Japan Signs: A Day At Ueno Zoo
Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
I found this sign in the grounds of Ueno Zoo, which is just 10 minutes north of central Tokyo by train. We visited there when we stayed in Ueno and apart from it being the coldest and wettest day of our trip, it was definitely worth the visit. There’s plenty to see and do for everyone.
There’s a fair bit going on in this sign but don’t worry as I’m going to break it all down and we’ll go though the kanji and katakana one at a time.
Starting from the left side of the top sign we see 西園, which indicates the West section of the park (zoo). The two kanji work separately here so 西 means West and 園 is garden or park, this is not a kanji compound. If you’re in Japan for any length of time you’ll more than likely see the kanji for park (園) in a lot of public places in the following format – 公園. This a kanji compound – public (公) and park (園).
Next is the top line of the first sign, which is 子供動物園 (Children’s Zoo) and there are two kanji compounds at work here – 子供 (こども) and 動物園 (どうぶつえん). The first one translates as “Children” with the first character 子 meaning child (こ). The second part of that line is 動物園 (どうぶつえん), which means zoo.
Breaking that down even further we get 動物 (animal) and 園 (garden or park), which of course gives us zoo (animal park).
Kirin…But Not The Beer
On the bottom line of the first sign there are three katakana words – キリん, カバ and サイ, which translate to kirin (Giraffe), kaba (Hippopotamus) and sai (Rhinoceros). Katakana is normally used only for loan words, meaning words from other countries. I would suggest these are only written in Katakana here so that smaller children are able to read the sign. I have included the kanji for each of them in the table below.
Keep Your Hands In Your Pockets
In the second sign we come across a few kanji that you might be seeing for the first time: 両生爬虫類館
The breakdown of the kanji compounds in this sentence are 両生 (りょうせい – Amphibian) and 爬虫類 (はちゅうるい – Reptiles) followed by 館, which translates as house, hall or building.
We end up with a sign that roughly means Amphibious Reptile Building eg an area of the zoo that holds the likes of crocodiles or alligators.
|館||House, hall, building||かん|