Kanji Confusion

maroi.gifThe Trib took pics of a bunch of Chicagoans with kanji character tattoos. They then asked the tattooed what the characters meant. Then they went to the Japanese Consulate: (discussion on MeFi)

What she thinks her tattoo says: “circle seven.” What it really means: The tattoo does read as “circle seven,” but in Japanese, “circle” and “yen” use the same symbol. So Starr’s tattoo also means “seven yen,” or about 5 cents.

That’s the trouble in grabbing tattoos and symbology from a culture you’re not familiar with and one reason why I was at the library looking at Celtic and Irish symbolism. I would love to get Maori warrior tattoos – but those are sacred marks that are not mine to appropriate. Leaning towards an armband to celebrate the
birthday next week – we’ll see…






5 responses to “Kanji Confusion”

  1. sam Avatar

    When I was 19, I got a Kanji tattoo on my left arm. Fortunately for me, I couldn’t have chosen a better one because it, like most Japanese characters and words, has many meanings, all of which I like. Unfortunately, they became cheesy and common and not the least bit unique, and soon after I became to believe that it wasn’t a “mark for me to appropriate”. It would serve me right if it really read “pretense.”

    Pictures – Give us pictures!

  2. derwin Avatar

    without being overly wordy, i’m asian and i see people “appropriating” chinese characters all the time (japanese characters were copied from the chinese, btw.) yes, it can be amusing sometimes, especially because people don’t understand most characters are meaningless alone, and must be juxtaposed with other characters to create meaning. anyways, before i ramble, i just want to say that i find no problem with borrowing from other cultures. all cultures do that. there’s nothing sacred or objective about chinese culture (or any culture) that can’t be touched. IMO, btw. always IMO.

  3. Andy Avatar

    Yup. I guess I consider the Maori designs more sacred because they aren’t just a different language but a connection to a heritage. Sort of like when Homer Simpson wears a Jamaican rasta hat.

  4. sam Avatar

    I’ll send you one later tonight Andy 😉

    Derwin, it’s more of a personal issue to me. I don’t feel guilty for “borrowing” or anything, it’s just hard to explain. I’ve grown to like it. In short, I just plan on putting more thought (and feeling) into the next ones 😉

  5. derwin Avatar

    SAM!! How can you possibly address something to me on somebody else’s blog and expect me to notice it!? Or am i supposed to notice it!? *ahem* Anyways… I am returning to tell you, Andy, that you’re welcome (and that it was sam who directed me to your blog in the first place.)

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