Heaven’s River: The Milky Way and the Tanabata Star Festival

I just got a second coffee and a blueberry scone and commented to the Starbuck’s staffer that I was glad the rain had stopped. 雨やんでよかった!She reminded me that it’s especially good news because today’s Tanabata, the Star Festival.

Then she said ‘Milky Way’ in English,  and I remembered that according to the legend,  two deities represented by stars are separated by the Milky Way, and can only meet on Tanabata night.

I wanted to know how to say ‘Milky Way’ in Japanese and asked her.  Heavenly River! 天の川(あまのがわ).  I should be able to remember it it this time.  The trick will be to remember this reading of 天. Another example that comes to mind is 天下り(あまくだり, descent from heaven.  A colorful expression for the common but increasingly frowned upon practice of giving high level bureaucrats cushy private sector jobs when they retire.  What we might call a golden parachute in English.

Because of the similar sound, I think of the word for sweet, 甘い when I see this reading of 天,  and then I think of that sweetest of candy bars, Milky Way,  and I find a new way to remember how to read this heavenly kanji combination.

あまのがわ、あまくだり。。。。Have you come across of any other examples of this reading for the character 天 in conversation or readings?

Originally posted 2012-07-07 02:38:53.

The sand dunes of Tottori

photo by geofrog, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

I was talking with my friend Yutaka the other night, sitting at the counter of my favorite bar listening to some tunes by The Who from their BBC sessions LP.  He just took a trip to Tottori Prefecture, and though I’ve never been to 鳥取県,  I’ve heard about the sand dunes and camels.  The first time I saw pictures I had a hard time believing it was Japan!

I couldn’t say the word for ‘dunes’ even though I’ve heard it before when that area has come up in conversation.  This time I made a point of asking him how to say it, and took the time to see what the word’s components are.  As is so often the case when I do this, I learn a lot and discover some unexpected connections, and easy ways to anchor my new knowledge to things I already know on some level.

砂丘(さきゅう)means dune in Japanese.  The first character means sand, すな。When my friend told me this much, my eyes lit up as I realized that it’s the same reading as in 黄砂(こうさ)。黄砂 might well not be familiar to you if you don’t live in Japan or neighboring countries, but based on the information in this paragraph, you might be able to understand and pronounce it.  Hint: the first character is the kanji for a primary color.

Could you get the color and maybe the reading, too?

黄砂 literally means ‘yellow sand.’  It makes its way to Japan and neighboring countries from China via high winds and makes a nuisance of itself by causing allergy-like symptoms like sore throats and doing damage to car finishes, etc.  The word comes up in conversation here  when strong winds pick up.  As desertification has spread in China, the amount of yellow sand has increased.

The word for dune, 砂丘 uses this same reading.  My friend added that the second syllable means hill, or おか。so dune is literally ‘sand hill.’  When I started writing this post, I got a surprise, though. I’d expected 岡 to pop up when I wrote the word in hiragana, because I’m familiar with that kanji for ‘hill’ from last names like 岡本、and places like 岡島. This  kanji has eluded me to this point, but 丘 is on my radar screen now.

A third example of this reading of the kanji for sand is the one I’d overlooked when I started writing this post, and I only realized it because my Japanese teacher pointed it out when I shared the draft with her. 砂糖!Sugar.  I’d totally overlooked this reading because I’ve come to see that word as a unit that means sugar, and hadn’t examined the kanji individually for years.

If you don’t have this reading for 砂 committed to memory yet,  you might use its English meaning, ‘sand’ as a mnemonic device to help you lock it in.  Think of the first two letters of ‘SAnd’ and you’ll never forget the さ in the words above!

Funny how as my kanji knowledge grows,  the most familiar old characters and words like 砂糖 offer up new discoveries.

One of these days I’ll get to the dunes of Tottori!  Have you been there?

Originally posted 2012-07-04 12:19:21.

Kanji Kanban Japanese Sign #300-Parking Lot Warning

Japanese-kanji-sign-300

ブレーキ アクセルの踏み間違いにご注意ください。

Use the rikaichan pop-up online Japanese dictionary or your favorite reference tool with my transcription below the photo if you need help reading this sign.

Over the years in Kyoto I’ve gotten used to the standard signage in parking lots telling customers that the lot’s full or warning them to lock their car and take valuables with them and to turn off their ignition while they’re parked and refrain from making noise out of consideration for the neighbors.

But this was a first for me. It struck me that someone would go to the trouble of making such a sign and I wondered what prompted them to take action.

Maybe there was an isolated incident in this lot and someone thought it’d be best to post words of caution to prevent another motorist from mistaking the accelerator for the brake.  Or is this sort of thing more common than I think?

The numbers below refer to the kanji I’ve transcribed below the photo, and correspond to their order of appearance in both Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji and Kanji in Context.

To learn more about how this information can help you learn kanji, please read this.

Heisig(H941, H1022, H1118, H957, H1137, H528, H1035, H548, H474, H1515, H1153, H588, H522, H36, H712, H1525)

Kanji In Context(KIC1059, KIC152, KIC1246, KIC165,KIC238, KIC726, KIC676, KIC673, KIC661, KIC865, KIC402, KIC55, KIC559. KIC63, KIC369, KIC370)

JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts

Originally posted 2017-04-10 19:50:25.

Kanji Kanban Japanese Sign #299-Kyoto Chiropractor

learn-kanji-Japanese-sign-299

筋肉を伸ばして体質改善。

美しい姿勢をつくる

当店独自の技術

Use the rikaichan pop-up online Japanese dictionary or your favorite reference tool with my transcription below the photo if you need help reading this Kyoto chiropractor’s sign.

The numbers below refer to the kanji I’ve transcribed below the photo, and correspond to their order of appearance in both Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji and Kanji in Context.

To learn more about how this information can help you learn kanji, please read this.

Heisig(H941, H1022, H1118, H957, H1137, H528, H1035, H548, H474, H1515, H1153, H588, H522, H36, H712, H1525)

Kanji In Context(KIC1059, KIC152, KIC1246, KIC165,KIC238, KIC726, KIC676, KIC673, KIC661, KIC865, KIC402, KIC55, KIC559. KIC63, KIC369, KIC370)

JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts

Originally posted 2015-09-22 19:48:13.

Kanji Kanban Japanese Sign #298-Kyoto Green Tea Shop

learn-kanji-Japanese-sign-298

さわらないで

下さいネ。。。

Use the rikaichan pop-up online dictionary or your favorite reference tool with my transcription below the photo if you need help reading this sign.  In addition to the lone kanji character, you’ll notice that there’s a katakana character as well as hiragana.

Katakana is often used in place of kanji or hiragana for emphasis, and that’s just what it does here at the very end and in a colloquial way that takes the edge off the fact that we’re being told not to do something.

The numbers below refer to the kanji I’ve transcribed below the photo, and correspond to their order of appearance in both Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji and Kanji in Context.

To learn more about how this information can help you learn kanji, please read this.

Heisig(H50)

Kanji In Context(KIC32)

JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts

Originally posted 2015-09-03 19:43:17.

Kanji Kanban Japanese Sign #297-Kyoto Vending Machine

learn-kanji-Japanese-sign-297

外国たばこ

Use the rikaichan popup dictionary or your favorite reference tool with my transcription below the photo if you need help reading this sign.  Read it and you’ll discover what it is that the vending machine next to it sells.

The numbers below refer to the kanji I’ve transcribed below the photo, and correspond to their order of appearance in both Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji and Kanji in Context.

To learn more about how this information can help you learn kanji, please read this.

Heisig(H111, H581)

Kanji In Context(KIC150, KIC151)

JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts

Originally posted 2015-08-26 19:37:14.

Kanji Kanban Japanese Sign #296-Siphon Coffee Shop

Kyoto coffee shop sign

コーヒー豆

Use the rikaichan popup dictionary or your favorite reference tool with my transcription below the photo if you need help reading this Kyoto shop’s sign.

The numbers below refer to the kanji I’ve transcribed below the photo, and correspond to its order of appearance in both Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji and Kanji in Context.

To learn more about how this information can help you learn kanji, please read this.

Heisig(H1440)

Kanji In Context(KIC471)

JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts

Originally posted 2015-08-24 02:23:56.

Kanji Kanban Japanese Sign #295-Indoor Climbing Gym

learn-kanji-Japanese-sign-295

 

なぜ登るのか?

そこに壁ができたから!

Use the rikaichan popup dictionary or your favorite reference tool with my transcription below the photo if you need help reading this Kyoto Bouldering Gym’s poster.

The numbers below refer to the kanji I’ve transcribed below the photo, and correspond to their order of appearance in both Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji and Kanji in Context.

To learn more about how this information can help you learn kanji, please read this.

Heisig(H1703, H1500)

Kanji In Context(KIC472, KIC1029)

JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts

Originally posted 2015-08-21 05:23:00.

Kanji Kanban Japanese Sign #294-Coffee Company

learn-kanji-Japanese-sign-coffee-294

OK牧場

美味い!!

Use the rikaichan popup dictionary or your favorite reference tool with my transcription below the photo if you need help reading this coffee company’s train station billboard.

I couldn’t read the two characters beneath OK on the sign, but after entering them and checking the meaning with rikaichan, I realized that it’s the Japanese translation of the O.K. Corral of gunfight fame.  Though the connection with good coffee isn’t clear to me, I admit!

Japanese folks of a certain age are familiar with it thanks to the classic movie from the 50’s.  Can you pronounce this compound?

The second compound must be one of the most often heard words in the Japanese language, especially if you’re fond of watching any of the ubiquitous shows about food here.  But as common as it is, it can be tricky to read if you’re not used to seeing these two characters together, and it can easily be confused with similar words.  Give it a try!

The numbers below refer to the kanji I’ve transcribed below the photo, and correspond to their order of appearance in both Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji and Kanji in Context.

To learn more about how this information can help you learn kanji, please read this.

Heisig(H329, H545, H548, H219)

Kanji In Context(KIC1273, KIC335, KIC673, KIC311)

JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts

Originally posted 2015-08-21 01:46:19.