Four Characters

Four Characters

Four Characters

What is the first thing that comes to mind when pondering the word—ideogram or hieroglyphic?

Perhaps a happy family sitting around after dinner reminiscing about the most recent mammoth hunt—pondering the meaning of life—reflecting on the hand-drawn pictures—etched onto the cave wall—dancing to the rhythm of the flickering light of the primordial cooking fire by the beaming lights of the full moon. 

Happy Family - Land Ωf The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

In early encounters with the written Japanese language, the perception of such complex pictograms was considered hieroglyphical in nature, and these curious characters carried with them the perception of abstruse symbology and characteristics embodying an intricate communication system.

Perhaps when first seeing some of the more, well, shall we say stroke intensive characters, these curious attributes may very well be referred to by the uninitiated as hieroglyphics.

facts-about-egyptian-hieroglyphics - Land Ωf The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

For those cultivated under the 26-letter alphabet soup used as the communication mechanism of English, the initial shock upon discovering Japanese students must go through 2,136 mandatory characters at the behest of the Ministry of Edification can not be denied.

Alphabet Soup - Land Ωf The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

With each passing school year the characters become increasingly complex, articulating each Japanese citizen with the characteristics of Rising Son citizenry, indelibly etching the spirit of the Mother tongue onto Japanese as they progress under the weight of this magnificent communication protocol.

By far the oldest continuously used writing system, kanji are now officially referred to simply as characters—as in each having distinct characteristics, in particular, when used in the combination of 4-characters compounds, have the deep reach of non-verbal communication embedded within their complexity.

常用漢字表 - Land Of The Rising Son

If contemplated properly, these delightful communication characters provide deep insight into the cryptic mind and way of the Japanese.

Remember, language is a concept and gaining fluency is the key to a more broad, deep and rich Earthling experience—in particular when internalizing a reading/writing system from an esoteric galaxy, remarkably far away from the spectrum of ΩNE’s Mother tongue—the lingua franca of the constructed Earth-worldEnglish. 

ABCs of Biology - Land Ωf The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

The Japanese system possesses a critical advantage in the rapidly evolving world—when reading Japanese at an advanced level, the true nature of the Japanese and their innate notion of Form Order Process will be revealed over time as ΩNE’s Japanese ability advances.

These characters encompass a concise way to relay complex ideas and elaborate concepts, leading them to be profoundly useful in one of the most extraordinary communication tools of any language—4-character-compounds.

四字熟語辞典 - Land Ωf The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

Like a treasure trove of undiscovered valuable objects, some were already familiar as a matter of linguistic practicality—all literate Japanese know what ‘in ga ō hō’ means.

in ga ō hō= divine retribution

Combining destiny with punishment is certain to result in divine retribution.

What goes around comes around 因果応報 - Land ΩF The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

These master-linguistic-pieces are unvarnished nuggets of wisdom, possessing real power, entrusted with significant meaning, and ability to act as a guide to a practical and commonsensical way of life.

Here is a 4-character-compound admonishing the disciple to learn from the past while creating a desired future:

「温故[warm past]」「知新[new knowledge]
on ko chi shin = the old new again

As one view the past warmly, new knowledge is born.

Maggie May Way Banner - Land ΩF The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

Remember the importance of loved ones through thick and thin—edifying each other—building close-knit communities—realising each day is a miracle unto itself—containing ΩNE’s own true and pure destiny—from moment to moment—in the abstruse notion of space and time.

「合縁[loving relation]」「奇縁[miracle of fate]
ai en ki en = relationship by a strange quirk of fate

What’s not to love about  a relationship that happened by a strange quirk of fate?

I DON’T LOVE YOU, I LIKE YOU A LOT - - Land ΩF The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

One can also find the cold and unforgiving truth of two headstrong adversaries going head to head in the octagon of dogma and ideology, and this is where the solemn grave declaration of a final death match, and winner take all is declared—very primitive and savage indeed.

「不倶[cannot bear]」「戴天[under heaven]
fu gu tai ten = this town ain’t big enough for both of us

When those who can not bear the notion of each other under the same heaven, we have here ourselves a common scenario—this town ain’t big enough for both of us.

Material Sludge Grudge Match - Land ΩF The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

The flexibility of these charming 4-character-compounds is vast—ΩNE can even make up a unique story on the spur of the moment—just like the other day.

Thinking about the wonderful synergy between an old buddy, Zachariah, and the ancient Andean Columbia God of the Quimbaya culture (900-1200 CE).

「強大 [mighty]kyōdai「兄弟[brethren]
kyō dai kyō dai = timeless power mates

There is nothing like a formidable team of mighty brethren from distant places and time spaces embodying true power mates.

Zak and QF - Land Ωf The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

These old mates are reunited once again upon Earth’s sacred soil —their brotherly power now amped up to meet the challenges of modern day stupidity, and the ever fatal partners in villainy—ignorance and poverty.

In fact, these prodigious 4-character-compounds are brimming with rich messages embedded into each one—mini fables worthy of note—untold-stories for the edification of all—with unconditional love.

the-road-less-traveled - Land Ωf The Rising SΩN - cybersensei

Perhaps one day someone will create an animation with the main theme being prodigious 4-character compounds—to be sure, this can no longer be deferred and the notions of an animation has now been set into full-blown motion—reflecting upon Hardcore History, inform the present, and guide our future with the steady hands of reason, encountering a whole host of unique, bizarre, and eccentric characters: 

Welcome to The Big Girl—worlds created according to wife

Clarity Over Time - cybersensei - Land Of The Rising Son

Suck It Up Buttercup

Suck It Up Buttercup

Suck It Up Buttercup

Suck It Up Buttercup

One first heard this term from a loud-mouth obese American who came to “open up Japan.”

By the way, the term “open up Japan” arrived along with Commodore Perry and his heavily armed Black ship armada sailing into Edo Bay in 1853.

Perry’s Arrival and the Opening of Japan - Land Of The Rising Son

This led to the establishment of forced diplomatic relations between Japan and the western Great Powers ending the 264 years of Isolationism 1.0.

This is what is know as gun boat diplomacy, and this subjugation protocol continues to subvert diverse cultures globally today.

Perry's Black Ship - Land Of The Rising Son

Here the delusion of exceptionalism swallows the beauty of diversity while spewing a dystopian monotone world void of heart, spirit, and soul.

Truly, most Japanese distain those who come to Japan with the arrogance embodied within the demeaning and derogatory phrase “open up Japan.”

In fact, the boisterous blob of the greedy American was doomed to fail from the very beginning.

Obese Americans - Land Of The Rising Son

Indeed, most Americans are failures when coming to “open up Japan,” particularly the plethora of greedy narcissists who are also charlatans.

So what exactly does “suck it up buttercup” mean?

Actually, buttercups are beautiful flowers embodying the meaning of growth, youthfulness, good health, and attraction.

Butter Cup Flowers - Land of the Rising Son

Like all things, language evolves and de-evolves over time—reflecting the state of one’s own society and the mentality within.

The beautiful buttercup is now a derogatory term insulting weakness and frailty.

How miserable things of beauty such as the beloved buttercup are stolen from the original meaning and turned into something ugly, negative, and destructive.

Will the U$A soon be dystopia - Land Of The Rising Son

“Suck it up” mean to have fortitude and perseverance—which inherently are noble traits.

Here lies the fork in the road—the conceptual parting of way between the global lingua franca English—and its conceptual opposite—Nihongo.

Utopia Dystopia - Land Of The Rising SonPerseverance, fortitude, resilience, tenacity, patience and other such noble traits are already embodied in the culture of Japan and carry significant weight as contained within the ideograms of the Japanese.

Like many things related to ancient language of the Japanese—they say much with little—an exemplary virtue for certain.

Innate traits such as patience and perseverance are not necessary to verbalize in Japanese, as they reside in the ambient atmosphere inside the esoteric language of the Japan.

For certain, during these extraordinary times, the wheat will be separated from the chaff.

Separation of WHEAT from CHAFF - Land Of The Risaing Son

For the resilient and committed, it will take Japanese style perseverance and endurance to create the new paradigms of humanity as the third pillar of civilization—Japan.

Indeed, the concepts necessary to build the third pillar of civilization dwells within the spirit of the Japanese and their language.

絆 - Land Of The Rising Son

Here are some Japanese concepts to drive one past the pain, suffering, and sorrow of one personal history, surviving this volatile world, and flourishing as the resilient build communities creating a wholistic inclusive vision for humanity.

(1) wazawai wo tenjite fuku to nasu
Turning misfortune into fortune

(2) shinbo
patience – perseverance – endurance
Young people these days lack patience [perseverance].

(3) nintai
patience – endurance – tolerance
With patience and tolerance.

(4) konki
vigour – endurance – vitality – energy
This work takes a lot of patience.

(5) kanin
tenacity, persistence; perseverance ; energy vitality
My patience has snapped [has run out].

(6) gaman
endurance – resilience – tolerate –
* 彼が話し終わるまで我慢して聞いていなさい
Be patient with him until he finishes talking.

There is no time like the present to internalize the Japanese protocol of perseverance, endurance, and turn one’s own misfortune into fortune each and every day.

Clarity Over Time - cybersensei - Land Of The Rising Son

Heavier Rice – Deeper Bow

Heavier Rice – Deeper Bow

Heavier Rice – Deeper Bow

Heavier Rice – Deeper Bow

minoru hodo kōbe wo tareru inaho kana

One has only actually heard this phrase spoken twice over a span of 35 years.

The first exposure to this elegant phrase was sitting in an izakaya which is renowned for their decliciuos sashimi with my cherished doctor friend, who is originally from Kyoto.

Sitting at the counter thoroughly enjoying the three pillars of Japanese  culinary life, (raw fish – assorted pickles – rice wine) were three other men, two in their late 30s and an older gentlemen.

刺身船 - Land Of The Rising Son

The sake flowed and the party at the counter got underway in earnest, and during this party, each individual character was laid bare for all to see.

While the two younger Japanese men became rambunctious and boisterous, often in praise of themselves, the older gentleman remained composed and dignified.

It turned out these people were prefectural bureaucrats, with the two rowdy boys being low-level underlings, and the composed gentleman being a senior Chiba Prefectural government official.

Chiba Ken Fun Map - Land Of The Rising Son

It was in this setting, rural Japan circa 1990, this important lesson in humility was instilled by my beloved doctor friend after observing these bureaucrats.

This divine phrase embodies true strength and value which accompany those who exhibits a sense of dignity and humility.

minoru hodo kōbe wo tareru inaho kana

The more fruitful the ears of rice, the more humble the posture.

As the rice grows, the ears droop and one can compare the rice to a growing person.

“The way to be a person” is represented as ears of rice.

The young green rice plants grow straight up to the sky, and eventually grow into ears of rice that bear fruit. 

As the fruit (rice kernel) inside the ears grows, the ears of rice naturally droop under the weight of the heavy fruit and turn a beautiful golden hue. 

豊作天照大御神ありがとう - Land Of The Rising Son

Over the life-cycle of rice, it is exposed to strong winds and rain, and must overcome cold and hot days in order to grow into a magnificent rice plant while bearing abundant fruit.

The metaphor of this exquisite phrase is what it means to become a well rounded human being possesing dignity, humility, and honour.

A person grows up magnificently by looking only straight up when young, and to overcome various rough seas and hardships to form a splendid personality over the growing season.

It is here where one becomes more humble and bows more deeply with a rich robust bounty of rice as a treasure to be cherished on one’s own journey to greatness.

On the other hand, if the rice has not grown into plump rice kernels, the fruit is scant, and the rice will be without substance. 

Such rice may look like fine, but it does not have any weight for the ear to bow low, thus, its head will not bow low.

Japanese Bowing To Each Other - Land Of The Rising Son

This elegant analogy to the ecology of rice shows that a person who has a splendid appearance and title, but no substance, is just a small person with a lot of bravado, and is far from a person of character.

The second time minoru hodo kōbe wo tareru inaho kana was encountered was during an online lecture just recently, and the speaker was from…that’s right, Kyoto.

ようこそ京都へ - Land Of The Rising Son





A delightful arrow in the linguistic quiver is to sprinkle one’s Japanese with onomatopoeia.

These most flavourful sounds and phrases always add special sauce to the esoteric Japanese language. 

Perhaps it is the ancient Japanese way of animism that has lead to a plethora of these interesting sounds as the Japanese language developed over the millennia, based upon life in all things (ban butsu 万物).  

Spirits and Animism in Japan - Land Of The Rising Son

One can draw upon a wealth of onomatopoeia to express subtle feelings and images, sounds and actions, and allows one to express ideas in an animated and stimulating way.

For certain one must have a solid grasp of the fundamentals when on the quest to master any language, and this is where the traditional systems of language acquisition can not be replaced. 

For many foreigners, the start of the Japanese language journey starts with the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).

Japanese Language Proficiency Test - Land Of The Rising SonThis language proficiency standard is an important tools for anyone coming to Japan with the intent of intergrating into the community.

Reflecting back to the start of one’s own reading journey, after mastering hiragana and katakana, the next step should have been to immediately start to study the Ministry of Education Primary Education Grade 1 Japanese language curriculum.

Studying at the level of 6 and 7 year-old Japanese elementary school children also has a tendency to instill one with some humility and perspective as well.

小1年国語教材書ワーク - Land Of The Rising Son

Here one not only builds critical reading skills, but gains exposure to the Japanese cultural motif, which is fundamental to understand the ancient culture of the Japanese, and is a second order effect of studying Japanese primary school kokugo.

While on one’s own Way to Japanese language proficiency and life-mastery, it is always beneficial, and personally edifying to explore the plethora of nooks and crannies lurking within the esoteric Japanese language.

Another great place to find linguistic gems along with onomatopoeia phrases is inside four-character-compounds (yon moji juku go 四文字熟語).

All those seeking Japanese language proficiency will also benefit considerably from this particular app, which will probably keep one occupied for a very long time, courtesy of the generous people at NOWPRODUCTION.

NOWPRODUCTIONS - 書き取り漢字練習 - Land Of The Rising Sun.png

So, what exactly is an onomatopoeia?

An onomatopoeia can be described as the formation of a name or word by an imitation of the sound associated with a thing.

Onomatopoeia can also be a word imitating the sound of the thing or action that it signifies.

One could say onomatopoeia words bring a kind of poetry and life to the basic and monotonic speech pattern of the abstruse Japanese language.

Ever lived in Japan? 

Here one has undoubtedly come across the phrase pera pera.

Onomatopoeia- Nihongo pera pera- Land Of The Rising Son

This common onomatopoeia can be heard in praise and encouragement of any attempt foreigners make to communicate in Japanese. 

In fact, pera pera means language-fluency, and the Japanese will use this onomatopoeia liberally as it is in their nature to be especially complimentary to those attempting to speak Japanese. 

Alas, with this particular compliment, one may also be experiencing what is known as shakojirei, or “saying something for politeness sake,” which is also an unwritten social convention and protocol, and these compliment on one’s language ability must always be taken with a grain of salt.

However, skillfully inserting one or two onomatopoeia into one’s spoken Japanese will have Japanese friends and colleagues in awe of your incredible language skills, and how quickly you have become pera pera, and this time, they will really mean it. 

In general, the Japanese language is rich in words expressing feelings.

Thus, there are many onomatopoeia phrases to describe the touch and feel of something, even how food feels in the mouth. 

assari – light delicate flavour: Use when saying something nice about food that has no taste

kote kote or kotteri– smother, rich food, paint makeup on thick

shaki shaki – crisp like fruits or vegetables

hoka hoka – nicely steaming, hot food, feeling warm and pleasant

neba neba – sticky (not necessarily unpleasant), natto is neba neba

Natto- Land Of The Rising Son

There are many words and phrases to describe what is important to the speaker, or what sticks out in their perception of their environment. 

Anyone who spend any amount of time in Japan will not be surprised to know that there are numerous ways to talk about Japanese seasons. 

kan kan – blazing heat or sun, clanging sound, very angry

karatto – weather clears up, crisp

don yori – overcast, gloomy, dull

soyo soyo – light breeze

jittori – moist with sweat

Beads of Sweat - Land Of The Rising Son

The Japanese workers are diligent and loyal company employees, and famous for long hours and deep dedication to their company and work. 

So, of course there is a bouquet of onomatopoeia to related to feelings, attitudes, and approaches to work.

dogimagi – flustered, loose composur

kiri kiri – so busy you seem to be spinning, sharp continuous pain

zuba zuba – straight talking, directly

chakkari – shrewd, planning, having sound business sense

unzari – fed up, sick and tired

うんざり - Land Of The Rising Son

Onomatopoeia expressions are the musical notes of Japanese, and bring charm and creativity to everyday encounters and transactions among the Japanese, and to those who have taken the time to explore the nooks and crannies of the Japanese.

There it is!

No matter what one’s own Japanese language ability, today is always the best day to improve, and the almighty onomatopoeia is certain to be an important ally in the quest for mastery of Japanese. 


No I Do, Yes, I Don’t

No I Do, Yes, I Don’t

No I Do, Yes, I Don’t

No I Do, Yes, I Don’t

Polar opposites they are, Japanese and English.

Concepts are structurally embedded into language and dictates the speakers behaviour, process, and form.

One of the most interesting things about the Japanese is the necessity to be in harmony and tactical agreement among the participants of a conversation.I totally agree because I have to

One must read the “air”, as well as interpreting what is being spoken, the tone and texture of the words, and the unique situation concerning the members of the conversation.

This can be extremely confusing for the uninitiated, and indeed annoys native English speakers, especially Americans, as they often frank and direct (obnoxious and pushy), frequently to the detriment of their objective.

Fundamentally, Japanese will never openly disagree or say no directly.

Nor will they reject an offer outright.

The answer is more often than not, ambiguous.

The ambiguity of the Japanese language

One was often amused when inviting people to come hear some music, they will say “ikketera iku”, “if I can make it I will,” which 99% of the time means “Can’t make it.”

Why not simply say, “can’t make it” instead of this ambivalent phrase.

Here in lies soul and spirit of the Japanese language.

In Japanese, it is believed that words have a soul of their own.

This is known as the “spirit of words” or “kotodama”.


Indeed this Japanese is an elegant phrase to keep in mind and to keep one’s own words in check.

Kotodama, is of paramount importance to keep the grease on the rails of the Japanese society, and indeed this speeding train on the right track.


One must continually interpret the essence of the conversation all the while reading the “air” for this is where kotodama resides.

Being ignorant of kotodama, and the importance of reading the air, will always leave one at a distinct disadvantage when interacting with the Japanese, if unaware of this element of communication.

 So, how can one be more in tune to the unspoken conventions of our society. 

Learning the Japanese Cultural Code Words is a very good start. 

Code Word Land Of The Rising Son Original

With a heart full of gratitude, one has created a series of podcasts explaining some important Japanese Cultural Code Words.

One can gain a deeper understanding into the Japanese society and how the all important kotodama remains a critical element of communication in the hierarchical society of Japan.

Japanese society structure

Kata – Way Of Writing – Part 5

Kata – Way Of Writing – Part 5

Kata – Way Of Writing – Part 5

Kata – Way Of Writing – Part 5

The deep influence of a writing system and language on a society can not be overstated. 

Language is a concept, and the Japanese society is built upon the constructs rooted in complex ideograms imported from China around 700 CE. 

There’s an incredible effort put into learn these complex characters and is definitely something that undoubtably forges the Japanese spirit of perseverance, forbearance, and patience. 

The Japanese writing system is made up of 3 different syllabaries.

Primarily the Japanese use Chinese ideograms, along with 2 indigenous Japanese syllabaries; hiragana and katakana. 

Evolution Kanji

These pictographs, otherwise known as kanji are complex ideograms and each kanji is made up of one to a dozen or more joining strokes.

Here is an example for the uninitiated, of a more complex kanji to ponder as one continue the story. 

Complex ideogram

To write Japanese properly, the stroke order is crucial, and to be executed in a carefully prescribe, no deviation allowed manner. 

Sometimes a sympathetic Japanese will say “stroke order is not important”, but one always disagrees.

Learning how to draw these kanji also instills the Japanese with a highly developed sense of harmony, form, and style. 

As a matter of course, the Japanese are instilled with a deep appreciation of aesthetics via the ridged training it takes in order to write in such a complex fashion (famous American talk show host flustered by Japanese schoolgirl’s gift of the kanji name). 

One could even go so far as to say the Japanese are all highly skilled artists.

Since these ideographs depicted actual things and concepts they communicates much more than just the mere sounds of a familiar alphabet. 

The Japanese system of communication and recording information and concepts embodies a much more personal experience, accompanied by deep and strong psychological content, as well as evoking emotions. 

The mental concentration in the complex and mechanical effort required to memorize and write kanji correctly has a fundamental effect on the psychology and physical development of all educated Japanese. 

It has instilled them with patience and diligence, enhanced manual dexterity well beyond the norm, and this has prepare them for a life which form, order, and process are paramount.


In times gone by, the Japanese must have had to learn kanji by the thousands, however, the Ministry of Education thankfully reduced the official number of mandatory kanji one must learn in school at 2136 kanji, known as joyo. 

Adding family names, places, and specialty language vocabulary, the Japanese are in all likelihood able to recognize closer to 3,000 kanji, as a matter of course. 

The long-term practice and usage of kanji shaped and defined the Japanese physically, emotionally and intellectually, while harmonizing them and binding them to their culture.

Again reaching into the past, during Japan’s long feudal ages the pupils did not only have to mastering pronunciation, meaning, an intricate stroke order, but they were also required to become adept at drawing the characters in a stylized matter known as shodo, “the way of the brush” or calligraphy in English. 

Engaging in calligraphy is still very popular to this day, and an important part of the New Year tradition, where the Japanese engage in kakizomei, or the first calligraphy of the New Year.


For an excellent place to view high level calligraphy check out Shinei’s social media feed here.

Come again next week as we present the last part of kata, where one ponders the continuing role of kata in the evolving Japanese society, and the implications on the future of the Japanese and our shared humanity.

Learn Kanji