Tuesday, January 31, 2006

4 and 9

Do you know which numbers are unlucky in Japan?

The answer is 4 and 9.

You pronounce “yon” or “shi” for 4.
For example, “yonsai” means 4 years old.
shigatsu” means April.
Shi” has some different meanings and one of them is “death”, in kanji.
That’s why 4 is unlucky for Japanese.

You pronounce “kyuu” or “ku” for 9.
For example, “kyuusai” means 9 years old.
kugatsu” means September.
ku” also has some different meanings and one of them is “pain, suffering”, in kanji.
That’s why 9 is unlucky for Japanese, too.

Especially, 4 is said to be very unlucky.
Usually there isn’t room numbers including 4 in hospitals and hotels.
Like, room number 201, 202, 203, 205, 206…
Sometimes, even floor, they don’t have 4th floor in some hospitals.
Check out it when you go to a hotel for next time!

Does your country have same custom?
Do people avoid the unlucky numbers?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Today's kanji : 眠

Today's kanji is .

The blue part describes "eyes".

The red part describes
"person who was stabbed his/her eyes".

You don't see anything when you are...

Can you guess the meaning?

See the comments page for the answer!

Friday, January 13, 2006

My husband or my prisoner!?

Do you know that there are more than 1,000 sounds (pronunciation) in English?
Compare to that, there are only about 100 sounds in Japanese.
(46 sounds from あ to ん plus 25 sounds of voiced consonant like が・ぽ and 33 palatalized consonant like きゃ・じゅ・ぴょ.)

Correctly, as phonetics, there are some exceptions, like ん(n) in まんが(manga) is different from ん(n) in ふじさん(Fuji-san).
But basically, each hiragana / katakana always describes same sound.
I think this is one of the most different points between alphabet and Japanese writing system.

The good point is that if you can read hiragana / katakana, it’s easy to know how to pronounce the word and it’s only 100 sounds.
The difficult point is that there are so many same or similar sound words in Japanese!

Examples for completely same pronunciation

Koosei : こうせい(公正) justice
Koosei : こうせい(校正) proofreading
Koosei : こうせい(構成) structure
Koosei : こうせい(更生) rehabilitation

Kansoo : かんそう(感想) impression
Kansoo : かんそう(乾燥) dryness
Kansoo : かんそう(完走) running the whole distance

Shimeru : しめる(締める) to fasten
Shimeru : しめる(占める) to occupy
Shimeru : しめる(閉める) to close
Shimeru : しめる(絞める) to strangle

Examples for similar pronunciation
(These pronunciations are similar, but it’s easy to tell the difference for Japanese people.)

Yuuki : ゆうき(勇気) courage
Yuki  : ゆき(雪)   snow

kyuuyo  : きゅうよ(給与)  salary
kyuuyoo : きゅうよう(休養) rest

shugo  : しゅご(主語)  subject
shugoo : しゅごう(酒豪) heavy drinker

Be careful!!!
shujin  : しゅじん(主人) husband
shuujin : しゅうじん(囚人) prisoner

Be careful!!!
shoojo : しょうじょ(少女) girl
shojo  : しょじょ(処女)  virgin girl

If you know any interesting same or similar pronunciation pairs in Japanese, let me know please!