Kanji hr655

Hope Kanji T-shirts by HW

I came across a website on which custom-made T-shirts, caps and tote bags are made and sold worldwide. Since I have been in a financial crunch lately, I could make and sell T-shirts with my poor drawing on them there. I browsed others’ merchandise which designs looked professional and like works of art. Looking at them, it was obvious that my daub had no part to play there. I tried to look for some other possible designs of my own.

It was when the idea of kanji struck me. Kanji means Chinese characters in Japanese and one of three character sets used for Japanese. That character set is prevalent in Japan and most Japanese names contain it. My name also consists of three kanji characters. When I lived  in the U.S. and Canada and my signature was required at shops or other businesses, the salesclerk who looked at it curiously often expressed how cool it was. I sometimes saw a person wearing a T-shirt that had kanji on it, but mostly it didn’t make sense or it had an awkward meaning. That was probably because someone who didn’t have enough knowledge about kanji made the shirt easily. While I understood that the person wearing it didn’t know her or his shirt was telling an absurd thing to the public, I couldn’t help giggling secretly. I even spotted those who tattooed that weird kind of kanji. As a native of Japan, I thought I could make kanji merchandise with proper meanings and decided to give it a try.

Every kanji has its meaning. For instance, my first name is comprised of two kanji characters one of which means ‘excellent’ and the other means ‘beautiful’, and they are read ‘Hidemi’ together. Because of the character’s meaning, my name is embarrassing, I admit. Japanese parents put their expectations and wishes into a name when they name their child. A child’s name reflects their parents’ taste and personality. They wish her or him to be gentle, or to be kind, and they choose the corresponding kanji for their child’s name in most cases. Sometimes a name seems destined specifically for a politician, or a name aims to endure life. As for my partner’s name, its meaning is to be dutiful to one’s parents. Both his parents have already deceased and whether he fulfilled their wish or not is uncertain. Japanese people have to live with carrying bittersweet names on their shoulders.

When I was little, I asked my grandmother on my mother’s side what kanji characters were used for her name Fuki. She told me that Fuki was her nickname and her real name was Fukiko by three kanji characters with the meaning of ‘wealthy’, ‘noble’ and ‘child’ respectively. I had sent her a New Year card or a Christmas card every year by that name with those kanji characters for decades until she passed away. When I attended her funeral, I saw a placard hung at the entrance of a small shabby prefabricated funeral home. It showed whose funeral this was. Although the funeral took place according to officially registered documents, my grandmother’s name on the placard wasn’t what she had told me. Her name was actually Fuki, not Fukiko, and kanji wasn’t used for it. There is a different character set in Japan called katakana, which represents only sound without meaning like the alphabet. Her real name was in those characters, not in kanji. I asked my mother if she had known that. My mother said she also had thought her name was Fukiko in kanji since she was a child. I wondered how many family members of hers had known her real name. At least her own child and grandchild hadn’t. I suppose that she wanted to be wealthy and noble, for which she chose the kanji characters, and named herself.

I chose kanji for my first custom-made T-shirt. They mean ‘hope’. 

the smell of the U.S.

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

I went to Costco again today. I had a hot dog and a slice of pizza at the food court there for the first time. They had incredibly low prices and had the exactly similar taste to the ones I used to have in the U.S. The store also has the smell of the U.S. I think people living there don’t ever notice but supermarkets of the U.S. have unique smell, which is very different from Japanese supermarkets. I could tell instantly by the smell which country’s supermarket it is even if I entered blindfolded.

While I was eating at the food court, I felt back in time when I lived in the U.S. The similar taste and smell gave me an illusion that I still lived there. But one big difference reminded me that this was Japan. The clerks have good attitudes. The hot dog came with an all-you-can-drink soft drink that Japanese food courts don’t have, and I didn’t get how to draw a straw from the container. While I was confused in front of it, a man standing next to me nimbly pushed down the bottom receiver and a straw came out. Now I recollected the American way after being embarrassed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan by Hidemi Woods

Audiobook: The Family in Kyoto: One Japanese Girl Got Freedom by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple Books, Google Play, Audible 43 available distributors in total.

Audiobook:  Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Google Play, Audible,   43 available distributors in total.

the smell of the U.S.

I went to Costco again today. I had a hot dog and a slice of pizza at the food court there for the first time. They had incredibly low prices and had the exactly similar taste to the ones I used to have in the U.S. The store also has the smell of the U.S. I think people living there don’t ever notice but supermarkets of the U.S. have unique smell, which is very different from Japanese supermarkets. I could tell instantly by the smell which country’s supermarket it is even if I entered blindfolded.

While I was eating at the food court, I felt back in time when I lived in the U.S. The similar taste and smell gave me an illusion that I still lived there. But one big difference reminded me that this was Japan. The clerks have good attitudes. The hot dog came with an all-you-can-drink soft drink that Japanese food courts don’t have, and I didn’t get how to draw a straw from the container. While I was confused in front of it, a man standing next to me nimbly pushed down the bottom receiver and a straw came out. Now I recollected the American way after being embarrassed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods