Our train to Aso. Duncan suggested a
weekend trip to do some hiking on Mt. Aso. He and Tote had
a good time on Mt. Aso a year or so ago. So, we booked
rooms at the justifiably popular hostel, and headed off.
I mentioned in the Travelogues that some important signs bear
hiragana (phonetic) translations of the kanji (chinese
characters) that would ordinarily be used on the sign.
This is an example. The top, bold line is in
hiragana. Generally, each "letter" in hiragana is a
syllable-length sound. So, the top line is
On this sign, for us, the hiragana is redundant because the
"English translation" is also on the sign. For a long
time, I thought the western translations were simply the
transliteration created by whomever made the sign -- rather like
what I jot down as the pronunciation of a Japanese word I want
to recall. (I don't know but I believe this is what Korea
does. It would explain the many different roman alphabet
spellings for some of the streets and sights.) I was
wrong. Does it surprise you to learn that Japan has a
system and rules for this, too? Romaji are the characters
used to reproduce Japanese words in roman characters.
(Yes, that makes three phonetic systems plus the chinese
characters.) All Japanese students learn to read and write
romaji, along with the other four systems.
I was also wrong in thinking that romaji was a post-WWII
invention. The system currently used was standardized in