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The Wishing Star: Part 1

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I’d never thought about it before, but I’ve just realized that the English expression “looking forward” has two meanings: “gazing into the distance” and “happily anticipating.” One kanji captures both meanings. We usually interpret (BŌ, MŌ, nozo(mu)) as meaning “hope.” A while back, though, we saw that can also mean “looking afar” or “gazing into the distance.”

This duality helps us find several layers of meaning in the song title 望みの星 (Nozomi no Hoshi: The Wishing Star). If you’re wishing on a star (or on the moon, as per the etymology), you’re both gazing at a distant object and hoping that something will come true.

Novelist Wendy Tokunaga cowrote this enka (演歌: performance + song) song with her friend, Hiro Akashi. We’re only up to the title, and already I’m impressed!

I was even more impressed when I heard Wendy sing the song in Japanese. I know you’ll be blown away, too. Wendy has won televised singing competitions in Japan, so you’re in for a treat, not the ear-shattering output of some karaoke singer.

The song plays a significant role in Wendy’s new novel, Love in Translation.


If you enjoyed her first novel, Midori by Moonlight, be sure to check out this latest work. You may recognize the title of the earlier novel; I mentioned it two years ago when I provided a link to my glowing review in the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the subject of Midori, I can’t resist revisiting a term whose yomi seems to combine two significant words we’ve just covered:

望み通り (nozomidōri: just as one wishes)
     wish + in accordance with

Of course, the last o in this word is long, which isn’t true of the o in midori (: green). But I take my cue from the word 望み通り—I can do just as I wish!

This week (which comes on the heels of an exceptionally busy and stressful time for me, since I hosted a holiday fair), what I wish is simply to present the song, along with a translation and a breakdown of the kanji. In subsequent weeks, we’ll delve more deeply into and the types of words in which it appears, mostly about wishing, longing, hoping, and looking forward to good things. That seems like an appropriate way to start the year!

Kanji Curiosity will be on vacation for a few weeks; there won’t be any publications on December 25 or January 1. That means that the real discussion of will begin next week and then start again three weeks later. This arrangement isn’t exactly desirable (望ましい, nozomashii: desirable), but that’s what needs to happen. I hope (望む) the long gap leaves you longing ( again!) for a thorough discussion of kanji! That’s my wish. In other words …

Nozomi ga arimasu.
I have a wish.

Stumped on what to say in response? I’ll make it easy for you:

Anata no nozomi ga jitsugen suru to ii desu ne.
I hope your wish will come true.

実現 (jitsugen: realization)     real + actual

Why, thank you! Very kind of you! And if that happened, I could use this expression:

望みが適う (nozomi ga kanau: to have one’s wish realized)

OK, enough dilly-dallying. Without further ado, here’s the podcast of Wendy’s song. The link takes you to iTunes, where you can download the song for free. When you get there, you’ll also find a karaoke version of the song, as well as the “trailer” of Love in Translation. Alternatively, you can download the song and all these other perks from Wendy’s site.

Here are the lyrics. The stanza in English isn’t any kind of translation; rather, at that point, Wendy switches languages.





Is my love destined to be
As elusive as a falling star
A hope dashed in the wink of an eye
Or will fate smile at me
Turn my wish into reality
As bright as the stars in the sky


See what you can do with it unassisted. When you’re ready to yell “Uncle,” meet me on the side page for a breakdown of the kanji and the translation.

Breakdown and Translation …

If you’ve fallen in love with the song (or with Wendy), feel free to contact her at INFO at wendytokunaga DOT COM (except that’s not how you really format it). If you provide your postal address, she’ll send you a Love in Translation CD, which includes the song, the karaoke version, and the audio drama podcast from the book (that is, the trailer). She’ll use international mail if necessary—and all for free! What a deal!

Time for your Verbal Logic Quiz!

Verbal Logic Quiz …