Tag Archives: old japan

Divining Japanese Surnames – by Emmett

names

As part of my brief and unstudied education in Japanese I have been working out how to read family names. This is a manageable place to start, for nearly all names are made of only two kanji, pictographic characters descended from Chinese. Once I stopped associating each character with a phonetic counterpart, I was able to divine the symbolic meaning of the names. The characters’ sounds change depending on placement, noun-consonant morphology, or age of the name. The character , for instance, almost always reads as “yama”; however, in older family names and place-names may read as “san” as in “Fujisan,” the famous mountain. In the greater picture, means “mountain.” Once I focused on this, the names of the people around me began to tell a story that is not always obvious in the wake of Japanese modernity.

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Filed under Inspiration!, Japan, Language, Uncategorized

Counting Down – by Emmett

As we begin to mentally leave Japan (and our desks) behind for the golden green land of the Lao, Melissa and I have found ourselves drawn unexpectedly back towards the magical parts of this country which are found only in shadow, in a newly discovered ally, in places where you do not look for them. We made a night bike ride to the post office (which magically stays open late) to mail Christmas packages home and on our way back we took the deserted street of Earthen Houses, past the Bank of Red Brick, and into a tiny moment of Takaoka City where the cold night air heightens the smell of yakisoba and shouyou and draws from the warrens of crowded buildings the pique sent of pine like wood smoke clear into the air.

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Filed under For the Love of Japan, Laos