Monday, August 9, 2010

from: Brian L.
date: Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 3:36 PM
subject: Tattoo

Hi there,

I apologize for emailing you out of the blue but I’m hoping you can help me.

Many years ago I got a tattoo that was done by an artist who was allegedly Japanese and claimed could read Japanese. Today I now teach Japanese martial arts and I’m embarrassed to say that my tattoo doesn’t mean what it was supposed to. Can you help me translate this?

I’d greatly appreciate the help.




means "lonely" & means "reality", however the compound phrase 寂実 does not exist.


  1. Although such a compound does not exist either, we can assume that's in reverse order (実寂) and stretch the meaning to be "Real loneliness"

  2. 寂 by itself does not mean "lonely" in Japanese. (That would be 寂しい.) 寂 can refer to the aged look of a worn thing, simple elegance, etc.

  3. @Ulas

    実寂 would be more like "actual loneliness" rather than "real loneliness" 真寂? But as you said, neither of these compounds exist and so they are both quite a stretch.

    I imagine it was supposed to be like 誠実 or 真実 and he just got the first character wrong.


    You are right that 寂(the sabi in wabi-sabi) also means simple elegance, etc.

    However (and this is for everyone else too!) there is no reason that the character must have 送り仮名 (okurigana, hiragana-suffixes to kanji) in order for the Kanji to have "meaning." In a sentence, yes, you would probably need to add the okurigana. However, as a character/symbol, 「寂」can be perfectly interpreted as meaning "lonely" or "loneliness".

  4. I wonder if 寂実 might be a mistake for 寂寞, which means "desolation" or "loneliness."

    The character 実 vaguely resembles 寞, and 寞 is not in common use in Japanese anymore.

  5. It's got to be 寂寞, Chinese for loneliness. You can see the characters on t-shirts and mousepads sold to the date-less surplus men of China. Just look at the google image search results for 寂寞- real emo stuff.

  6. Ahh, I reckon Anon is right about 寂寞 (sekibaku in Japanese). No one mentioned that 実 (mi) is also fruit or berry. I guess in a pinch, he could read it sabimi and say it's a special new word meaning the fruit of his loneliness? lol