Saturday, November 18, 2006

Miami Ink - Weathering the Storm

Reader Wendy has tipped me about an episode of Miami Ink broadcasted earlier this year titled “Weathering the Storm”.

video: 16 MB Windows Media, mirror

In the show, a young lady wanted a “Japanese sign of Happiness or Inner Peace”, but what she and her friend downloaded from the internet was incorrect.

Chris Nunez then chimes in: “I think the single biggest crime is that there are so many tattoos on people either totally fake or doesn’t mean what they are looking for.” He then went on about how great it is to have Yojiro "Yoji" Harada in the shop to keep a watchful eye on fraudulent Kanji clients bring in.

Oh really?

Here is a screen shot of Kanji book in Miami Ink, and how come Yoji never spotted this?

by itself alone is not “stylish”, it means “time, season; era, age, period”.


  1. Perhaps Yoji only deals with tattoos that actually come up. In other words, he's not going to comb through the Kanji books in the shop but he WILL stop a bad tattoo from actually being done.

    Or hell, maybe he just missed it. The guy has a young baby at home. He's probably not getting much sleep ; )

  2. This segment shows just because someone is ethnic Chinese or Japanese, that does not mean he/she has sufficient knowledge of Chinese or Japanese language.

    There are plenty of Asian kids here in US and Canada that can not read or write their supposedly "native tongue".

  3. Regarding anonymous:
    Actually Yoji was born/grew up in Japan. I believe he came to the states at nineteen.

    But your point is excellent: merely BEING asian does not magically imbue someone with knowledge of their ancestral language. Alas, that will never stop people from assuming otherwise.

  4. I know that 时 does not actually mean stylish, but I guess the mistake/odd translation is understandable when you consider the word 时髦 (shi2 mao2).

  5. I believe the correct Chinese translation of "stylish" is 時髦, not 時. The misconception here is thinking each English word could be translated by a single Chinese word. I do not understand folks tattooing words they themselves do not know onto their skin.

  6. A lot of people can't speak or write their native languages well. You see a lot of English and American people online who can barely spell their own names, let alone construct coherent sentences. I'm sure there are people like that in Japan, as well. (Not saying Yoji is one of them, of course--could be he never saw that particular piece of flash. However, I'm sure it happens.)

  7. It's pretty clear how this happened. 時 for stylish comes from 時髦 just as 淫 for obscene comes from 淫穢. Someone took a Chinese-English dictionary and cribbed the first character out of the entries without understanding that the individual characters have separate meanings from the two-character words they form parts of.

  8. 時髦的 means "stylish", so perhaps they stripped off the other characters.

  9. Well, if it was only a matter of using only one of two Chinese characters in a word, then the issue is easily rectifiable by adding the second character.

    That is, if the person ever realizes the error and does the research to find the correct word, which may never happen.

  10. I suspect it came from the phrase 時裝 that often appears on clothing stores to mean "current fashions" or "current styles" or something like that. If someone doesn't understand the derived meaning of the compound, and assumes from looking in a basic word list, that the second hanzi means "clothing," then the first one must mean "fashion(able)." Right?

    The Mandarin

  11. Yea, hmmm, probably an abrreiviated verson of 時髦 like everyone said.

    Although, maybe anyone who got that tattoo could say they like the rock band "The Time", which is pretty stylish and of itself.

  12. Or, Flavor Flav with his signature clock.

  13. I watched the clip and I'm a little confused about Yoji's comment that the characters 和平 were "upside-down".

    If you watch the clip, Chris Nunez tattoos the character 平 on top and 和 on the bottom. Shouldn't it be the other way? Or is 平和 correct in Japanese?

  14. is 平和 correct in Japanese?

    Both 平和 and 和平 are used and are correct in Japanese, but they are used in slightly different senses.

    平和 is used with the meaning of “peace” in general as in the sense of tranquility, pacifism, the absence of war and inner peace.

    和平 is more often used as the translation of the English word “peace” in a more formal sense such as a “peace treaty” which is typically written as 和平条約.

    In Japanese, 和平 sounds a bit too formal and stuffy for a tatoo that is supposed to express inner peace, so Yoji's comments are on the mark.


  15. accually,he used 時FOR "S"TYLISH just becourse of the pronouciation of the "S"TYLISH. 時髦isn't stylish
    .it means FASHION, and somehow some of those FASHION stuffs suck,so they wouldn't be stylish.
    maybe some dictionaries say that 時髦 or 時尚means STYLISH,but in a view of a new school people in CHINESE world, DON'T use it in this way


  16. before this episode, there was one where a lady (half black half jap, if i'm not wrong) wanted to get a character tattooed on herself.

    she was choosing between "ren"-person or "mu"-mother. she brought both in, and asked the artists to stylize the words. she wanted yoji to do the tattoo for her because she said he would be familiar with the strokes.

    and when yoji drew/wrote the word "mu", i cringed. he separated the 1st stroke into 2 parts, and the 2nd stroke into 2 parts. i remember in kindergaten, the teacher told us time and time again not to separate the strokes. so, i was jumping on the sofa and yelling at the teevee cos i was so afraid the lady would choose the wrongly-written word. thank goodness she chose to do "ren" instead.

    hmm~ now, i'm wondering if people write words differently in japanese...

  17. when yoji drew/wrote the word "mu", i cringed. he separated the 1st stroke into 2 parts, and the 2nd stroke into 2 parts. i remember in kindergaten, the teacher told us time and time again not to separate the strokes.

    hmm~ now, i'm wondering if people write words differently in japanese...

    As far as I know, Japanese kindergarten teachers are just as strict about this. The correct strokes and stroke order are taught and emphasized when teaching kids to write.

    I am assuming you are talking about the character 母. All of my Japanese dictionaries list this character as having 5 strokes, and my old learner's dictionary clearly shows that both the first and the second stroke should each be written as a single stroke and not divided into two parts.

    This is the standard taught in Japanese schools, although not everyone has perfect handwriting. Not everyone pays attention in school, either. ;-)

  18. Um, the people who think he doesn't know what 時 means don't know what they're talking about. Any Japanese third grader knows what that kanji means; it's just that basic.

    It's far more likely that he didn't see it, or didn't pay any attention to the English below it, if he did see it. I would only hope that if somebody wanted a 時 tattoo, he would at least tell them it doesn't make any damn sense.

    And what bothers me more is the opposite page in that picture. The calligraphy is SO bad.

    Oh man, just noticed ronald's first comment after I typed all that. Well, one comment out of many that's probably on the right track. :)

    As for Japanese people writing things differently than Chinese people, they do in some cases. Japan is more likely to be strict about traditional stroke order than China is. For example, 右 is written ノ 一 口, while 左 is written 一 ノ エ. This has to do with the way the 甲骨文字 were written (though I've been told by some ignorant Chinese people in an unequivocal tone that it's "wrong"). Also, I imagine 必 is written with a different stroke order in China than in Japan, but I'm not sure about this. Japanese order is top "dot" first, then the right part of the "X" (judging from the top), then the left part, then the left "dot," and finally the right "dot." I get the feeling that Chinese people would write it like 心, but with an extra second-to-last stroke, though I might be mistaken there.

    But 母 is indeed written with five strokes - bottom left first, then top right, then the two "dots," then finally the horizontal stroke that cuts through. Odds are, the theory that he wasn't paying attention in school is correct.

  19. thank you alan and eyedunno for clarifying. i'm glad that the japanese treat the strokes as importantly as the chinese do. i'm not that picky if people get the stroke order wrong, but writing the strokes wrongly kinda changes the word. i'm fine if he did the word in 5 strokes but of a different order, but the problem was, he did it in 7.

    it's like writing 'love' as "IQUe". it matters!

  20. It's funny to me how Yoji also picked very bad kanji to illustrate "peace of mind." 平和 (is it 和平 in Chinese?) is used to talk about freedom from strife - either the opposite of war or peace within a family or other social group. 安心 would have been a much better choice. Unfortunately, he screwed up (I take it as an English deficiency rather than a kanji deficiency), and now she's stuck with it.

    Also, would anybody who's fluent/literate in Chinese care to tell me how you write 必? I'm still curious about whether or not I'm wrong there, but it's been my observation that Chinese aims more at consistency, while Japanese prefers to adhere to tradition.

  21. Since nobody replied, I went ahead and looked this up on my own.

    Here is an animated GIF of the Chinese stroke order:

    And here's the Japanese stroke order:

    Checking my kanji dictionary (漢字源 - my favorite dictionary for Japanese kanji, as it has detailed character histories, explanations, stroke order diagrams and so on), it appears that, while the radical of 必 is now considered to be 心, the two characters have completely different origins.

    心 derives from a simple picture of a heart, while 必 is a picture of a stick tied to two objects on the sides. The first two strokes in Japanese stroke order illustrate the stick itself, which is forked, while in Chinese, 心 is written first, which completely dissociates the character from its roots, but also makes it easier to remember how to write. So take your pick between modern practicality and ancient custom. :)

    Anyway, long post, but I wanted to share what I found out. :)

  22. Here is an animated GIF of the Chinese stroke order

    And here's the Japanese stroke order

    This is fascinating! Thanks for researching it. I did not realize that the stroke order can be different in Japanese and Chinese.

    I think the stroke order can subtly affect the appearance of the character. In this example, the down-stroke on the left may be different because it connects to a different stroke depending on the stroke order.

    In fact, one Japanese kanji writing guide shows the stroke on the left to have a hane (撥), giving it the appearance more of a check mark.


  23. I hate writing 必 myself. I learned (and use, out of habit) the Japanese order (in Japanese school).

    Some people now do use the Chinese one (as posted here) because they think it's easier and looks better, but in Japan it's unofficial (this came up in a thread "characters we hate to write" on 2ch).

    If there ever were compiled a list of "ways people end up with bad character tattoos" certainly "someone took only one character from a compound without knowing the common meaning of that character alone" would be wayyyyy up there on the list!

  24. Another thing that people are completely ignoring is that Yoji is thinking about the character the way a tattooist needs to--which is not going to be the same as a calligrapher--or even someone just jotting down a note to their 父母.

    The point being, what will be proper with a pen might not work out so well with a tattoo gun.

    Being left handed, my penmanship in any language tends to look a little odd. Though I've been told my characters are "cute"...which I have a sneaking suspicion is more for effort than success...

  25. Yoji's track-record is abysmal, however you want to assess it. A lack of concentration is my suspicion.

    In one episode, Yoji tattoos a pair of bikini babes on their backs with 'Ai' [愛] but omits one of the three dot strokes under the initial hane.

  26. Seems odd that he would mis-write 愛, considering that it is one of the most basic Kanji. Someone at Lvl.3 JLPT standard should be able to write that with no problem, never mind a native!