kanji

High-tech glasses provide near-instant translation of Japanese text

Although major cities in Japan have installed signs in both Japanese and English, many foreign travelers still face difficulties reading the text found on things like menus, product packages, and billboards. That may all change thanks to NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest mobile phone operator, and their new glasses that are capable of almost instantly translating Japanese text.

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“Clever weather company!” Japan chuckles at garbled kanji on popular British clothing brand

SuperDry, the hugely popular brand from UK-based clothing company SuperGroup plc, has become the subject of great amusement here in Japan this week as photos showing numerous articles of clothing branded with nonsensical Japanese phrases show that it’s not just garbled English that exists in the world of fashion.

From sweatshirts pairing the words “Track & Field” with the Japanese characters for “Clever Weather Company” to shirts that randomly scream “Do iiit!” there’s plenty to keep Japanese speakers smiling, and for Westerners to beware of.

Welcome to the other side of the coin!

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New wave of “creative” Japanese names read more like riddles

As much as politicians try to prevent them and doctors disapprove of them, kirakira Japanese names, the kinds that hold double meanings or are just plain hard to read, are apparently still on the rise. A recent survey of kids in their teens and early twenties showed that now more than 40 percent of students know someone at their school with an obscure reading for their name.

Reading name kanji is already a difficult task. A single symbol can have up to a dozen different readings, and while some are more common than others, there’s always a bit of guesswork that goes into deciphering the pronunciation of someone’s name. It’s bad enough when two people have names with the same symbols and entirely different readings. Imagine the frustration that teachers must face when a new student’s name is pronounced in a way that doesn’t even sound Japanese!

There’s a difference between naming your kid something “international” and making your kid’s name a nuisance. See if you can understand the reason behind the reading of some of these kirakira names.

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What’s in a name? The 10 most common surnames in Japan (and their meanings)

It’s a little-known fact that until the Meiji era (1868-1912), the ordinary men and women of Japan did not have surnames. Rather, those names were reserved for people in positions of power, nobility, or those of noted artistic ability.

There are an estimated 100,000 family names in Japan — much more than in many Western countries, and vastly more than in neighbouring Korea and China — however what’s curious is that of these surnames 10 are incredibly common, with millions of people sharing the exact same moniker. If you’re on your way to Japan or learning the language, knowing how to read and pronounce at least a few of these will almost certainly get you out of a jam at some point or other, so allow us to introduce Japan’s 10 most common surnames, their meanings, and a few fun facts on top, just because we’re nice like that and we like your face.

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Birds know how to read Japanese, put language learners to shame

Can you read kanji? It certainly looks like these birds can!

Wait, do these birds know more kanji than some foreigners who’ve lived in Japan for years and never learned to read??

Well, after all the birds were born in Japan and grew up seeing it all around them. It’s only natural for them to pick it up, so perhaps they have an unfair advantage. Anyway, no bird has passed any level of the tough Kanji Kentei tests. Yet…

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A Tragic (But Kinda Funny) Case of Tattoos Gone Wrong, But Why, Oh Why, Did This Happen?

We Japanese are no strangers to Chinese characters (or kanji, in Japanese). The ancient letters from China make up a crucial part of our own written language, and we have to say the complex yet elegant form of kanji can seem strikingly cool (except when we had to practice and learn all those letters in grade school), even for those of us who use the letters everyday. So we can certainly understand how these characters could hold a mysterious fascination for people from countries where kanji isn’t used at all. T-shirts featuring kanji are a common enough sight in many parts of the world after all, and for people who prefer to wear their favorite Chinese characters in a more, shall I say, permanent way, I guess tattoos are always an option, right?

Well, at least, that’s the option the person in the picture above apparently went for. But she most likely didn’t know what the letters she was getting tattooed on her back actually meant, the poor girl … Read More

Japanese Politician Takes a Stand Against Parents Naming their Children Pikachu

It’s not easy being a kid. If you’re fat the other kids make fun of you; if you’re skinny the other kids make fun of you; if you get good grades they make fun of you… Kids don’t need a genuine reason to be tease their peers; they can make one up just as easily.

But when your parents name you after their favourite thing – be it the weather on the day you were born, the place you were conceived or their favourite snack food – things get awkward for poor little Windy Latrine Butterfinger.

Although authorities have been known to intervene when parents try to call their child things like Akuma, meaning devil in Japanese, and @ as once rejected by authorities in China, the vast majority slip through the net. Since kanji, the Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system, are based on meaning and can be read in a variety of different ways, parents giving their child a kanji-based name (some choose phonetic kana script, but this is usually just for girls) are able to choose both their child’s name and how it will be written.

For the most part, parents choose names that convey their love or hopes for their offspring, but in the land of otaku nerdism, sometimes parents just can’t help but get carried away.

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