My husband, youngest son, and I recently returned from a trip to Okinawa to visit our oldest son. We visited many beautiful parks and gardens, as well as a few historical landmarks. In our travels about the island, I found myself missing one aspect of life that I take for granted: words.
Years ago, my husband and I vacationed in Paris, France. I had taken two years of high school French, which gave me just enough knowledge to attempt translations of every sign and text I encountered. Because my vocabulary was rudimentary at best, I was mentally exhausted by week's end because I couldn't stop my brain from trying to make sense of what it thought I should know.
In Okinawa, the Japanese text combines kana and kanji, which are completely unfamiliar to me. As a result, my brain didn't even attempt to translate text to English and I found myself not as mentally drained as I had after Paris. However, I did begin to miss reading words and playing around with them in my mind like I do at home.
This absence of available wordplay (one might say word porn) showed itself the most at two points in our trip: The Southeast Botanical Gardens and the Nakijin Castle Remains
Nakijin Castle and the Poem for Shigema Utudaru
Nakijin Castle was built in the 14th Century by the Ryukyuan people of that principality. It is a stone-walled structure built on a hilly seaside with many stairs and several beautiful spots to look out onto the ocean. Near one such elevation, I came upon this stone monument:
I was struck by its beauty and elegant inscription. Thankfully, there was a plaque nearby that explained the monument's meaning:
While I am glad for the summary of the poem's meaning, I have to admit some frustration at not being able to directly translate the kanji to English. I have tried to use Google Translate, to no avail. I have tried to search the internet for a direct translation, but came up empty again.
Maybe there is no direct translation, or maybe the summary is the closest to it. There are many words in languages other than English that have no direct translation. I wish I could crawl inside the mind of the person who wrote it. Maybe I will make it my mission to learn to read kana/kanji so I can better understand the poem's meaning.
Southeast Botanical Gardens and Miharashi no Oka (lookout point)
The Southeast Botanical Gardens were as beautiful and peaceful as I had imagined. Even though we seemed to have arrived just after the cherry blossom season and just before the full lotus season, there were still plenty of blooms to satisfy.
Toward the beginning of our leisurely stroll, we arrived at a pavilion that sat up on a hill, with a view that looked down over a large swath of the park.
Inside the pavilion was a small box filled with little slips of paper that had Japanese writing on it. Also inside the pavilion was a heart-shaped decoration to which people had tied these slips of paper. It reminded me of the padlocks that decorate bridges in some cities, a testament to love.
Unfortunately, I did not think to take a picture of the display, and I could kick myself for it now. However, I did take one of the slips of paper so that I could use Google Translator on it later. The translation is rough, and I had to try several times to find combinations of words that make some sort of sense. Apologies to anyone who can read Japanese, and if you can, I would love an actual, human translation! Basically, the paper is like a fortune for love.
I absolutely love, that both translations have the same exact last two sentences. I take things like that as a sign that the Universe is talking to me.
The last section of the paper seemed like a list of lucky charms and advice:
I'm not sure what some of those items mean for me, but I certainly like the last item. It speaks to my very nature as a night owl.
I had a lot of fun using Google Translate on these, even though there are definitely some bugs to work out. Keep it in mind if you're traveling to a foreign country in the future. Again, if anyone reads Japanese, I would love a real translation!
Bonus: the app helped me figure out how to work a washer and dryer in the hotel, so there's that.
I write novels and poetry and this blog.