Know Your Picture Characters Entry #60

July 4th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 佐藤 B. 鈴木 C. 高橋 D. 田中 E. 渡辺

Shakespeare himself proposed the idea that family names really aren’t that important–though the eventual outcome of Romeo and Juliet strongly suggests otherwise– but let’s take a look at a few anyway.

Theoman quickly recognized D as Tanaka, a name meaning “middle of the rice field.”  It is common, yes, but not the most common; Tanaka ranks 4th.

Famous person named Tanaka: Tiger Tanaka, James Bond’s ally in You Only Live Twice

A Fan promptly rattled off a list of his favorite Japanese companies and ball-bumbling, light-hitting infielders.  Most of them are, in fact, actual family names (Nintendo is not), and one of them even appears on this list, though not in the order he identified it: B is Suzuki, which means “bell tree.”  It is the second most common family name in Japan.

Famous person named Suzuki: Ichiro Suzuki, who is so famous he doesn’t even need a family name (also: Kissy Suzuki, one of the only Bond girls to die a natural death, also from You Only Live Twice)

Shirley went to opposite ends of the spectrum, looking for both a hero and a villain, but neither actually ended up being on the list.  The second character in A is indeed daunting, but you’d better get used to writing it, because it’s part of the most common family name in Japan: Sato.  The characters literally mean something like “helper wisteria,” though the second character could refer to the Fujiwara, an extremely prominent political family in Japan’s classical period.

Famous person named Sato: Gordon Hisashi Sato, the cell biologist who discovered that polypeptide factors required for the culture of mammalian cells outside the body are also important regulators of differentiated cell functions and of utility in culture of new types of cells for use in research and biotechnology, whatever the heck that means.

And now for the rest.  I know A Fan, at least, will be kicking himself for not trying this, but the names ended up being ordered in sequence: A, Sato, is the most common; B, Suzuki, is second; C, Takahashi, is third.  Takahashi means “high bridge.”

Famous person named Takahashi: Takahashi Rumiko, the wealthiest manga artist in Japan and creator of Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha, among others

Last (out of the top five, at least) is E, Watanabe, which means something like “border crossing.”

Famous person named Watanabe: Ken Watanabe, star of Letters from Iwo Jima and featured in The Last Samurai, Batman Begins, and Inception

No one won this time, so this week I thought I would give you something a little bit more fun to do.  Rather than simply guessing words, you will be making words.  In honor of the holiday, try your hand at creating a word for “fireworks.”  Feel free to use any of the following kanji (or, if you are so inclined, any others you might know):

meaning “sky”

also meaning “sky,” but often with a somewhat more grandiose significance; “the heavens”

meaning “explosion”

meaning “fire”

meaning “thunder”

meaning “to roar; to resound”

meaning “flower”

meaning “bright”

meaning “festival”

meaning “to soar”

Points will be awarded for creativity, explanations, and, I suppose, accuracy.  I won’t tell you how many characters are in the “correct” answer, but I will say that compounds of 2 or 4 characters are much more common than those of other amounts.

Finally, as a bonus, pick out the red, white, and blue from this lineup of colors:


Posted in Know Your Picture Characters | 4 Comments »

4 Responses

  1. TheomanZero Says:

    I know all the answers here pretty certainly, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to guess. Happy 4th!

  2. Shirley Says:

    Sato. Of course. What was I thinking!!!!

    How about a BRIGHT FIRE SOARING into the SKY on a FESTIVE occasion and EXPLODING with a THUNDEROUS ROAR into a HEAVENLY FLOWER? I like it!

    For the bonus: The first character has the least in it, so it has to be white. The second is a sad little man shedding tears and feeling blue. The fifth has so much stuff in it that it is downright embarrassed. Red. Piece of cake.

  3. Dragon Says:

    To soar-grandiose sky-thunder-flower. It’s the most poetic thing I could come up with.

    As for the color thing, it’s a trick question, because they’re all red. Well, more specifically, they’re red, auburn, crimson, scarlet, carmine, carnelian, rose, and garnet, but there’s no need to get into semantics.

  4. A Fan Says:

    空 火 爆 翔

    Not bad, eh?

    The colors are in the order of the rainbow (or spectrum, or whatever), so indigo, violet, RED, orange, yellow, green, BLUE and then WHITE is thrown in there at the end.

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