土曜日, 1月 01, 2005

Fun with 四字熟語

    F. and I went to 初詣 in Kyoto last night. I was surprised to learn that you can do hatsumode (first shrine visit of the year) at night. Actually, so many people were doing it that we had to wait an hour and a half at the gates to Yasaka Jinja as they let people in one group at a time. It was worth it though. It started to snow around midnight. From Yasaka Jinja we walked to Kiyomizudera, and in the snow it really looked amazing. Like an enchanted fairyland, with snowy wooded mountains and a pagoda in the distance. Kyoto in the snow on New Year's is a magical sight.

    Today I want to post some ways to make studying yojijukugo fun, because I've been studying them lately and I'm a feeling little frusterated with all the ones I don't know.

Ways to have fun with yojijukugo:

1) 創作四字熟語. This means making up your own original "yojijukugo". Here are a couple that F. and I made up during our 初詣 trip to Kyoto last night:


Every week, a different umbrella

This refers to a person who has a different umbrella every time you see them, because they are constantly losing them.

Beautiful scenery, no camera

I wanted to say 絶景無...camera, but damn it, there is no one kanji that means "camera". So we settled on 不写 to mean "can't take pictures".

The view at Kiyomizudera last night was definitely "絶景". I had a camera, but my batteries had run out.

2) Yojijukugo games:

There is one for Gameboy, but I don't have it & don't know how good it is.
Here is the best web game I've found so far for yojijukugo:


Once you download it, use the arrow keys on your keyboard to play it. (Press the up arrow first to select the normal course). It will show you four kanji in random order. Rearrange it to make a yojijukugo - for example, if the bottom kanji is the first one, press the down arrow; if the right one is next, press right. At the end it will show you your score and the right answers. You can play it many times and get lots of new ones each time. I still have so many to learn...

3) Kanji tattoos are popular in many Western countries. A lot of yojijukugo would make undesirable and downright embarrassing tattoos. Imagine if you will, and this is just a mental exercise, the absurdity of going through life with something like
有名無実 (undeserved fame) tattooed on your arm. Which prompts me to ask these questions:
a) If you *had* to get a yojijukugo tattoo, which one would you choose?
b) Which one would be most embarrassing to have as a tattoo?
If at least 3 people post their answers I'll post mine.


Update: Well, for some reason the view comments function on this post is broken; I sent an e-mail to blogger about it. In the meantime I'll keep my promise, since more than 3 people posted their best and worst yojijukugo tattoos.

    I would get a small tattoo of 知者不言 ちしゃふげん "Those who know don't tell" - because I think it would seem rather mysterious. For sheer aesthetic coolness, nothing can beat 魑魅魍魎 ちみもうりょう, but the meaning isn't that good for a tattoo unless you think of yourself as four different kinds of monster.

    Most embarrassing: I thought of several. For example, 完全無欠 (かんぜんむけつ) would be pretty embarrassing because it means perfect and without flaw, and you'd have to be pretty arrogant to claim that. The worst tattoo though in my opinion would be


A wasted life, that you dream away in a perpetual state of drunkenness, and when you die you realize you haven't really lived.

My pocket yojijukugo jiten mistakenly prints this as:


You go through life drunk - and you never die! That would be something. But that must be a mistake, because two other dictionaries I looked in have the "dream-death" version.


  • At 8:39 午後, Blogger dadsweb said…

    My favourite yojijukugo is 無我夢中. I really like the idea of being so engrossed in something that you forget everything else around you. As for one I definately wouldn't want as a tattoo 無芸大食 (no talents, eats a lot) is pretty uncomplimentary...

  • At 3:17 午前, Blogger Evelyn said…

    i wouldn't want 一目瞭然 to be on me, to see everything clearly with one look.
    maybe 欣喜雀躍 is good - to be very happy about something that you are in a state as if you are dancing (i don't know if being in that mood for extended period of time will make people tired though =b) 狂喜乱舞 has similar meaning, but wild dance doesn't seem to sound as good...
    in chinese school, they taught us one of famous soldiers in song dynasty 岳飛 had 精忠報國 tattooed on his back by his mother so that he was taught to be faithful to his country and do great things for the country

  • At 10:46 午前, Blogger dadsweb said…

    優柔不断 (wishy-washy) is probably another that macho tattoo wearers should avoid...

  • At 5:37 午後, Blogger Matt said…

    But if it was tattooed on his back, how would he learn from it? Unless other people saw it and told him about it.

    I would get 反面教師 if I could persuade the tattooist it was a 四字熟語 and not just a four-character word. I THINK it's jukugo.

    I think the most embarrassing to get would be 万古不易, because when you went to get it removed by laser it would be unbearably ironic. I can already imagine the nurse's single raised eyebrow.



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