Tasha's Oriental Journey
Today was a ministry-day, we had curry for lunch with our friend Ayako, and then Hiroka and me cycled around Ikebukuro looking for stamps. Let me explain: There are three forms of written Japanese: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. HIRAGANA is the simplest form of Japanese and is basically a collection of sounds, used to make up words. For example the 6 characters KO-N-N-I-CHI-WA make the word "KONNICHIWA" or, Hello. KATAKANA basically has the same sounds as Hiragana but the characters for each sound are different. They look more mechanical and computerised (in my opinion) - not as 'pretty' as Hiragana - and are used to write foreign words. For example, the two characters GA-SU make up the word "GASU" or, Gas. You COULD theoretically write foreign words in Hiragana, but then it would be difficult to tell them apart from actual Japanese words, so they are written in Katakana instead. And then comes KANJI. Kanji is the most difficult form of Japanese, and I haven't even TRIED going down that long, never-ending path of learning it yet. These are the characters that form words as well as sounds (at least two sounds to every Kanji), which means they have meanings as well. For example, Hiroka's surname is "SHIMIZU"; two Kanji characters "SHI-MIZU" that actually mean "Pure/Clean Water." Meg's surname is "NISHIKAWA" - "NISHI-KAWA" or, "West River." Karin's surname is "NISHIZAKI" - "NISHI-ZAKI" or, "West Tip." Therefore, the Kanji character for THEIR (Meg and Karin's) names (because there are various different characters for the different sounds) - NISHI - means River. But if you were to change the Kanji character for a sound to a different one, the meaning is completely different. I have a "Japanese" name - Naomi. There are two ways that you can write my name in Kanji; one way has 3 characters - "NA-O-MI" (my friends' name, one of the Wasabi sisters [please see Sunday 5th March]) - and the other has 2 - "NAO-MI" (my form). My 2 Kanji together mean, in effect, "True/Pure Beauty." Naomi (Wasabi)'s name means something else entirely; something involving a type of Japanese shoe + beauty on the end. So. That's how diverse Kanji is. Each Japanese family has 2 Kanji in their surname, and these 2 Kanji are put onto a stamp that they use as a signature. Of course, they sign their names as usual, but on things like artwork (paintings etc) and so on, you'll see the Japanese stamp. Anyway. We went around Ikebukuro looking for a Kanji stamp that says 'Naomi.' But we couldn't find one because the stamps that are sold are family names... so I had to get one made. Because I was only allowed 2 Kanji to a stamp, I chose the 2-Kanji "Naomi." But I think I would have chosen that one regardless, because the meaning is so pretty! Literally! Later on we had the book-study, and then grabbed some sushi for dinner. Because it was so late we got 30% off, and by the way everyone that was the FIRST time I'd eaten sushi in Japan because, contrary to popular belief, the Japanese do actually eat more than just sushi every day!!!