Sunday, August 8, 2010

from: Crystal F.
date: Fri, Aug 6, 2010 at 7:53 PM
subject: wisdom and transience?


I stumbled across your blog, and through my reading, I remembered my friend's new tattoo.

So, he claims the crane represents wisdom, and the characters mean "transience," (He posted the photo on Facebook, and in reply to a friend's comment asking what the characters meant, he said, "In this case it means transience.")

Additionally, he received his new branding at the *famous* Ed Hardy's Tattoo City SF (Yes, the Ed Hardy.)

So, is this correct?

Thanks, Crystal


How does (cherry) relate to "transience"?


  1. It's probably alluding to the transient nature of cherry blossoms, if I had to guess. Here briefly, making the world a beautiful place, and then gone before you know it....

  2. Here's my attempt at a reeeeal stretch for an explanation: watching the cherry blossoms (桜; sakura) fall in Japan (花見; hanami) is commonly linked to the beauty of transience. (It's a super popular cultural anthropology type subject, really - 物の哀れ; mono no aware.) I assume his tattoo is Japan-related, because it features the Tancho crane, the unofficial national bird of Japan since 1952.

  3. Cherry blossoms are indeed a symbol of vanity and transience since around Heian times (way over 1000 years), so yeah, it does not MEAN transience, but it sure symbolises it.

  4. The thing is, the Kanji 桜 is for cherry, not cherry blossom (桜の花). "Blossom" (花) might have been a cheaper tattoo, too - fewer strokes. 8)

  5. @stereoroid

    Not exactly. 桜 is used to refer to the blossoms, the tree, wood, etc. I mean, you COULD say 桜の花が満開 (cherry blossoms are in full bloom), but 桜が満開 is fine.

    In fact, the one instance you can't just use 桜 is for "cherry" the fruit. You would say さくらんぼ(from 桜の坊)or 桜桃(not so common). The 桜 that Japanese view for their 花見 are not the same type that produce cherries for eating.

  6. To be honest, even though I can definitely see the connection between cherry blossoms and transience (even though 物の哀れ doesn't quite translate that well), that doesn't excuse the awful calligraphy.

  7. Cherry might symbolize transience in Japan, but if he's living in America, he's basically saying he's a virgin!

  8. I don't think any Japanese person would read that as cherry, I think it'd always be understood as sakura. Though I'll admit that most people wouldn't consider the metaphorical meaning when they look at it.

  9. Aren't cranes traditionally thought in Japan to be long-lived? So putting 'transience' under a crane is a mixed metaphor at best...

  10. I would hope that the Kanji were at least correct, considering the whole Hardy family is very well regraded in the Japanese tattoo community. Just because he licensed his art to be used on tacky shirts doesn't mean his tattoo work wasn't exceptional and his disciples aren't excellent artists.

    That crane IS a symbol of wisdom and longevity and he probably chose the cherry intentionally because of its associations with transience in Japanese culture.

  11. If I may add my two cents, while this character 桜 may mean "cherry" in Chinese, in Japan is is mostly used to mean "cherry blossom" or "cherry tree" so those who have pointed that out are completely correct. In our alphabet it would be written as "sakura".
    In fact, "cherry" in Japanese is 桜ん坊 (also written as 桜んぼう) which would be written as "sakuranbou" in our alphabet.
    So I agree with anonymous who said that while 桜 by itself doesn't MEAN transience, it can symbolize it from a cultural perspective.

  12. I... THINK I KNOW where they got the connection from.

    Sakura blossoms were symbols of transience in Ancient Japan, because they bloom and die so quickly. The idea being along the lines of *quotes old poetry* "The Sakura gladly lives its short life brightly and beautifully, rushing toward death without fear"