calico detective cat
just like my Pinkie
senryu by M. Nakazato LaFreniere
My mom used to love the Mikeneko no Holmes series by Jiro Akagawa. Mikeneko means “calico cat” in Japanese. 三 Mi means 3 (3 lines meaning 3, isn’t that an easy kanji to remember? 毛 Ke means hair. So 3-hair means calico because they have three-colored hair. Mikeneko no Holmes used to help his owner, a detective, solve mysteries. Whenever mom got a new one through interlibrary loans, she would read it right away and finish it within an hour or two.
The thing with kanji though is that they have one sound if a kanji is a part of a word and another sound if it is the word alone. For example, mi means 3 as part of a word like “mike” but the same symbol alone 三 is pronounced “san” which is the word “three” when not combined with anything else. So counting to 3 is 1, 2, 3 or ichi ni san. You would say “san” for three. But to say three-colored cat you would say “mi” even though the kanji 三 is the same in both cases. I love the kanji for 1, 2 ,3 : 一 , 二 , 三 . One line, two lines, three lines — Isn’t that awesome? I can’t read kanji but those three I can so when I stayed in Japan, at least I knew if I was getting 1, 2, or 3 items, lol.
I couldn’t read Japanese and mom wouldn’t use the internet but I wanted to get her some books through the Interlibrary loans because she had read the ones she owned like a gazillion times. Mikeneko was the only one I could order because I could recognize 三毛 after awhile. Akagawa had another series about 3 sisters so once when I got mom a video set, it was about the 3 sisters instead of the 3-colored cat. Oops!
I could read the last name of the author Akagawa which means red river 赤 川 . See those 3 vertical lines — that’s river. It’s the two river banks and the water flowing in the middle. Isn’t that like so cool? I love the pictograph nature of kanji.
Japan’s kanji came over from China. You can see in the image below from Ancient Scripts how the pictures developed into the letters in the first 4 rows. Look at mountain. Japanese kanji is the “standard script” and I think the “running script” as a kind of cursive Japanese. I’m not so sure about the last two lines — maybe it is the modern Chinese evolved after kanji had immigrated to Japan. “Standard script” fish and horse is what I see in Japan (you see fish a lot in the restaurant menus) but the “modern simplified” fish and horse, I’ve never seen so I think that’s Chinese. I’ve never been to China but hope to one day.
Just a little fun one for Feline Friday.
Also published on Medium.