City skyscape photo that I took from Odaiba

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gibberish no more!

So, I was chatting with one of my friends back home who likes origami. Actually, that is an understatement -- who is obsessed by origami creations in his free time (to my friend: if you're reading this post, by obsession I mean that you are an origami sensei, a master ;) ). Apparently, there is this out of print book called "Super Complex Origami" by Issei Yoshino. My friend really wants to be able to get a copy, but he can't read the Japanese Amazon site and can't figure out where he can buy one. Well, I have the ability on my computer to type with hiragana and katakana (the basic Japanese alphabets), so I tried to search with origami (おりがみ) and the author's name (よしの いっせい) in hiragana. But I think because the book is out of print, I wasn't having much luck on Amazon. Then my friend sends me a link with a picture of the book:

And I thought, "Oh! That's fantastic. The book title is in katakana, which I can read and search on." So I did a search on スーパー コンプレックス おりがみ and got the following results list, which I sent to my friend:

But he said his computer didn't have the ability to read Japanese characters, so he couldn't tell what anything said. So I was clicking on the links and most of them were just people proudly displaying their super complex origami masterpieces. However, then I found one that was an auction site for the book. So, I happily sent my friend the link.

Again, though, he told me his computer couldn't display Japanese, and he sent me the image of what he could see:

So I took a screen shot and sent it to him, so he could read it. I told him it was ¥10,000 though, which is about $100. And that I couldn't really tell what it said, but it looked like maybe the auction actually ended in December...

To which he responded, "Let me get this straight. I send you an image of gibberish that I can't read. To help me, you send me back another image of gibberish, albeight more organized-looking, but which I also can't read."

Then we had a good laugh. :)

But what was notable about the exchange was that one, I actually successfully found the book for sale while searching in Japanese and two, I hadn't really thought that sending him the screen shot image wouldn't be helpful. I actually typed along with the attachment, "Here, now you can read it." Anyway, so perhaps I am beginning to think much less of Japanese as "gibberish" than I used to.

My usual reaction to a page of Japanese characters used to be one of natural indifference, and therefore in a sense avoidance, because they held no meaning for me. But still, I really don't know hardly any kanji (the main characters that make up the Japanese language), so I still don't understand the Japanese I see for the most part, but slowly more and more is coming together.

I remember the very first time I ever recognized kanji on my own in a real life situation. I was on the subway and we had just stopped at a station. I was looking at an advertisement out the subway window that was of an old Japanese map, which correspondingly, had lots of Japanese writing all over it. And suddenly it dawned on me that some of the writing was the name of the areas and their respective number for the address system. So the area's name kept repeating, but the number would be different at the end. Esp. the first three numbers in Japanese are very simple, so it was easy to see: 1: 一 2: 二 3: 三 . So, for example, some sections on the map would have looked something like this: 西新宿 西新宿 西新宿三. And then when I recognized the pattern, I was able to understand what it meant, and I was quite delighted that I had figured it out in the short 15 seconds that the subway stopped at that station. And as counterintuitive as it may seem, at the same time, I remember feeling surprised that the usually nonsensical characters held meaning.

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