Feb 182013

This is how I look when I try to read Japanese characters! 😉

But in reality it was a part of funny “propaganda” for construction workers stating: “when in doubt check again!”

まよったときは 再確認

The most interesting here is what is missing on this picture. The character 迷 for 迷う(まよう)being lost, going astray with on-reading メイ and used in such conjunctions as:
 迷信(めいしん) lit. the belief that went astray = superstition
 迷彩(めいさい) the colors that mislead = camouflage.


Feb 092013

I like this poster with visual mnemonics for flood prevention 防水(ぼうすい), fire prevention 防火(ぼうか), and crime prevention 防犯(ぼうはん) in Gose, Nara.

But I am not quite sure why the message is 地域で守る. If it was を守る, it would be “let’s protect our local area”.

With で particle it is more like “let’s protect ourselves as a community?”

Jan 202012

It’s not unusual to see a television reportage when Japanese people visiting aquarium, asked for their impression say おいしい (tasty). This time an aquarium itself advertises this way. Fortunately they mention ちょっとグロテスク (a bit grotesque) in the subtitle, probably not to make you disappointed if you keft hungry.

Edit: My distinction between what you admire visually and what you taste got blurred after visting the fish market in Naha, Okinawa.


おいしい ? 水遊官


In Japanese “aquarium” as a tank and aquarium as a public venue are referred to with different words. The tank is called either 水槽 or アクアリウム, while the venue is generally called 水族館 (a museum of “water family”). However different venues might be called. Osaka Aquarium is called for example 海遊館 (a hall of marine entertainment).

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May 052011

非行の芽 つみ取る 親の目 社会の目
社団法人 東京母の会連合会

Let’s weed out the roots of misconduct
Parents’ eyes are the eyes of society
Let’s protect young people from mischief
Association of Tokyo Mothers

非行 (delinquency, misconduct) is construed of 非 – prefix for negative and character for to go 行.


Apr 012011

This poster caught my attention because of the first two characters – 愛 “love” and 車 “vehicle”. “Beloved vehicle”? Is it irony?

Surprisingly no. This simple conjunction of “love” and “vehicle” is found in many serious dictionaries and translated as as “one’s beloved car”.

The phrase 愛車にはもうひとづのカギを is unfinished, but it means “one more lock for your beloved bicycle.”

Feb 122011

What could this cute girl promote? Of course: meat!



Meat is the best
Healthy body needs good quality proteins
Association for Tokyo meat producers

いちばん written here in hiragana 一番 literally means number one or first in line. It is used to create superlative form of adjectives. Here the adjective is omitted leaving impression that meat is the best, meat is the most. Thus literal translation might be “meat is the …st”

肉 is a Chinese character for meat. It is meant to look like meat or muscles.

It is abbreviated to 月 in many characters related to body parts 腕 (an arm), 脚 (a leg), 腰 (a waist), and even 肝 (a liver) or 臓器 (internal organs) that rather do not have muscles.

What is confusing is that 月 as a part of a character comes from 3 different sources. It can mean 肉 meat, 月 the moon, or 舟 ship.

Jan 072011

Smashing small pottery pieces in Japan is believed to keep off bad luck. Depending on a place, we might throw the pottery from a cliff, try to throw it through some hole or gate, or just smash it on a stone.

We also might write our fears before throwing, whisper, or just blow our fears into a small clay cup before throwing it.

初穂料 百円

Stone for smashing bad luck
Take a deep breath and exhale into the sake cup
then by throwing it into the stone on the side
cleanse all the bad things by smashing the cup.
Offering price: 100 yen

There are a few words for “offering” in Japanese. The most common is 奉納(ほうのう) written on torii gates, lanterns, sculptures in all shrines and temples, but also 初穂(はつほ) first ears of rice or crops or harvest of the season and offering (to the gods)

Clearly seems as the first harvested rice has been offered to deities, other words for an offering, commonly seen in shrines and temples is 奉納 and when buying amulets or other devotional objects, one usually hears “おおさめになります” which is polite way of saying how much a bill tots up to.