May 13, 2010

Let's Yoji: What I Know About Coins Makes Me Rich

During a wiki-surfing session, I ran across a pic of this hand purifying basin, or tsukubai, and learned that the characters meet up with the middle hole, which is shaped like the kanji/radical for mouth (口), to make new kanji. Then those kanji make a sentence. Brilliant!
Totally Profound Yoji Breakdown Go!
五 (five)+口= 吾 ware (I)
止 (stop)+口= 足 taru (sufficient)
隹 (bird)+口= 唯 tada (just/only)
矢 (arrow)+口= 知 shiru (know)

put them all together as a 4 character idiom and you get:
吾唯足知 or 吾唯足るを知る ware tada taru wo shiru which means I am content with just what I have.
I found a page with a couple of follow up idioms that one may have learned back in the day if they hung around the temple with this profound basin. They are:
知足の者は賤しとも雖も富めり Those that live within their means are rich even when destitute.
不知足の者は富めりと雖も賤し Those that live beyond their means, even when blessed with riches, are bereft.

Notice the liberties I took with 賤しい iyashii (greedy, vulgar, shabby, humble, base, mean, vile). You can probably think of a better way to put it, but I am 不知 fuchi (an ignoramus.) By the way, there seems to be a connection of some sort between these two idioms and what Lao Tzu said in the 33rd chapter of his book, How to Make a Blog Post Long, Erudite, and Boring: 足るを知る者は富む To be satisfied with one's lot in life is to be rich.

Okay, are you still with me? Because I wanted to discuss one more thing. You see, I thought I had seen a coin with the same characters as the basin at the top of this post. Turns out that such coins are not currency, but novelty items for sale in some areas, and that I was thinking of the Zenigata's 寛永通宝 kan'eitsūhō (Kan'ei era coins). Their names match the characters on them as you can see in the following pic.

Now the word just said, zenigata, may ring a bell with you. The word was even payed some homage by a Lupin character. Zenigata (coin shape) is part of the title to a series of books, plays, and dramas about an Edo period detective named Heiji that throws coins at bad guys. Somehow that works. Thus the series is called 銭形平次 Zenigata Heiji.

I will leave you with a video from the Zenigata series. Watch for coin throwing and use this vid to practice karaoke. After people get so wowed by you knowing this song that they start throwing money and kisses, you can pull out all the awesome knowledge you got from this post and really impress the crowd. But don't get cocky; know your limit.

Japanese Study Links

Sign/Ad J J Slang J News w/Pics J Vids
Karaoke J Commercials Let's Yoji!


  1. hahah I like the song. Also 吾唯足知 is really cool. If I was still in Japan I'd try to find a coin with that 四字熟語 on it.

  2. That kanji combo thing is awesome - nice post.

  3. very nice post. I have a coin equal to this photo.


All comments are moderated in a speedy fashion.