Wednesday, March 18, 2009

date: Tue, Mar 17, 2009 at 12:09 AM
subject: kanji paranoia

Hi! I got this tattoo a little over a year ago. It's supposed to mean "pure child", as I am a Christian. My tattoo artist is very careful and we even referenced a Japanese children's workbook to make sure that's what it meant.

I stumbled onto your site and now I am a little paranoid. Can you set my mind at ease?

I attached a pic :)it's my boobs, hope you don't mind. it's a little blue Kanji on my left boobie.


First of all, Alan and I welcome boobies!

I have always wanted Cornershop's Brimful of Asha as one of my party anthems, especially the chorus says "everybody needs a bosom for pillow, everybody needs a bosom."

Although are technically translated as "pure" & "child". A Japanese person would surely first assume that 清子 tattooed on a woman is supposed to be the common Japanese girl's name Kiyoko. But then the cognitive dissonance would set in.

Judging from certain, er, attributes of the tattooed subject, we would have to assume that she is not ethnically Japanese, so the question arises: why does she have a Japanese name?

Anyway, as a name, 清子 can be read several different ways including, in order from most to least common: Kiyoko, Seiko, Sugako, Sayako, Sukako.

Matter of fact, most Japanese would think this is a tattoo paying homage to their former princess 黒田清子, Sayako Kuroda.


  1. Wait a second... A Japanese children's workbook?!

    ...the hell? Why is that a source?


  2. Come now, Tian; there are any number of ladies here in Japan who could match and trump the physical assets on display here!

    Anyway, re the tattoo: Yes, it simply looks like a girl's name, Kiyoko. Tattooing a boyfriend's/girlfriend's name is a well-known practice; I think viewers who read Kanji will simply assume that the lady here is a lesbian showing her love for a GF named Kiyoko.

  3. @Traveler,

    Have you been visiting those places specializing in 巨乳 again?

  4. @Tian: Just walking down the street, my friend!

  5. @Traveler... well there is nothing wrong with a lesbian showing her love for a GF named Kiyoko

    though I personally wouldn't tattoo it on my breast ^_^

  6. "there are any number of ladies here in Japan who could match and trump the physical assets on display here!"

    Yeah, but most likely they're not Japanese.

  7. @Hejin: Indeed, nothing wrong with it at all!

    Unless you're the poor girl who sent in the photo, who wanted something else entirely. : )

    Thinking out loud about the photo sender: If the tattoo means "pure child" to her, well, I guess she can be happy with it. She can also offer that explanation to the majority of people who see it, who won't know the meaning one way or another.

    I think that people who can read the characters are most likely to just respond with "Huh? Is that meant as the name Kiyoko, or what's the deal?". But hey, even that makes for a conversation starter, so I would advise the tattooed gal to not worry too much, and make the best of it!

  8. @Carl

    Hahahaha! No.
    精子 (seishi) means sperm.

  9. @Carl

    I actually thought that's what it was when I first saw the picture. Then I read "I am a Christian" and felt terrible for the lady.

    But then I actually looked at the radical and felt relieved.

  10. If the "pure child" was taken from a book about children's names, then it would be an appropriate definition, judging from the "personal names and meanings" sites around the internet.

  11. I have to say, that's my kind of Christian. Where were your boobies when I was religious?

  12. Hahahha. I got this tattoo on my tits and posted it on the internet because I'm a Christian. Genius. Hilarious.

  13. why would someone who professes to be christian have tattoos on her breasts?

  14. @Ulas: "If the "pure child" was taken from a book about children's names, then it would be an appropriate definition, judging from the "personal names and meanings" sites around the internet."

    Right, the name Kiyoko could be said to have the meaning of "pure child". But I think you can see that that still doesn't make the tattoo sensible.

    Imagine the same scenario going in the other direction. Say a fellow in China wants a tattoo with the meaning of "strong", but wants it in English for some wacky reason. The tattoo artist performs something that passes for research, and indelibly marks the poor fellow's skin with... the name "Brian". Which does indeed mean "strong"... but is so wrong.

    Perhaps not a perfect analogy for what goes on with hanzi tattoos like "Kiyoko" here, but I think it's in the ballpark.

  15. I am a Christian pure child, so I will get that tattooed on my boobs to show on the internet. And to be extra careful, I will use a Japanese children's workbook as a source.

    This is why I love Hanzi Smatter.

    I would, however, disagree that most Japanese would think its an homage to former princess Sayako Kuroda. I think most Japanese would think that this woman somehow received a Japanese name, and decided to get it tattooed on breast. If it were an homage, I'd think at the very least it would have to be "清子様". So I'm not really sure where you came up with that. or were you joking?

  16. Hahaha! This site is awesome. I have 寿 (kotobuki) tattooed in script and am happy with the meanings in Japanese and Chinese : both essentially my intended sentiment. Unfortunately it is one of the characters in 寿司 (sushi) so I do get teased sometimes by my Japanese friends.

  17. @Traveler: I was being ironic that time....and what you said definitely applies here!

    Sometimes my friends ask me about Japanese versions of their names. Not in the sense of how their names are written in Katakana, but they actually want to know real Japanese personal names which share the same meaning with their own. Once I've recommended the name "Kaori" which has a meaning of "Nice smell" and normally written with the kanjis of same meanings to a girl named Burcu (means nice smell in Turkish)

  18. Is it just me or is it odd that she wants to show her pure christianity by tattooing it on her breasts? Does that really show purity? Did she think Jesus would be like, "Sweet ink!"?

  19. 精子 is what she'll have tattooed a little lower once she's not so pure anymore… :P

  20. I'll bet she's the daughter of a preacher or a pastor. In three years she won't even be Christian anymore. which makes this tattoo even more hilarious.

    At least all the boys she figures are going to be down there to see it will know where her values lie. XD

  21. #9:34: give her a few years, it'll move lower all by itself.

  22. since the sweetness of declaring her Christian values by tattooing them on her breasts and flaunting them on the internet has been pointed out, i'd like to raise another matter:

    why did she have to do it in japanese? what is the link between christianity and japanese?

  23. I disagree, Traveler. When I taught kids' English in China, the kids wanted English names (this was back before most of China was named "Steve", "Jenny" or "Winston") but some of them wanted names that meant something. I dutifully found the origins/meanings of lots of English names and let them pick based both on the sound of the English names, making sure they liked it, and its meaning.

    My own Chinese name (Zhang Bai Lian - long story on the surname) was chosen not because it sounds like my English doesn't. It was chosen because my English name translates into 'white flower'. 'Bai Hua' sounds terrible as a Chinese name, but some local friends suggested Bai Lian, or white lotus, instead.

    It's not only a respectable, if unusual (never met another Bai Lian) Chinese name, but it has a meaning which is related to my own name. Plus I can change the tone of 'lian' and end up as White-face Zhang, which is a great conversation starter.

    So why can't Kiyoko and her unclad Christian boobies use "qing zi" in a similar fashion?

  24. Considering where it just makes me think 精子.

  25. Brimfull of Asha is a great song!

    Why would you get a Christian tattoo on your boobs? I'm sure that doesn't give the impression that you're slutty. Unless you're slutty for Jesus.