My new favourite Japanese word

I love the Japanese word komorebi. It has no English equivalent; try typing it into Google Translate.

I was looking for an image to represent komorebi when I remembered this video I recorded at a folk music festival in Sheffield a couple of years ago. I was lying on my back listening to the music in the shade on a hot Summer's day, enjoying the komorebi so much I had to record it.

Komorebi means 'sunlight filtered through foliage'. What an absolutely glorious thing to have a word for. The Japanese, as if I didn't already know it, obviously have a keen sense of beauty.

What's even better about the word is how it's written. There are 3 kanji in it (the れ is just the hiragana for 're'): 木漏れ日. I tried to figure out what those kanji meant to see how such a cool concept was translated into a word.

Kanji are the complicated symbols that come from Chinese and have meanings but their pronunciation varies from word to word. There are thousands of them and, like English spellings, some people know more than others.

Firstly, I immediately recognised the final kanji, 日; it represents the sun and is often pronounced 'bi'. So this word probably has something to do with the sun.

The first two kanji are 木, tree, and 漏, leakage, which I had to look up. Weirdly, put together (木漏) Google Translate gives the result 'kimo', or 'liver'! I guess the liver filters things, like the leaves filter sunlight?? Why the kanji for tree/wood appears in the word for liver I have no idea.

Add the れ to 木漏, however, and the translation switches to 'komore', or simply 'tree leakage'. I assume that's either Google failing to think of anything more appropriate than slapping the two meanings together, or the Japanese genuinely have a general word for stuff leaking from trees. Which is kinda weird.

Komorebi in New Zealand (photo by me, from April 2014)

An honorable mention goes to 森林浴 ('shinrinyoku'), which translates directly to 'forest bathing', and according to the page which inspired this post means "to go deep into the woods where everything is silent and peaceful for a relaxation". I love me some shinrinyoku.

No comments:

Post a Comment