Recently I have started to study kanji seriously. Because I’ve been learning some pretty basic stuff, I have found that if has allowed me to revise and cement some of the basic Japanese words I have floating around in my head. However it has thrown up some random problems.
Here is a kanji:
This kanji can mean a number of things, firstly “mae” which means “in front (of)” and secondly “mae” or “zen” which mean “before”.
Here is another kanji:
This can also mean a number of things, including but not limited to, “ushiro” which means “behind/back” and “ato” which means “after”.
You can see where my problem is here. How can talking about things in front of you be about the past? How can speaking about things that are behind you be discussing the future?
This language is difficult.
This week Japan has been rocked by 3 earthquakes. It’s all rather strange, I hadn’t felt an earthquake all year and then, rather like buses, 3 come along at once.
Being from England, where earthquakes aren’t exactly common, I’ve found them to be confusing things. First things start shaking left-to-right, then you start to wonder when it will end and then it finishes. That’s been my experience with quakes so far. Granted the most powerful I have experienced (and hopefully ever will) is a 6 or 7 which is not as powerful as it sounds.
I have also noticed that Japanese people are kind of blasé about earthquakes. Having the ground move below me still puts me on edge and grabs my attention but to the Japanese (well the kids at least) things carry on as normal. Once during a lesson with young 3-4 year olds, I was barking my instructions for them to colour the tomato yellow or whatever when a quake struck. I stopped in mid sentence and stayed still and silent during the swaying. After, I looked back down to 3 bored faces staring at me with “wtf is he so worried about” expressions.
It seems that the people of Tokyo are more worried when it snows than when the ground starts moving. Maybe that’s because it snows far less in Tokyo than it shakes. Also if the ground is slippery and wet, you may just fall over.