Kanji tattoo mistakes happen, a lot more often than many of their wearers realize. There are a lot of people walking around with tattoos that have mistakes which are glaring to anyone who can read kanji. In some cases the tattoo artist has reversed the stencil, resulting in a character written backwards, in others they’ve left out one or more of the strokes, or added something that has no business being there. Often, kanji tattoos are made up of meaningless combinations of characters or single characters that, on their own, are enigmatic at best.
One of the most common problems seen with kanji tattoos is straight translation. Many people would like to get a tattoo of a certain English word or phrase written in kanji symbols. They want to know, “How do you say this in Japanese?” or “How do you say that in Chinese?” But they often get advice from less than reliable sources. Also, some tattoo studios offer kanji tattoos that do not mean what they are purported to mean.
One sentiment that many people seem to want to have tattooed on their bodies is some variation of “live for today,” “seize the day,” or “carpe diem.” I’ve seen two versions of kanji tattoos that are obviously mistaken attempts at straight translation of these phrases. One very popular tattoo is made up of a kanji that means “life,” (along with a host of other things) and a character that by itself means “appear,” but can mean “now” or “the present” in combination with another character. The combination of these two characters signifies nothing at all; in tandem, they form a kanji tattoo that is nothing but the purest gibberish.
The other version is a combination of four kanji, the first two are a kanji compound which means “grasp” as in “grasp an idea,” and the second two mean “day.” Unfortunately, the result is not the intended phrase “seize the day,” it is, again, nothing but gibberish.
Ironically, there is a perfectly good saying in Japanese that is very close in meaning to “seize the day.” It’s made up of four ideographs which mean, respectively, “one,” “inevitable moment,” “one,” and “meet.” This is an ideographic phrase, but basically, it means: you only encounter one inevitable moment once in your life, therefore, you should live each moment to the fullest.
O.K. We’ve established that just popping into your local tattoo parlor and getting the first kanji tattoo that catches your fancy inked onto your skin can be a recipe for disaster. So then, if you want to get a kanji tattoo that won’t leave the kanji literate either baffled or doubled over in laughter, how should you go about it?
First of all, you should decide whether you want to get a Japanese or Chinese language tattoo. Kanji originally came to Japan from China and the two languages do share many of the same characters, but they don’t necessarily mean the same thing, especially when you put two or more of them together.
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Source by Eric Hilton