Hey you with the Kanji Tattoo! - Vikingess Voyages

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hey you with the Kanji Tattoo!

Isn't it funny how we sometimes try to express ourself creatively through foreign languages, such as words our clothing or sometimes even with a tattoo? Some people even use things written in languages they don't know, and where I suppose they have no clue what the writings actually means. Here in Japan there are a lot of people who wears T-shirts or sweaters with text written in English. Which of course is a personal choice, but the problem is that some of the things written does not make any sense: it is often directly mistaken in terms of grammar or spellings. Or even both.

There are T-shirts made with writing in more perifere languages as well, and in a couple of rare incidents you can even find T-shirts in Norwegian (as a girl from such a small country I can't help but pointing this out..)!
My friend and sempai Åse told me about her studies in Japan, and how she had seen a guy at campus with a T-shirt that read: "Jøtul, alle husmødres ønskedrøm". In addition to the text, it had a picture of an old baking oven. 
The funny thing is, Jøtul is the name of a company that sell baking ovens, and "alle husmødres ønskedrøm" means something like "the dream of every housewife" (Literarily "All housemother's wishdream"). Somehow I don't think the guy considered this when he bought the T-shirt..

It is a point though, that by wearing the T-shirt he made the day for both my friend, and also for us others who got to hear the story. There is something nice about seeing people wearing something written in your own language, perhaps especially when the language is quite insignificant in the big world. I was both surprised and happy myself when it turned out one of my Japanese friends at Ritsumeikan had a T-shirt written in something that seems to be Danish/old Norwegian. The text is quite neutral: "Et kamera er et apparat, der benyttes til at affotografere et motiv" (something like "A camera is a device which is used to take pictures of a motif". Although he didn't know the meaning, it made me feel like he somehow was interested in Scandinavia, and it thus gave me an unconsciously positive impression of him. In this sense, you might be able to make new friends just by wearing an interesting T-shirt! (You can see a picture of the T-shirt at the end of this post)

But it is not only Japanese people who like to express themselves through foreign languages; it can also go the opposite way. I got a mail from a friend a couple of weeks ago, which read:
Hi Anette"
Could you help me?
I have a friend, who wants a tattoo with this text: "What doesn't kill me makes me strong.", but he wants it in Japanese... Would you do to translate it for me?"
Although I did have a couple of what I considered to be alright alternatives I asked my Japanese boyfriend how he would translate it. But his answer was simply:
"My answer; don't get a tattoo in Japanese/kanji. It looks funny to the Japanese! Lol."

..And I guess that is the point with this post: although a Japanese tattoo might seem really cool here and now, you should probably think a little about it before you actually get it. Or else, you might end up with a lot of Japanese people laughing behind your back. I mean, a T-shirt can always be taken off if you discover that it didn't really have the desired outcome. On the other hand, that should of course not stop you if you have a kanji you feel would look really cool as a tattoo. After all it's all subjective, and I suppose a lot of people will find it interesting.
But that is just my opinion. What do you think? Is it cool to express yourself with clothes or tattoos written in other languages? Do you have any experiences like the ones above yourself? :)

The coolest T-shirt on campus!! "A camera is a device which is used to take photos of a motif"
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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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