Day Four was definitely more eventful than yesterday and the day before yesterday combined. First of all, I want to say: I finally have internet! Hurray! I didn’t manage to get the wifi to work, but at least figured out how to connect my laptop to the router and the DSL modem using a USB-LAN adapter … okay, blabla, technical stuff, whatever, I HAVE INTERNET.
My day started super early, like the day before: I woke up at 4am again, couldn’t fall back asleep, and ended up just watching Youtube and browsing social media for two hours. Then food, then some studying (with a lot of
procrastination – excuse me, I meant “breaks” – inbetween), then some more food. After that I got ready and headed out. Two things were on my bucket list for the day: first the Kanji Museum, second the Pokemon Center.
Taken on the way from my dorm to the museum.
Before I start telling you about the Kanji Museum, I will try to quickly explain what Kanji are to anybody that is reading this and is unfamiliar with the Japanese language. Japanese uses three writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are syllabaries, syllable alphabets, consisting of 46 and 48 characters respectively. Kanji are Chinese characters that were adapted to the Japanese language, culture and standards. Whereas Hiragana and Katakana, being like alphabets, are relatively easy to learn, learning Kanji is
fucking annoying considerably more difficult. First of all, a Kanji is more difficult to write than a syllable from the Hiragana or the Katakana syllabary. It usually consists of more strokes that are put together in a more complicated way. For example, this is a Hiragana, し, and this is a Kanji, 志. Moreover, a Kanji can usually be read in many different ways. Those ways of reading can be divided up into two categories: there are Chinese-style readings, onyomi, and Japanese-style readings, kunyomi. And sometimes (or rather almost all of the time for almost every stupid Kanji) there are also irregular readings that make no sense at all and that one also needs to memorize.
It is not exactly clear how many Kanji actually exist out there – there is no definite number to them, and it is well possible that there is over 50000 of them. Fifty. Thousand. Imagine having to memorize all of those. I would die.
But anyway, I hope that my explanation of Kanji kind of made sense. Let’s go back to that museum story, shall we?
The Japan Kanji Museum and Library (漢字ミュージアム) is located where the red dot-arrow-thing on the map is.
It’s easily accesible, either by subway – the stations Gion Shijo and Kawaramachi are nearby, and Shijo Karasuma station is also not that far from there – or by bus. Ticket prices vary depending on your age: for adults, one ticket costs 800 yen. University and high school students only pay 500 yen, and for middle and elementary school students, it’s only 300 yen. Anyone
(fun-not-so-fun fact: I actually wrote “anything” at first, hehehe, I’m horrible, as if babies and little children weren’t living beings or whatever) younger than that gets in for free. So, definitely affordable, and also totally worth every single yen in my opinion – though I wouldn’t really recommend going there without knowing at least basic Japanese and being to read at least a few Kanji, as the entire museum is in Japanese (without any English translations whatsoever) and there is a lot of reading involved.
The museum had two floors. Right at the entrance of the first floor’s exhibition area, there was a huge frame displaying the Kanji Of The Year 2015.
A really beautiful, artsy calligraphy of the Kanji 安 – which can mean peace, peacefulness, tranquility, safety, quietness, or … cheap. Next to there frame there was an explanation for why this Kanji was chosen as the 2015 Kanji. What it basically said was that apparently, in 2015, there was much political discussion and review between the ruling and opposition parties regarding many security-related government bills. The Japanese people grew more and more interested in the discussion and in politics in general, and more citizens became encouraged to actively participate in political votes.
But 2015 was also a year that made people feel unsafe (不安), due to all the terror acts that were going on. People began to question the stability of their lives, and the phrase 安心してください, meaning something like “please rest assured,” grew more and more trendy and popular, and was increasingly used. 2015 was, all in all, a year in which people began, in response to them starting to question their safety, to seek out peacefulness, tranquility and stability of their mind and lives.
Behind the frame, there was a huge area where the entire history of Kanji was written down on the wall. There were also illustrations roughly summarizing what was written down. I tried to read everything
(took, like, two hours, because I read Japanese at turtle speed) and found it pretty interesting, even though I didn’t necessarily understand every single little detail. East Asian history is complicated and confusing either way (shoutout to my fellow International Studies peeps, if you’re still reading this), and it’s even more complicated if it’s written in Japanese … but, anyway. Basically, there is this legend that the beginning of Kanji lies many thousands years ago when some guy in China was so fascinated by the nature around him and the animals that lived out in the nature and the sounds that they were making that he started carving simple pictures of them into stones.
…seriously now, didn’t he have anything better to do? Like, for example, get a job and work and make money to support his wife and eleven children? (Okay, I don’t know if he had a wife or eleven children. He was probably single if his favourite past time was carving stick figures into stones.) But nah, apparently he just had to go and invent that writing system that continues to torture many of us poor, sleep-deprived students of Japanese (or Chinese) to this day. I also read this on Wikipedia later on and found it pretty funny:
The legend relates that on the day the characters were created, people heard ghosts wailing and saw crops falling like rain. (Source)
Yeah, man, that was my ghost wailing there. My ghost that came from the future to the past to take revenge, because in the future, I will die trying to memorize the hundreds of Kanji I need to know to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December. Just so you know.
Anyway, let’s get
(kind of, heheheh) serious again. How exactly this particular system of writing spread around China, I didn’t fully understand. I believe there is no clear answer anyway, just a lot of theories and speculations. What I did understand, however, is that these symbols reached Japan through a golden seal, called the King of Na Gold Seal. After that, there were many more seals, official letters, coins and so on that brought more and more Kanji to Japan and caused the writing system to spread out and become more common. Later on, the writing system was adapted to Japanese standards, culture and pronounciation, as Japan drastically differs from China in all those aspects. Even later on, the two syllabaries Hiragana and Katakana were derived from Kanji. … that was the very, very, VERY short version of the history, sorry about that. I don’t think I have enough brain cells left at this late (it’s half past midnight when I’m writing this) hour to write it down in any more detail.
How Katakana (left) and Hiragana (right) were derived from Kanji. So cool.
*inner nerd awakening*
Each visitor also received a little brochure-kind-of-thing at the ticket counter. That brochure was something like an interactive game, consisting of four parts that each corresponded to some part of the Kanji history written on the wall. The first part explained the origins of the Kanji for friend, 友. Apparently it is a combination of two of the kanji 又, which means “right hand”. It is supposed to symbolize two right hands shaking and holding each other. Such a cute story if you ask me, heh. Well, I mean, as cute as it can get when it’s about Kanji. For the second part of the brochure, there was a just little white box into which you had to put a stamp that was a replica of the King of Na Gold Seal – just to give an idea of what it looked like. In the third part of the game, I learned how to write my name in old Kanji and what Kanji the Hiragana and Katakana versions of my name derived from. The fifth and last part of the brochure listed the flags of five countries, and you could see how their names were written in Kanji. All in all, I found that interactive brochure a pretty cool way of getting more “in touch” with the history and Kanji in general.
Ignore my nail polish fail, please.
There were also some photos of real-life objects that look like Kanji. I think some were even captured by school students! I took photos of those that I found the most inspiring or beautiful.
“The Symbol of Hirado Port” – the Kanji 門, meaning gate, looks like it is kind of being pulled apart and opened. That could maybe symbolize how Japan, a previously isolated island, gradually started to open itself up to the world.
“Power” – the two cranes look like the Kanji for power or strength, 力
“The Mountain Inside the Mountain” – the three trees in the foreground look a bit like the Kanji for mountain, 山
“To Raise” – the shape through which you see the mother hugging her two kids looks like the Kanji 育, which can mean “to raise” or “to grow up”
“Reaching for Tohoku”
There also was a Kanji tree!
I think this is a riddle of some kind, but I have no idea what I’m supposed to do or what the solution is. I just took a picture because it had Detective Conan on it.
On the second floor of the museum, there was a library that I didn’t really explore in too much detail because there is a limit to how many Kanji my brain can handle, and I was getting pretty close to that limit. There were also a lot of games related to Kanji. For example there was a wall with many pictures of old Kanji on it. You had to try to guess which contemporary Kanji derived from the old version in the picture. If you didn’t know or thought you figured it out, you could peek through a little hole underneath the picture and check the answer.
There was another wall on which there was a big picture of the human body. There were many blank circles connected to different parts of the body. Next to the picture, there were round magnets that each had an old Kanji drawn on them. You had to guess the new Kanji (a body part Kanji) and put it in the blank connected to the right body part. Another game I thought was pretty cool (but failed miserably at) was the one where you had to sit down in front of a screen that showed a sushi belt on which there were many different pieces of nigiri. You could choose a nigiri and drag it to your table. Then the game showed you what the fish that the nigiri was made with looked like and made you guess what the Kanji for the fish was.
All of the fish kanji literally looked the same to me and I got a whooping zero points … but what was even sadder is that there was a little girl, probably still in kindergarten, right next to me and she was guessing all the Kanji correctly. I need to step up my Kanji game, seriously.
There were many other games, and there was even something like a little Kanji summer festival going on in one corner of the second floor. I played a few more games, but after that I decided that I was officially done with Kanji for the day and that it was time to head to my second big stop of the day, the Kyoto Pokemon Center.
Okay, so. The Pokemon Center was paradise! I felt like I was in heaven. Okay, I have to admit, maybe I was a little, little, liiiiiiiittle disappointed because it was kind of small – like, way smaller than the one in Tokyo or Yokohama, or even the one in Osaka, if I remember correctly. But hey, I shouldn’t be complaining, it’s better than no Pokemon Center at all, right? And there was so much cool stuff that it was hard to be sad or disappointed over anything anyway. The Pokemon Halloween circus collection is out now, and I seriously wanted to buy everything, but I managed some self control at least and only got an the Halloween Circus Espeon plushie (dressed up as a witch, ugh, so adorable) for my sister and the Halloween Circus Eevee plushie (dressed up as a pirate, ugh, even more adorable) for myself. And also two stickers for my laptop
(sorry, Dad, if you’re reading this, don’t kill me). And a little phone accessory. And a Kyoto Pikachu note book. So much for saving money.
The Espeon that I got for my sister and the Kyoto Pikachu (that I didn’t get).
(Oh, and I also got Starbucks again. Judge me all you want. I tried the hot Golden Maple Latte this time, but I have to say, I definitely liked the Frappuccino version a lot more. But it was still delicious.)
But yeah, that was day four. The next few days will be on the less exciting side again because I need to do some serious studying for the placement test on Wednesday … but maybe I’ll still find something to blog about? We shall see. But yeah, as always, thank you so much for reading my post, and see you next time! Adios ☆