<Take good pictures, David! We're counting on you!>
<Yeah, sure, I'll give it a shot. I doubt they give you Internet down there, though...>
All of which is to say that not much else has happened this week beyond what you'd expect-- schoolwork, non-blog-worthy conversations, capricious weather. On the other hand, my long-extended move-in process has hit another significant milestone. I've been issued a hanko-- a signature stamp with which I can, among other things, sign for packages and enter certain minor contracts.
|Finally, I have a legible signature.|
Blessed with an overabundance of writing systems, Japan has chosen one, the hard edged katakana, to spell onomatopoeia (but don't forget the ones for soundless concepts!), and most foreign loan-words, including the tongue-twisting names of people like me. My own name in this system is transliterated thusly, done not a little bit of phonological violence by Japanese's restricted inventory of sounds (no z, for example) and rigid moraic structure.
|Or Ranjiini Debido if you please.|
Foreign words, as it happens, were not always written in katakana. Up until the late 19th century (and occasionally today), foreign words were instead written in Chinese characters lumped together for their sound value, a system called ateji. Since kanji don't rigidly follow the "one-mora-per-character rule" so rigidly, (and look cooler to boot), I was pleased when, after I asking nicely at the Hanko-Ordering Station back in April, I was able to recruit two of the sophomore Orientation Advisors to help me rerender my surname in kanji. After 15 minutes or so with our dictionaries, we hashed out the following together:
From left to right, that's read RAN-JI-NI, using the characters for "orchid" (also an abbreviation for 'Holland', a parallel which works better than you might expect, given my ancestry), the Confucian value of benevolence, and an elaborated version of the character for the numeral 2. I'm less than satisfied with the final character, but most of the alternate choices we could find for that sound are even less attractive in terms of meaning.
And that, stamped in red ink in a consciously archaic style, is what I'll be signing for care packages with from now on.
Arbitrary? By its very nature. Slightly pretentious? Perhaps. Cool as heck? Certainly. And rest assured, I'm not going anywhere near a tattoo parlor...
*Some trendy parents these days prefer to use the swoopy, softer, and more "feminine" appearing hiragana (originally "women's script", after all) to write their daughters' given names these days-- a trend which, incidentally, irritates me because as a rule, the kanji for girls' given names are the easiest to sight-pronounce, as opposed to boys' names, which are a minefield of alternate non-standard readings. Surnames are, to the best of my knowledge, always written in kanji.
**Or, since most everyone's ancestors chose their surnames around 1870, merely a combination of characters meaning "Village", "Rice-paddy", "Mountain", "Tree", "Stone Bridge" or the like. One quickly gets the impression that life was not particularly interesting, and education not particularly excellent, in the Bakumatsu period. But see also Wikipedia.