daro.
= No matter how long you may try, it is going to be waste of time. You cannot persuade Mr. Tanaka to agree with you. It’s like “Noren-ni Udeoshi.”
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