Category Archives: Languages!

Japan in Pictures 2012: November 3, More Map Reading While Exploring Near Shinjuku by Day

When we last saw our intrepid travelers, they had just finished decoding part of a map inside Shinjuku station. They decided it was time to go out and explore the neighbourhood[1].

As they ventured onto the back streets, away from the bustle of the station, one of the first things they noticed was maps that looked like this:

The first neighbourhood map we documented.
The first neighbourhood map we documented.

As you can see, this is a map showing where various commercial establishments are in the neighbourhood. (The specific neighbourhood seems to be between Minami Shinjuku and Yoyogi Stations.)

The green label on the top looks like it reads “ShiBuYa (ward in Tokyo) YoYoGi (neighbourhood in Shibuya ward) T-38-3 RD7″.

The large green label on the left reads: “MaChi Wo Mi ShiKu!!” or “Town/Neighbourhood (of) Beauty District”.

This would make sense, given the prominent advertisement for ‘Hair & Make & Photo Studio”. There seem to be a number of restaurants, such as the ‘YaKiToRi ToMaRiBa’ (or Yakitoi Haunt)

There are a number of things I can’t decipher, such as: “FuaMiRi- Ma-To”, and “(TeNTeN)”, which might be a cool bar with a difficult-to-search name, or perhaps an eyebrow salon.

“TeRuRuMoBaIRu”, possibly a mobile phone store, but also turned up this in a google search.

There’s also “SaNKuSa YoYoGi …” “Sankusa Yoyogi bundle opening store” But ‘Sankusa’ is in Katakana, meaning it’s a loan word from somewhere, Yoyogi is the neighbourhood, and the last three words seem to be describing it as some sort of store. If we were there, it would probably be easy to find out. 🙂

The last one is in the lower right corner: “DaNSu SuTaJhiO M&S Company”, which sounds like a Dance Studio! 🙂

The previous map and the next map were beside one another on the street, suggesting that they referred to the same or similar neighbourhoods. At the time, we had figured that these maps were some sort of neighbourhood directory, but I had thought that the one above was commercial, and the one below was residential.

A zoomed-in neighbourhood map.
A zoomed-in neighbourhood map.

At the top, in blue on white, it seems to say “INTa-NeTo”, beside a ‘DoKoNeTo’ ad, suggesting it’s an internet company ad. Beside it is a pointer to a QR code, which I will ignore, because QR codes are silly.

Looking at some random establishments, we see:

– “INSaITo”
– “MaGuNa” (The smaller characters are difficult to read, perhaps SuChiIToANa-?)
– “Yoyogi ZeMiNa-Ru”, “Yoyogi Seminars”? beside:
– “Yoyogi A-To GiyaRaRi-” Which seems to be ‘Yoyogi Art Gallery”
– Beside what looks like a large building titled “BaRo-Ru Yoyogi MaNShiyoN” or “(something) Mansion Yoyogi”, which has such establishments as:
– “TeNMa”
– “HeA-SuTaNO” (Perhaps ‘Suntan’ or spa?)
– …

And many others I can’t make out. How many can you find/translate?

This next map seemed somewhat the worse for wear:

This neighbourhood map seemed a little worse for wear.
This neighbourhood map seemed a little worse for wear.

I can’t make out too many words in this one, perhaps a ‘KuRi-Su’, there’s a JR station on the right side of the map, ‘SaSaNiTaWa-‘, and many others I can decipher even less about.

What can you figure out? I feel like this has helped me with a lot of Katakana practice (and Yoyogi-recognition practice), but I still have a long way to go. It’s also interesting to see how many different neighbourhoods that we had heard of were so accessible to each other, often just by walking at random.

Stay tuned for next time, when our intrepid travelers, now that they’re oriented themselves, start actually experiencing the city!

[1]Some of their explorations from that first day, related to the design of the city and various objects, were captured earlier in ‘Thoughts on Design in Japan‘.

Japan 2012 in Pictures: November 3, Reading the Shinjuku Station Area Map

As part of our preparation for going back to Japan (and now that I’ve finally organized all of my pictures), I’ll be revisiting our first trip there in 2012. Part of the goal is to help me re-learn Japanese, part is the fun memory lane trip.

We rejoin our intrepid travelers in Tokyo, by Shinjuku station. As they prepare to exit the station, they consult the map:

YOU ARE HERE: A closeup of the area around Shinjuku Station, our favourite Tokyo train station.
YOU ARE HERE: A closeup of the area around Shinjuku Station, our favourite Tokyo train station.

Just above the ‘YOU ARE HERE’ (literal translation ‘present located-in ground/earth‘[1]), you can see:

‘E 27’, the Shinjuku Station on the Toei Oedo line.

Note the two kanji which represent ‘Shinjuku‘[2], which would be useful for us to recognize later, which are also present on the next two captions going up:

‘JR Shinjuku Bldg’, literal translation ‘JR Shinjuku BiRu’. Until now, I had no idea that ‘BiRu’ was the transliteration of ‘Building’[3].

Moving on to ‘Shinjuku Southern Terrace’ (literal translation ‘Shinjuku SeZeN TeRaSu'[4], which you get to through the ‘Southern Terrace Entrance’ (‘SeZeN TeRaSu Opening‘). Note that the last character is not the Katakana ‘Ro’, it is instead the Kanji ‘KuChi‘, for opening[5].

Moving clockwise, we see the ‘East Japan Railway Company Head Office’, or ‘JR East Sun origin main company BiRu’.

(Those of you who play Mahjong will likely recognize ‘East’ here. Also note that the second character in ‘Japan’ (‘origin’) takes a different meaning (‘main’) in ‘Company Head Office’.)

Moving along, we see the ‘Yoyogi 2 Post Office’ or ‘For generations old trees 2 Post Office

(I likewise learned ‘2’, or ‘Ni’ in this context from playing Mahjong. Note also that the ‘yoyo’ in ‘Yoyogi’ is an alternate of ‘daidai’, which presumably someone who grew up in Japan would know, but is perhaps non-trivial to someone trying to translate it.)

The ‘Odakyu Southern Tower’ ‘Small Rice Field Hurry SeZeN TaWa-‘ seems to be part of the home of the Odakyu Electric Railway. (I’m not sure of the exact etymology of ‘Odakyu’. My best guess is above.)

Continuing clockwise, we see our first name entirely in Katakana, the ‘Hotel Century Southern Tower’, or ‘HoTeRu SeNChiyuRi- SeZen TaWa’.

We then see an ‘Exit’ sign, or ‘Exit Opening’.

This takes us to one of the places that we stayed in Tokyo, the ‘Hotel Sunroute Plaze Shinjuku’ ‘HoTeRu SeNRu-To PuRaZe Shinjuku’, which shall forever be near and dear to our hearts. 🙂

This is right next to the ‘Shinjuku Maynds Tower’ ‘Shinjuku MaINZu TaWa-‘, which seems to be a 34-story office building.

Shibuya‘ ‘reluctant valley ?’ is surprisingly difficult to translate, as for some reason the handwriting recognition didn’t recognize the third character ‘district

Moving down to the bottom, in red, you will see one of the most important set of words to recognize in Japan: ‘Black UDoN Mountain Food‘. (The operative words here are ‘Udon’ noodles and the Kanji for ‘Food’. 🙂 )

The last one that I want to translate here is in the lower left-hand corner, in red: ‘Shinjuku SeNE- BiRu 1F’ ‘FueSuTei BaRu GoRuFu’ ‘Shinjuku WING Store‘. This seems to say (to me) that there’s something on the first floor of this building, perhaps a bar and grill and store?

Katakana is often difficult to de-transliterate, as you often have no idea which language the words are loaned from. Perhaps someone in the comments can answer!

Next time, our intrepid heroes pause to ponder the immensity of Shinjuku station, where the large number of train tracks is just one part of a huge complex:

The Area around Shinjuku Station, our favourite Tokyo train station.
The Area around Shinjuku Station, our favourite Tokyo train station.

…and then continue on their journey. Stay tuned!

[1]Many thanks to the KanjuVG Project and Ben Bullock: They were able to detect my poor drawings of kanji symbols on the first attempt, and their first suggestion was correct three out of three times (for the third symbol, I had to tell the program to ignore my stroke order)! If you’re going to be working a lot with Kanji, it’s worth learning the rules for stroke order.

[2]Interestingly, ‘Shinjuku’ means ‘New Juku’, or ‘New Lodge‘. Knowing this meaning of ‘Shin’ was to be helpful later.

[3]Not to be confused with ‘Bi-Ru-‘, or ‘Beer’.

[4]In these transliterations, I’m using a Katakana chart, and capitalizing the first letter of each syllable (including the syllable ‘N’, sometimes pronounced ‘M’ by our teacher).

[5]Interestingly, this is one of the few words I remembered from my 8 months of Mandarin back in the day, although only the meaning, not how to pronounce it.


Aside from being an excellently cromulent word, ‘machigne’ is what I often type when attempting to type ‘machine’. It seems to be because the ‘g’ allows for all of the transitions between letters to go from left hand to right hand and back:

machine: l,r,l,r,l,l,r*
machigne: l,r,l,r,l,r,l,r

*Note that this was really difficult to type, as it involved using one of the weakest fingers for two consecutive characters (‘l’, ‘,’).

Tenagra, on the Ocean

Pooh and Piglet at Tanagra
“Pooh?” said Piglet.
“Yes, Piglet?” said Pooh.
“Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra,” said Piglet.
“Shaka, when the walls fell.” said Pooh.
Pic by Cathy Wappel
Words by Michael G Munz

The above pic came across my fb feed this morning.

Some random thoughts about this.

1) There exists this subreddit: which is, in the internet way, developing a similar-type language.


Hi, Abby. How are you?
Spock’s response to his mother’s question at the end of The Voyage Home.
Huh? What’s up with your communication skills today?
The aliens in “Darmok and Jalad.”
You’re… communicating only in obscure references to Star Trek.
Decker’s answer to Kirk saying “You saved the ship” in The Motion Picture.
And WHY exactly are you doing this?
The 74th Rule of Acquisition.
“Knowledge equals profit?” Okay, what the heck are you trying to build your knowledge for?
Kirk’s exclamation after Spock’s death.
Oh, that’s right. You’re going to a con.
MOUSEOVER TEXT: whenever I want to get laid, I just tell John ‘Spock in Amok Time’ and he knows EXACTLY what I mean

3) The title of the post is somewhat ambiguous. It could be a reference to Dylan Thomas’ ‘A grief ago’, in its use of parts of speech, saying something deep about Tenagra, and the myths behind it leaving us behind on the seas of fleeting cultural memory… Or it could just be commenting that Tenagra was an island.

If you don’t understand the reference, this might help: