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Advance Japanese Lesson:秋刀魚と秋桜(sanma to kosumosu), Autumn Cherry Blossoms



「刀」という漢字は「a japanese sword」を指し、「魚」という漢字は「a fish」を意味しています。日本では秋になると、しばしば食卓に上る魚のことですよ。これは、「サンマ」と読みます。銀色で、とがった頭と長細い体が、まるで剣のように見えることから、このような漢字で書かれるようになりました。日本では、焼いて食べるのが一般的です。そのとき、大根をすりおろしたものに醤油をたらし、ほぐした身と一緒に食べるととてもおいしいです。ただ、「はらわた」と呼ばれる内臓部分は苦いため、嫌いな人も多いですね。


「桜」という漢字は「a cherry blossom」のこと。白やピンクの花を咲かせるこの草は、日本の秋の野原で風に揺れていますよ。これは、「コスモス」と読みます。花びらの形が桜に似ていることから、「秋に咲く桜」として漢字が当てられたそうです。しかし、植物学上では桜の仲間ではなく、菊の一種。1.5~2メートルくらいの高さで、葉はペンで書いた線のように細いのが特徴です。ギリシア語では「宇宙」や「世界」を意味しています。また、花びらが整然と並んでいるので「秩序」という意味もあるとか。日本で生まれた花だと思われがちですが、原産国はメキシコです。



The mornings and evenings grow fairly chilly and one can sense the season moving deeper into autumn. Today I’ll be introducing two words that make use of the kanji character for autumn.

The first word is ‘sanma.’

The kanji character「刀」means a ‘Japanese sword,’ and the kanji character「魚」means ‘a fish.’ This is a fish that makes its way to dinner tables all over Japan often during the autumn months. The characters are read ‘sanma’ (Pacific saury). The fish has a silvery color and a long, thin body that makes it look a lot like a sword, which is how it got its name. The most common way to eat sanma in Japan is roasted. The meat is very tasty with grated daikon radish and soy sauce. But since the organ called ‘harawata’ (bowels) are bitter, there are many people who don’t like it.

The second word is ‘cosmos.’

The kanji character「桜」means a ‘cherry blossom.’ This plant has pink and white flowers and sways in the autumn wind in many fields in Japan. These characters are read ‘cosmos.’ Since the flower’s petals are shaped somewhat like a cherry blossom, this flower was given a name that means ‘autumn blooming cherry blossoms.’
In a botanical sense however, this flower is not related to the cherry, but is actually a variety of chrysanthemum. The plant grows to between 1.5 and 2 meters and its leaves have characteristically fine lines that almost look as if they were drawn with a pen. The word comes from the Greek for ‘space’ or ‘the world.’ And because the flower petals are lined up in a very orderly way some say that the word also carries the meaning of ‘order.’ Many people mistakenly think that this flower is an indigenous Japanese variety, but its country of origin is actually Mexico.