Wednesday, July 7, 2010

from: Justin
date: Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 7:42 AM
subject: Tattoo query


I was reading your blog and it very interesting. I have been having this dilemma of finding out what is the true meaning of the tattoo I got in my teen years. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a million.


元氣 means "vitality", in the tattoo is distinctively a variant used in Japanese.


  1. The Japanese pronunciation of 元気 is "genki." At least in Japanese, it implies youthful exuberance, healthiness, excitement… Doesn't exactly translate to a single English word, but if I had to pick one, it may be "charisma." When I taught eikaiwa - conversational English classes - in Japan, the managers were often asking me to be more "genki" in my kids' classes. Ugh… Anyway, an odd thing to get a tattoo of.

  2. Hey, the kid should feel lucky the tattoo at least means something half-way positive.

  3. I think it's not really close to charisma. Of course, I'm not a native speaker, either. "Vitality" is actually the best translation or maybe "good spirits". But it's a lot more commonly used in Japanese culture than it is in English.

    元気がない - tired, wasted.
    元気いっぱい - full of beans.

  4. well that doesn't sound like to bad a word to have tattooed on you. how did you chose it in the first place? A friend chose her tattoo because it looked nice, but later found out that it meant something strange like 'big head'. It is fine, just as long as she doesn't go to japan!

  5. you could do a lot worse than have 'genki' as your tattoo - it's the standard Japanese question and answer for 'how are you'
    元気ですか? - genki desu ka (are you genki?)
    元気です。 - genki desu (I am genki)
    Genki has so many meanings, but it's always positive varying from simply 'fine' or 'well' to 'vitality' or 'energetic' I used to complain about teaching kids in Japan that were too genki!