Japanese translation - what does it say on this wood block art?
December 10, 2014 7:26 AM   Subscribe

Could a kind Japanese speaker please translate these characters? Years ago at a street market in Nara I bought these two simple pieces of wood, which were both hand-painted with kanji and a picture of a cat. I just loved the cheeky face of the cat but I've always wondered what the characters say.

First piece
Second Piece
Signature (appears on both)

Bonus question
, in which I expose myself as a truly clueless dolt... this picture is Chinese rather than Japanese, but I struggled to work out the right way to hang it as no orientation of the characters seems more correct than another to my uneducated eyes. The signature is currently in the top right-hand corner.... have I got it wrong?
posted by boosh to Writing & Language (4 answers total)
Best answer: I'm not fully literate in Japanese, and don't know the kanji in the first one, but the second one is in hiragana so I can help you out there, anyway. It says "okaeri", which means "welcome home." (It's the informal/short form of "okaerinasai.")

For the bonus question, I can't really see the characters well enough in that photo, but I'm wondering if the signature should go in the bottom right?
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:55 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm fully literate in Japanese. The first one says 新矢尾. 矢尾 is a Japanese family name. 新 generally means "new". A Japanese web search gives one hit for 新矢尾 as being the name of a company in the context of 新矢尾社. This sign doesn't mean very much to me. Maybe the name has some local significance but I don't know what it would be. I've been to Nara a number of times and it doesn't ring any bells.

The second one is as snorkmaiden says.

The black character in the signature is 藏. It appears in some family names and boys' names but not by itself (that I have ever seen). Maybe the red stamp says 正, which is a character that occurs in boys' names and can be a boy's name by itself.

Your "bonus" photo is a bit blurry but I think the signature needs to be on the bottom of the painting. The text looks upside down. The blurriness makes it impossible for me to make out any of the characters, but I think one has a 辶 and the general flow of the handwriting and the final flourish indicate to me that it is upside down.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:23 AM on December 10, 2014

Best answer: Re the bonus q, I agree with Tanizaki. If you flip that pic on the vertical then the horizontal axis (so that the group of characters end up in the lower left) the character which then becomes the upper-leftmost one is almost certainly 魚 "fish". The character next to it looks a lot like 滿 "full of". And the print itself is full of swirling fish. Carp, probably.
posted by mono blanco at 1:36 PM on December 10, 2014

Best answer: The last painting is upside down w.r.t. the signature - first line says 魚滿塘 (pond full of fish) and the second line looks like 曹金堂 (Cao Jintang) to me, which is a plausible Chinese name. Apparently a painter of pastoral scenes according to Google?
posted by monocot at 6:28 AM on December 11, 2014

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