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Japanese Military Supplies Waybill

weather: partially cloudy
outside: 19°C
mood: fascinated
This is so nifty on so many levels, that I wanted to post it in my own journal. This question about a Japanese label was posted to linguaphiles.

The note is entirely in kanji which made some think it was Chinese. I'm fairly certain it's Japanese, for a number of reasons:

  • The note was picked up at Iwo Jima, Japan.
  • As someone pointed out in the comments, all kanji and no kana was typical of Japanese formal documents.
  • I can't imagine a Chinese military organization using a name like that.
  • The penmanship is very square, rigid and stiff. I only see Chinese children print that way... and people who are learning Chinese as an adult.
  • The way it's referring to "Name" and "Date".
  • The name that is in the "Name" slot.
  • As a Chinese person, when I read this note, there's that surreal "dream interpretation" feeling that I get whenever I'm asked to read Japanese. =D Japanese kanji usually mean similar things to the equivalent character in Chinese. It's usually a bit off, a different connotation or an obscure definition that's very loosely connected with the Chinese definition. It's like trying to read Kafka in Chinese. And I thought Kafka was totally bananas in English. =D

From right to left:

  1. 入籍番號: 番號 means "Number" but definitely not in Chinese. We say 號碼.

    means "to enter".

    I couldn't see it clearly, so I thought the second character was . I couldn't find it, but I thought it could be the Japanese version of as in 結構 which means "building" or "structure". My first guess was that it was the address or location for delivery.

    But I was wrong. It's which is "book" or "record". 入籍 is "to import". So, it's the Merchandise Import Registration Number. I can't make out what the number actually is. I see a five in it, but that's about it.

  2. 氏名 is "Name" (more specifically, "Surname"), but in Chinese it would be 姓名. The fact that it's only asking for the surname tips me off that it's Japanese because in Japanese culture, you'd never ask someone for their given name unless you know them well or have some other official need to know. The name on it is [?][?]田五生. That's definitely not a Han Chinese name. It's not likely that it's even Manchu Chinese which is typically three or four characters long.

  3. 交付年月 is "Delivery Date", for sure. The month of the date could be May (五月) but I'm suspicious of that because the character before doesn't look the same as the "five" in the name. The year is "something 18". I originally thought it might be 1918, but I couldn't tell what the stuff before the "18" is. When vampireborg confirmed my thought that it's probably the year of the reign of the current Emperor, that made for an interesting exercise.

    • Emperor Meiji's coronation was in 1866. +18 would make it 1884.
    • Emperor Yoshihito's coronation was in 1912. +18 would be 1930, but that's not possible because Yoshihito's reign ended in 1926.
    • Emperor Hirohito 裕仁's coronation was in 1926. +18 is 1944. Ah ha! =)

    The note is some kind of military equipment waybill from 1944. Which makes total sense. Iwo Jima? Grandfather is a veteran? Duh! =)

  4. 寸法[?]製作年月 is the "[?] Manufacture Date". In Chinese, we'd say 日期 for date, not 年月. But I wonder if it's not actually specifying the exact date. It only says "Year Month" and that's all the data that's actually written. The date that's written is December of an undiscernable year. It looks like "two one" or "two ten".

    But there's still something not quite right because the manufacture date seems to be after the delivery date.

  5. 舞鶴軍需部 is "The Dancing Crane Military Requirements/Supplies Unit"... *stifled giggle* ... *ahem* Sorry. =| In all likelihood, the Japanese chose the character to actually mean as in 武術 (wǔshù, "Chinese martial arts", what White Guys call "kung fu"). The connection is the less common connotations of "wielding" and "brandishing" in . The two characters and are complete homonyms, same pronunciation, same tone, coincidentally the same pronunciation in both Mandarin and Cantonese. means "military" or some kind of combat. Military → hand-to-hand combat → martial arts → dancing. Get it? =)

    Hmm... so pne says that 舞鶴 (Maizuru) is a location in Japan. That makes more sense then. "Dancing Crane" is funnier though *snick* *snick* =D


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 11th, 2004 07:06 pm (UTC)
aah, you're feeding the idea hamster! "The Dancing Crane -" etc. - I've got to steal this for a story somehow...

So, let me see if I'm following you in (5) - if I'm tracking, an American equivalent might be "The Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Logistics Battalion?"
Sep. 11th, 2004 08:24 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, that's so silly, it might just work =D
Sep. 11th, 2004 09:39 pm (UTC)
we were watching Firefly last night, and it occurred to me that you understand all the fun cursing - I *have* to assume you're a fan - anything particularly memorable to pass on?
Sep. 12th, 2004 10:18 am (UTC)
=\ I don't watch Firefly =O I don't watch much TV anymore. =)
Sep. 12th, 2004 11:05 am (UTC)
Hm, mildly surprised - at the Firefly, certainly not at the not watching much TV!

It only ran 13 episodes, a few years back, but has a large fan following. Joss Whedon's next show after Buffy and Angel, it was a Western-themed SF with very strong Chinese cultural influences - including *lots* of slang and cursing. Seemed like something you'd enjoy culturally/linguistically dissecting. It's out on DVD...
Sep. 12th, 2004 11:15 am (UTC)
Ah, a few years back was when I'd stopped watching TV, so that would explain it. I just feel like I've wasted so much time on random crap and I'm more selective about what I watch.

But now I'm interested, thanks! =)
Sep. 12th, 2004 11:22 am (UTC)
:D thought you might enjoy -

(spaceships that don't go roaring by! :P )
Sep. 11th, 2004 08:48 pm (UTC)
hmmm, so this Transformer idea goes way back beyond kids toys, i see. and mmmmm, white guy kung fu ...
Sep. 12th, 2004 11:51 am (UTC)
Dancing Crane
Just wanted to point out that "Maizuru" (dancing crane) is a place name in Japan. Not sure whether it's relevant, though.
Sep. 12th, 2004 02:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Dancing Crane
Oh, that would make sense too =)
Dec. 21st, 2004 09:12 pm (UTC)
Hi, i'm not ignoring you, hah. I'll email the pic later tonight, when i get a chance. cheers :)
Dec. 22nd, 2004 12:04 am (UTC)
Re: tight_lacer
No problem, I completely understand =)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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