The name of the new era is officially announced! 令和 (Reiwa)
Today at about 11:30 a.m. JST the name of the next era was announced. Many Japanese people stopped what they were doing to be a part of this momentous occasion. But what does this mean? What exactly is an era? Let’s dive into it!
What is an era?
Japan has been using their own unique method of counting years based on the reign of the emperor since 645 AD, adapted from the Chinese method of dating using dynasties. This method is called 元号 (gengou). To date, there has been a total of 248 eras. An era begins when a new emperor ascends to the throne and ends with his death (or, in rarer cases, abdication). This time, the emperor is elderly, has health issues, and has asked to step down from the throne. This is the first abdication since 1817.
Currently, it is April 1st on the 31st year of the Heisei Era. That can be written like this:
平成３１年４月１日 (Heisei 31nen, shigatsu tsuitachi)
“Heisei 31” can be abbreviated like this:
What’s more commonly used in Japan, gengou or the western system?
On official documents, it is standard to use gengou. Also, all money uses it to denote the year it was minted. However, nine out of ten Japanese people will tell you that the western system (西暦 seireki) is easier to understand. For this reason, people will often choose to use seireki when talking or in non-official paperwork. You will often commonly see both side-by-side, with one or the other in parentheses.
What are the eras up until now?
Lol I’m not gonna list all 248. Sorry. However, all Japanese people know all the eras from Meiji to present, so I’ll talk about those. The Meiji Era was kicked off by the Bakumatsu, in which the centuries-long system of an all-powerful shogun and largely ceremonial emperor was overthrown, and Japan opened itself up to trade with the rest of the world for the first time in over 200 years. The start of the Meiji Era marks the start of modern Japan, the beginning of a more traditional monarchy (according to western standards), and the adoption of Western technology, education, etc.
25 Jan 1868 – 30 Jul 1912
30 Jul 1912 – 25 Dec 1926
25 Dec 1926 - 7 Jan 1989
8 Jan 1989 – 30 Apr 2019
1 May 2019 - ?
How are era names chosen?
This is actually really interesting. In centuries past, government officials would determine the gengou within 1-2 years of the emperor’s enthronement. The names were chosen using auspicious kanji like 明 (bright), 永 (eternity), 寿 (longevity), 和 (peace, Japan), etc. There were few rules, except that an era name could not be used more than once.
Nowadays, when these dates are used by all Japanese people on a daily basis instead of just by the select elite, several criteria have been established.
The meaning of the kanji must reflect the image of Japan and the way Japan wants to move forward in history. (Nothing negative or unlucky)
The kanji must be easy to write and pronounce. (The 嘉 of 嘉永 [Kaei Era, 1848 - 1855] wouldn’t stand muster today because it’s ridiculous to write.)
It can only be two characters. (In the past, there were some eras with four kanji.)
The starting letter cannot be M, T, S, or H. (This is because the gengou is commonly shortened to “H31" to mean Heisei 31, or 2019. If the next era used the same consonant, we wouldn’t know which era was being referred to.
It cannot be a word already in use. It cannot be used in a surname, company name, or place name of any kind.
A small group of select historians, literary experts, and political scientists (I think this time it was 8 or 10?) sequester themselves away for several long months while they decide the new gengou. The gengou is of the utmost secrecy up until it is announced, so they are completely cut off from the outside world. No phones, no television, no radio, no contact with family, no internet until it is announced. Why is it so secret? Because Japan likes to be spooky and mysterious, I guess. lol I’m honestly not sure, but it’s probably just because that’s how it’s always been done.
Since the emperor’s abdication is scheduled for April 30th, the new gengou was announced one month in advance, today. Because many computer programs and official government/business forms have been pre-made with “Hesei” on them (sort of like how we may sometimes make templates that have 20__ written on them), you can imagine how busy this change will make company and government employees. They will be spending this month creating new templates or getting rubber stamps with the new era on it and stamping over the obsolete Heisei. Poor guys.
So what does Reiwa mean?
Let’s take a look at each kanji.
orders, ancient laws, command, decree
harmony, Japanese style, peace, soften, Japan
When I first saw it, I thought it was something like “decree of peace,” which sounded very…militaristic? I mean, can you command that there be peace? Haha. But then I looked further, and it appears that this is taken from a line of poetry in the Man’yoshu, which is the oldest anthology of Japanese poetry.
English Summary: Culture blooms and grows through the beautiful cooperation of the people.
Okay, so it’s not as dour as I thought it was at first haha. It’s actually pretty!
What do you think about the new name? Is it fitting? Do you have any other questions about eras?
So, this post idea basically boils down to my being interested in the adjectives that use the same kanji twice or phrase twice in a row following my discovery of 馬鹿馬鹿しい. Here are the ones I found which seemed most practical.
馴々しい (or 馴れ馴れしい, なれなれしい) overfamiliar
馬鹿馬鹿しい (ばかばかしい) ludicrous
若々しい (わかわかしい) youthful
生々しい (なまなましい) lively, green, fresh
騒々しい (そうぞうしい) noisy, boisterous
弱々しい (よわよわしい) frail, slender, feeble
図々しい (ずうずうしい) shameless
荒々しい (あらあらしい) rough, gruff
痛々しい (いたいたしい) painful (to look @, i.e.: a painful to look at injury)
Daily kanji review? Unfortunately…I enjoy doing it lol.
Kanji is my favorite aspect of Japanese and I finally went through RTK1 (Remembering the kanji) and there have been issues along the way, but kanji has become less scary as I finished this book. It has certainly helped in some areas and made other things more difficult. It’s really a book for those intending to go to at least N2. It’s a big investment of time if you don’t have tons to dedicate to it as I didn’t, so it took a while. I’m glad I did it.
You will arguably learn 3 or 4 steps for many kanji:
1. How to write it.
2. Knowing the English meaning.
3. How to read the on yomi “Chinese reading.”
4. How to read the kun yomi “Japanese reading.
Finishing this book knocks out two of those 3 or 4 steps (depending on the kanji).
After this book is done you’ve finished steps 1 and 2 of over 2,000 kanji (depending on which edition you use; I prefer the 4th edition). So once you start reading real native materials, you’re basically reviewing the kanji you’ve learned. Then adding Japanese readings as you come across new words. So, this book sets you up almost perfectly to start reading with greater ease after you’ve finished it. But no one sees it like that. Most people think it’s stupid that you’re not learning Japanese words for an entire book. I admit, I thought it was stupid, too at first, but decided to try it due to other mnemonic devices I was studying.
Let’s explore how this is useful to not learn any Japanese in this book. Lol, how is this useful?
For example, I learned “shrink” 縮 but hadn’t come across it yet in Japanese media. I knew how to write it and the English meaning from RTK. That’s the foundation. So when I came across 縮む in a book (in context), I looked it up, found that it’s ちぢむ which conveniently means “to shrink” and all I had to do was apply the reading to my already formed foundation. Not learn the kanji, English reading, and Japanese reading at once out of context as is done with most traditional kanji methods. I should know, I did the traditional way for about five years with few happy results.
The initial investment of learning 2,000+ characters is daunting. If you learn 5-10 a day, you can finish the book in a little over a year or under a year (or a year and a half as I did, because I took breaks to keep up with reviews while working on other projects).
Granted, I still forget how to write some, but I’ve blown through vocabulary lists I was struggling with before as I was able to understand parts of the words if not the entire word simply from learning the English meaning or getting familiar with what radicals of characters tend to mean. It’s hard to explain, you kinda just start to “get it” as you learn more characters and then see them in context. It’s pretty cool.
Staying consistent is the hardest part. It’s worth the investment to build that foundation if you want a head start in reading Japanese. :)
Have you started RTK? Finished it?
Have you success stories? Horror stories?
This is my first post, so show some love lol.
I hope it wasn’t boring. Lol. I appreciate it if you made it this far. Cheers for now and if all else fails, don’t forget to stay awesome.
Protip: use the Chinese handwriting keyboard to look up kanji quickly
(this is on mobile ofc, but I think it works on laptops’ trackpads too)
There are two input options for Mandarin Chinese: pinyin and handwriting. I’m using the second one. Technically speaking it’s not a keyboard, it’s a handwriting recognition thingy, but you know what I mean. It’s in my キーボード menu, dude.
So let’s say I want to look up 減.
Look at it picking up my crappy handwriting like a boss:
Now if I try the built-in one from the Japanese dictionary:
減 is nowhere to be seen! Not among 8 propositions!
The Chinese keyboard doesn’t even care about strokes order, closed shapes, etc.
I mean look at it go:
No more painstankingly selecting radicals (and getting it wrong half the time)!
I’ve been using it for a while now, and it’s never let me down. Thank you Chinese keyboard!
Moderately Interesting Japanese
Ep. 1: Unusual Last Names
Above: awesome name stamps Japanese people use in lieu of a signature on documents. I really want the laser beam Buddha.
So, I’ve been living in Japan for almost five years now (!!! Where has the time gone?!) and I’ve been working full-time as a Japanese-English translator for a big corporate machine for two years counting. It’s pretty fun despite working for The Man, and I’ve picked up lots of quirky little Japanese expressions, words, and unusual surnames along the way. I thought I’d share some of them here from time to time with you. I’m kinda toying with the format still, so bear with me haha.
I’m a big fan of Japanese names and the kanji they use for them. The more unusual, the more I love it! Here’s a collection of intriguing last names I’ve encountered during my stay here.
又吉 Matayoshi, a.k.a. “Lucky Again”
Apparently the mata (again) used to mean “crossroads,” and yoshi is a common character to put in a last name. It has its roots in Okinawa.
Number of people with this last name: ~9,800
剣持 Kenmochi, a.k.a. “Possesses a Sword”
SO COOL. This surname comes from a powerful noble family from current-day Okayama and Yamanashi Prefectures.
Number of people with this last name: ~5,200
蘇武 Sobu, a.k.a. “Reborn Warrior”
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more metal than “Possesses a Sword.” This name is just badass. It also originates from Miyagi Prefecture, but that’s all that I could find about its etymology.
Number of people with this last name: ~1,000
大学 Daigaku, a.k.a. “University”
This name probably was given to people who lived near a large school in Miyagi Prefecture back in the day.
Number of people with this last name: ~680
一 Ninomae, a.k.a. “One”
The kanji 一 means “one” and is usually pronounced ichi or hitotsu. So why is it read ni no mae here? Ni is “two,” and no mae is “before.” So in other words, this last name translates to “before two,” which would have to be the number one, and so it is written as 一. Do you have a headache from reading that? lol
Number of people with this last name: ~380
鷹橋 Takanohashi, a.k.a. “Hawk Bridge”
It’s a pretty interesting surname for a couple reasons. Firstly, there is a very common surname Takahashi that is usually written 高橋, which translates to “tall bridge,” so the hawk kanji is really out of left field for Japanese people. This surname is also unusual because it has its roots in Hokkaido, which was the last prefecture to be settled and doesn’t have much history compared to the main Japanese islands. Though it is written with the kanji for “bridge,” the meaning of hashi is actually “one who travels to distant lands,” which would have been fitting for a settler.
Number of people with this last name: ~240
猫屋敷 Nekoyashiki, a.k.a. “Cat Mansion”
Well, imagine “mansion” as an estate that a wealthy lord would have lived on back in the day with servants and stuff. So does this mean that this person’s ancestors were rich cat ladies? Not necessarily. There is an expression “as narrow as a cat’s forehead” to indicate a cramped/small space, and the neko (cat) of Nekoyashiki implies that this person’s manor and grounds were small.
If you haven’t already noticed from this list, many Japanese last names denote geographical features of where their ancestors lived. Any last name with yama (mountain) or ta/da (rice paddy) is denoting geography, for example. However, it’s highly unusual for a last name to be a street like this. This last name has its roots in Fukushima.
Number of people with this last name: ~20
Header images from left to right Laser Buddha: 邪悪なハンコ屋しにものぐるい Kanpai Kat: picstamp.net Wily fox: 工房HANZOU
안녕! Hello! Hola! Ciao! Salut! Hallo!你好! こんにちは! Today I’m here with a new blog about curiosities about Korean culture! Hope you’ll like it! So, let’s start!
-The microchips for Apple’s iPhones are made by the South Korean company Samsung.
-On Jeju, South Korea’s largest island, giant stone statues known as dol hareubang (old grandfather) can be found along the beaches. Newlywed women believe that if they touch the statues’ long, broad, phallic-looking noses, they will be blessed with fertility.
-More than 2 billion people have viewed the “Gangnam Style” music video of Korean K-pop artist Psy since 2011. It topped the charts in 30 countries around the world. World leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have mimicked the dance. The song refers to the Gangnam District of Seoul.
-Along with Tokyo residents, Seoulites get the least amount of sleep of any residents of major cities in the world, just fewer than 6 hours a night.
-South Koreans enjoy showing off their relationship statuses publically. It is common to see couples holding hands, kissing, and even wearing matching outfits.
-Playing the online video game StarCraft is a legitimate career in South Korea. Since the game launched in 1998, nearly half of all the games have been sold in South Korea.
-The South Korean National Information Agency estimates that 14% of the people between the ages of 9 and 12 have an Internet addiction. In 2011, South Korea passed a law called the Shutdown, or Cinderella, Law that bans anyone younger than 16 from online game sites, which is largely ignored by the youth.
-Few South Koreans choose not to marry, and an unmarried person is called a “Big Baby” in Korean slang. There are two-way kinds of marriage in South Korea: yonae (love marriage) and chungmae (arranged marriage).
-Some people in Korea, especially elders in the countryside do not like having their photos taken. So it’s best to ask permission or avoid taking the photo to avoid giving offense. You also should avoid photographing anything that looks like it could be used for military purposes.
-The use of the word ‘friend’ in Korean is actually quite complex! The term can be used much like ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ are used in Korea.
-Koreans love reading newspapers. They have 63 daily editions in print.
-Everything closes late, with most stores open until at least 11:00 p.m. Restaurants, cafes, bars, and street food vendors stay open even later, sometimes until 4 a.m.
-Taekwondo is the national sport and is everywhere in Korea. There is a school in every town.
-You can easily travel around South Korea by high-speed trains, bus routes, ferry services, and airports. High-speed trains connect the major cities such as Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon, and Gwangju.
-Fruit is really expensive in the country. A watermelon will set you back about 30,000 won, about US$25
PSA: how to write the Chinese character 愛 (ai, love)
I notice a lot of people when they draw Gaara put a heart on his forehead instead of the kanji 愛. And if you consciously choose to do that as a stylistic thing, that’s fine! A lot of times I think that’s really cute! But there’s a non-zero chance that some of you are instead doing that because you’re afraid of fucking up the kanji. I mean it looks so complicated!!!
Fear not!!! You can do the thing. Behold!!!
This gif shows all the strokes to make this character, in order, and what direction to move your pencil or brush! Wow, what a deal! Note the watermark source of MDBGdotNET in the lower right; an open-source dictionary of Chinese, definitely check it out.
Note also the grid! To make a nice-looking Chinese character, instead of a mess, the parts of the whole need to be in balance. You can actually practice writing the character inside a box. People learning Chinese actually get special notepaper that has boxes to help them keep their characters balanced. (You could also use graphing paper for this!)
I’m not saying it’s not tricky but it can be done! Go out and make you a Gaara!
Euphonic Changes in Polysyllabic Kanji Words - “onbin” (音便)
When combining two or more kanji into one word, certain euphonic changes often occur, following the following patterns:
1. Rendaku (連濁)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Rule: The pronunciation of the first syllable of the second component changes into its voiced/aspirated counterpart if it belongs to the か-, さ-, た- or は-rows.
The kana takes a dakuten (i.e. they become が, ざ, だ or ば). Examples:
For the は-row, the kana takes a handakuten (maru) to become ぱ if it comes after ん. As in:
The exact rules for this are hard to pin-down and subject to academic debate, but it happens more often than not. My own kanji book* (from where I started to learn about these phenomena) hints to expect it, and to learn where it doesn’t happen… Sometimes even the same kanji obeys and doesn’t for example, the kanji 費 is usually read as hi, as in 食費 - shokuhi, but the compound 出費 is read as shuppi.
2. Sokuon (促音)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Rule: if the last syllable of the first component is a member of the k-line, ち or つ, this changes to a sokuon (little つ) in combinations with syllables starting with a kana from the k-, s-, t- or h-lines. This phenomenon is much more regular (if not totally regular) than the rendaku rule. Examples:
As a bonus, we can even see both of these rules happening at once.
大字「だいじ」 alternative kanji for numbers are used mostly in legal documents, official records and such with the purpose of making it harder to alter and falsificate numbers (this also explains why they don’t use 弌 弐 弎 at the same time). Some of these characters also appear on currency (弐千円、壱万円) and mahjong tiles (伍、萬). And even without going anywhere near legal documents I randomly encountered enough alternative and archaic kanji that I felt the need to dig a little deeper into this.
Common kanji: alternative used in documents (archaic/outdated versions). Info and image from wiki.
Now, some of the above kanji may seem familiar, because THEY ARE. Here are some words with them:
I received a question about kanji and they said I could post a public response.
How do I start?
The best way to start learning Kanji (in my opinion) is to learn the Kanji radicals first. Radicals make up other kanji and even though the combinations don’t always make sense, knowing the radicals gives you a solid foundation to help you remember complex Kanji.
Realize that English has similar words such as read/read, minute/minute. How do you know which one to use when you speak or write? It’s not intuition. Similar to the rules for kanji, the position of the word dictates how it’s pronounced. I already read that. Read it now. I’ll be there in a minute. After all, it was so minute I forgot it was there.
Do I learn the reading first or just learn the words straight away?
Really that’s up to you, but I think knowing the common readings of a select amount of kanji will probably help you as you start combining kanji into more complex words.
How do I learn readings when there are so many?
This is another plus to my favorite Japanese language app Kanji Study. Really everyone should buy the full unlocked version because it really helps with vocabulary. As you can see from the pictures below, it provides you with not only the kanji, all the readings, but also words that have that kanji and the different readings. It provides multiple ways to test including writing. I have the unlocked app so I set up custom lists of no more than 50 words to learn, and I group them by how well I remember each kanji. Learning in chunks is the best way to build consistent, and solid understanding of the kanji.