Monday, May 17, 2010

Kanji Beginner: Name that Country!

Tonight's lesson is brief but a word you may already recognize on sight even if you don't know what the characters mean: 日本.

If you've been following the other Kanji Beginner lessons (just search those two words over on the right to find older entries), you've already learned 日 is "day". The reason why we use it for days (one day, day of the month, etc.) is that its true meaning is "sun" and here said as "ni".

"One sun" = "one day", which makes sense. :) On a related note, it's the same with "month" actually being "moon" (月).

So getting back to our country name, we have "sun" plus the second character. Look closely at it and you'll see it looks just like this one plus one more stroke: 木. This original character is "tree", and when you add that extra line across the bottom, it becomes 本 "root", "origin" or even "book", but here said "hon" and meant as "origin".

"Sun" 日 + "Origin" 本 makes for "Land of the Rising Sun", said "Nihon", a.k.a. Japan.

Rather than pull up some boring "Nihon" kanji sign, here's the official patch for the Japanese branch of the Star Wars costuming and charity group the 501st Legion, best known for sending hordes of Stormtroopers to local events. Can you find the "Nihon"?

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