Wednesday, August 16, 2017


A few minutes ago I was typing 「おめでとうございます」, and the Windows Japanese IME asked me which of these I meant:
I don't know whether it's assessing my enthusiasm or my developmental age. Maybe the next generation of emoji will ask you to input smile intensity, on a scale or by degree.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Getting lost in the park.

Just had a fun moment while studying in the park with some Japanese materials—Tobira, kanji quiz apps, NHK, Akutagawa's short story "鼻". (The JLPT registration period, Aug–Sep, always inspires.)

Just as my quiz app served me "迷"—"to lose one's way"—a little girl toddled up to me in the grass and waved hello. I said, "Hey, there. 道に迷っちゃったんですか?" There wasn't a 道 to have lost, but I think she got the idea.

The kanji 迷 (MEI, mayo・u) is a favorite of mine, for its mnemonic. It's the movement/road radical (SHIN'NYOU, 之繞), then "rice" (米), which per Henshall may be phonetic or derive from "unfinished" (未), suggesting indecisiveness. As 米 also stands for the US, though, to me this is an American in the older streets of Japan: utterly lost. Perplexed. Like rice in the road. He MEI never figure it out. (笑)

To quote the JLPT, 「いい天気ですから、散歩しましょう。」 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Snakes in the gate! Or insects?

I'm trying to figure out the kanji on the bottom of a mug I inherited from some person terminated by my employer several years ago—a pretty mug, wave-patterned red with a gold dragon on each side, facing one another opposite the handle, with an inset tea infuser and a lid/stand and saucer. (I'm sorry for the person who left it, but I'm happy to have it. It's pleasant to drink coffee from dragons.)

The logo on the bottom is an encircled dotted double mountain, with the letters MTPI, and below that two kanji. The second of the kanji is 通 つう tsuu; that's easy. The first should be easy—it's just 門 with 虫 inside, 14畫—but I can't find any trace of it, in either Japanese or Chinese kanji resources. You'd think it would show up as a variant, at least, or a simplification of something older.

Fun: The older (pre-simplified) form of 虫 apparently is 蟲—just the same kanji, but three times—insect, insect, insect!!! defines it as an insect but also as "temper"; there must be more of a story behind that. Henshall says little but that the basic kanji represents a partially coiled snake and that anciently snakes and insects were not differentiated; I find the latter part hard to believe. If one or the other were in your bed, you'd know the difference.

The Book includes the kanji 門+虫—examples of it as written by eight calligraphers—but doesn't give a reading for it. (I'm sure it's indexed by sound, but that's not helpful.) My suspicion, given that 虫 can suggest a serpent or worm, is that the kanji mean something like "dragon pattern". Jisho gives variants for 竜, but nothing seems likely. Mysterious....

Friday, January 27, 2017

A minor but joyful occurrence.

So, I'm moving some objects, and a label on a thing I overturn says MADE IN KOREA.
Nothing unusual about that, but
looking at the word Korea, I read it as 韓国.

(My reading the English word Korea as かんこく is exciting and worth wondering about, for me. Also, What exactly that appellation means and to whom....)