Hey guys, just wanted to share a small side project that I did over the new year’s break with you. Kind of wanted to do something that involved new years some how so I went out on the cold winter streets with a clipboard, a brush and some paper and asked people to write a single kanji that signified their hopes and dreams for the year of the dragon. Lots of people refused, but some were quite obliging, and I have to hand it to Ikuo and Kiko, who after writing their own kanji helped me flag down other people.
If you live in Japan you’ll be well familiar with kanji but for those who have no idea, kanji is the pictograph-style writing system that is used in Japan and wider parts of Asia. The great thing about kanji is that while each single character can have several different meanings, the overall ‘feel’ of the character can be understood very easily. Thus, a writing a single character doesn’t simply mean one thing – the viewer has a very good idea of what the writer is trying to communicate, but also has the leeway to interpret the intended message for themselves. If it sounds difficult to grasp don’t worry; it is difficult, but it’s also part of the beauty of the system too.
Ikue-san wrote 実 – minoru – which means to bloom/come into fruition/actuality. “A bit cliche, actually,” she admits. This could be taken to mean that she hopes that her goals and others’ will be realized this year.
Keiko-san wrote 続 – tsuzuku, zoku – which means to continue/series/stream. This may signify her desire to keep doing something from last year, or to stick with a project that she’s started recently.
Joanne wrote 写 – utsusu, sha – which means to project/describe/copy. She may want to project herself into what she does a bit better, or maybe she wants to spend more time in reflection, or perhaps she just wants to take more photos, given that the kanji is also part of 写真 – shashin – which means wait for it: photo.
Emi-san wrote 海 – umi – which simply means ocean. “I love the ocean,” she explains. She must want to go to Hawaii this year or something.
Asuka, my fiance, wrote 道 – michi, dou – which means road/the way/journey/moral teachings. It can mean that she wants to find her way this year, or perhaps that she wants to stick to a course, or figure out what to do.
“I’ll write an easy one,” Yoshio-san says as he writes 力 – chikara, riki – which means strength, power, ability. You can read into this many ways of course, as strength comes in many forms. Maybe he wants to be better at what he does, or needs to be strong enough to see something through this year.
Chiba-san, who was walking about with Yoshio-san, wrote 人 – hito – which means people/person. Perhaps he wants to be better with people, or maybe wants to meet more people this year.
Matsu-san wrote 結 – musubu, ketsu – which means to tie/bind/join together or fasten. Maybe he wants to get married this year, or maybe he wants to bring something together – once again it’s easy to read several different meanings into this.
Shinpei-san wrote 先 – saki – which has the dual meaning to be in front/to be first/to precede/to follow. Yes it’s very confusing but it works somehow. Shinpei-san doesn’t elaborate on this but I’m sure he knows what he needs to be in front of.
Mana-chan wrote 笑 – warau – which means to laugh or smile. Given that she has such a lovely smile I hope that her year is full of them.
Shinpei-san (another one) wrote 極 – kiwameru, kyoku – which means extreme/to bring to an end/to persist /to succeed. This kanji has a ton of meanings, but my favorite one has to be to overcome your obstacles.
Kouhei wrote 貯 – tamaru – which means to save/to hoard/to pile up/to keep. As he writes it he says “This one’s going to be realistic.” He’s probably thinking about money – perhaps I should make it my kanji for this year too 😉
And lastly, Kiko wrote 叶 – kanau – which means grant, answer. “May our wishes for this year be granted,” she tells me. May they be granted indeed!
The camera and lens I used was a D700 with a 50 f/1.2 AiS, for the gear heads out there. All shot [gasp] without flash!