Sunday, 9 April 2017

Essential Kanji for Getting Around in Japan

I apologise for taking so long between posts. I know some of you have been anxiously awaiting for the next instalment of this Japanese language learning series.

April is a very busy Month in Japan because it is the beginning of the new academic year. I have been especially busy as this year I will begin my PhD. studies at Kumamoto University. (Below is a photo of the acceptance for enrolment into the Kumamoto University Doctoral Program) It is a three year course and my research study will be in teacher development. I am excited about this challenge and the opportunity to become more through this process. I will include you on my journey as we grow together over the next three years.

Now let's get into the blog. In this post I will introduce essential Kanji that you will encounter on your travels. This post will focus on the kanji you need to know when you are connecting to flights in the airport of travelling by train or subway. You will see these kanji everywhere and once you can recognise what they mean you will never get totally lost again!

I also recommend that you look at convenient apps that can help you along the way. One of the English/Japanese dictionary apps that I use and highly recommend is, JED Check out the link for download options:
Furthermore, the kanji that I will be introducing can be found on-line or in textbooks like the Japanese for Busy People series that I introduced in my previous post. I also recommend 250 Essential Kanji for Everyday Use (Picture of the cover below) as a very good reference for kanji that you will encounter on your trip to Japan. I should point out that this text deals extensively with very relevant topics such as Trains, Stations, Banks, the Post Office, Shopping, and Real Estate.

For those of you travelling to 熊本県 Kumamoto Ken; Kumamoto Prefecture, for the the first time it may be useful to be able to recognise the kanji for Kumamoto (above) and 九州 Kyushu, where Kumamoto is located in the South of 西日本 Nishi Nihon; Western Japan (the kanji for South and West are written below). Japan is divided into East and West. Tokyo and Chiba are located in Eastern Japan, Osaka and Kyoto are located in the West. Kumamoto is considered to be part of Western Japan
When travelling it is always good to start with direction. In this case North, South, East, and West are of importance to us as well as Entrance and Exit as we will be looking for the entrances and exits in stations and they are all divided into North, South, East, and West.

You will see these Kanji in the 駅 Eki; Station(s) and in the 空港 Kuukou; Airport(s) all across Japan:
Kita; North
Minami; South
Higashi; East
西 Nishi; West

入口 Iriguchi; Entrance
出口 Deguchi; Exit

Now with the few kanji we have looked at how much of the following photo can you understand? It is a photo of the floor plan of Kumamoto Station. Can you see 熊本駅 Kumamoto Eki written in the top left hand corner? How about 口 Kuchi? There are 西口 Nishiguchi and 東口 Higashiguchi visible as well. If you ask for directions and were told to go to the East Exit, where do you think you should go?

These days most stations and airports have English signs. However, the further you travel outside of large city centres the fewer English signs there are. It is still a good idea to familiarise yourself with these kanji. Numbers not are usually written in kanji so you don't need to spend too much tim on them, but Year, Months, and days of the week and are still written in kanji on some tickets so it may be a good idea to be able to recognise them as well.

While in the station or airports you may need to go to the お手洗い O Tearai; toilet, literally translated as (the place) to wash one's hands, sometimes referred to as the "wash closet" (WC) so you may also see signs with the WC written on them. Most stations and airports have the generic Male and Female signs as seen below, but it may be a good idea to know the kanji for man and woman if you don't already know them.

Otoko; Man and 女 Onna; Woman are the kanji used to identify changing rooms and lavatories, but they may be written in combination with other kanji as follows: 男性(用) Dansei(yo) or 女性(用) Jyosei(yo) which translates to (for the use of) Men or Women; Male or Female (use).

Now that we can get around and do our business we can venture further. You may have received your tickets from the travel agent, but you may want to purchase tickets while you are here and go for an adventure on the train or shinkansen. In this case you may have to fill out some forms if you are thinking about getting a rail pass, but if you are only buying single tickets you probably won't have to fill out any forms. However, it is a good idea to know dates to make scheduling go more smoothly. Dates are written in the opposite order from North America. And Japan uses its own calender which runs for the length of time of the reign of the emperor to identify the Year. For example, It is now the 29th Year of Heisei, the Month of April and let's say that it is a Monday. The date would look like this: 平成 29年4月10日(月). Monday may be written as 月曜日Getsuyoubi, or abbreviated as (月). This holds true for every day of the week:
月曜日 Getsuyoubi; Monday
火曜日 Kayoubi; Tuesday
水曜日 Suiyoubi; Wednesday
木曜日 Mokuyoubi; Thursday
金曜日 Kinyoubi; Friday
土曜日 Doyoubi; Saturday
日曜日 Nichiyoubi; Sunday

Here is an, easy to understand, explanation of what is actually written on the reserved tickets for the 新幹線 Shinkansen; bullet train.

In order to reserve a rail pass you may have to fill out a form like the one below:

(Commuter's pass application form, 250 Essential Kanji, 1994)

There are some kanji on this form that are very useful to know as they are commonly found on most 申込書 Moushikomi sho; Official Forms and in Japan there seems to be a paper form for EVERYTHING! So let's take a look at the important kanji on the example above.

If you are studying Japanese already you have probably learned 名前 Namae; Name and, more than likely know the sentence 私の名前は___. But on the form above you will notice that it is written a slightly differently. 名 Na is there, but it comes after another kanji as opposed to coming before 前 Mae; Before. This time it is read 氏名 Shimei; Full Name or Identity. You have to write your Last name (Family name) first, followed by your first name (Shita no namae). In my case, I would write Waterfield Marc, as you see on the photo of the acceptance for enrolment into the Kumamoto University Doctoral Program at the top of this page. The kanji for 男女 Dan Jyo; male or female are written next to the name to be circled. Under that is a space to fill in your age __才, I would write 39才 and cross out 様 Sama to the left of 才, by making two horizontal lines through the kanji. This was not done in the example, but after living here for any length of time you would know that it is a common gesture of politeness to do such a thing. I don't want to get into the 'why' this is done in this post. At this point, all you need to know is that this simple act, of crossing out the 様 after your own name on forms like this (especially forms that you need to send by mail) or writing it after someone else's name who you are mailing something to, will send the message to anyone who involved that you understand Japanese 礼儀作法 Reigi Sahou; often translated as etiquette or manners. I would go as far as to say that Reigisahou is the 'backbone' of Japanese social structure.

Moving on, can you recognise any of the kanji in the section to the right of the name and age? You will notice that 平成 Heisei is written along with 年, 月, and 日 followed by some kana and numbers. What do you suppose this signifies?

Below the these two sections is the section to write your 住所 Jyusho; address and 電話番号 Denwa Bangou; Telephone Number. In the section below that you must give the address of either your 通勤先 Tsuukin saki; Place of Work or the 通学先 Tsuugaku saki; address of the school you are attending if you are a student.

The two example forms are slightly different from one another and these forms may be a little bit out of date as the book I am using to reference these examples was printed in 1994, but they still offer us an easy to understand example of the information commonly found on such forms.

I hope this series of posts is helpful to you as you continue your Japanese language studies and as you prepare for your visit to Japan. I know that your time spent in Japan will be an experience of a lifetime. This series is not designed to teach you everything there is to know about Japan and the Japanese language, rather it is my aim to help facilitate smoother travels and help you to develop your own tools of conversation in order to facilitate deeper levels of communication between you and the Japanese Karate-do community and Japanese Nationals in general.

If there is anything specific that you would like me to focus on, please comment on this blog or send me a private message. The Chito-Ryu World Championships "Soke Cup" is 4 Months away, 準備万端、頑張りましょう!