United States In Japanese Kanji – アメリカの州名を日本語にすると
There was a popular article (and resulting variety show coverage) last year that showed what happens when you take all of the Japanese prefecture names and directly translate them into English. The results were some destinations that absolutely would make you want to visit. Gems included Love Knowledge (愛知), Thousand Leaves (千葉), Bear Book (熊本), and Thorn Castle (茨城). English makes these names hip and trendy.
So this got me thinking. What about the reverse? Japanese also makes English pretty stylish. How about taking the 50 states of the United States, and turn them into Japanese?
Not an easy task, since most people don’t actually know the meaning of most of the state names, and it is not understandable merely by looking at the word, like it is with Japanese prefectures and kanji. But through my very important research, I feel I have now accomplished a greater good to this world.
And here they are for your enjoyment and enlightenment:
Nebraska : 平水
New Hampshire: 新村
New Jersey: 新地島
New Mexico: 新戦神
New York: 新櫟場
North Carolina: 北自由人
North Dakota: 北友
Ohio : 大河
Rhode Island: 赤島
South Carolina : 南自由人
South Dakota: 南友
West Virginia: 西未婚女王
Some notes on how I created these in case you are tilting your head in wonder.
1. Some are direct translations, some are smooth translations.
2. A lot of these focus on the kanji meaning, so they make up new compounds based on those meanings. While some may be actual Japanese words, others are made up kanji combinations, creating new non-existent words, similar to what you’d find in manga. So pronunciations are pretty open to interpretation.
3. State name meanings are highly debated in academia, often with mixed origins, and best guesses by scholars. I took the meaning that was either the most common, translated better, or I just thought was a better fit in Japanese.
4. Some states come from names of royalty figures or places in Europe. For these I took the origin meaning of the actual person’s name (followed by their royalty title) or the origin meaning of the place.
5. I tried for the most part to stick with the standard of prefecture names having 2-3 kanji.
6. This is just one interpretation, that was done for fun. It would be easy to be picky and debate any of the above names.
What do you think? Does it have the same impact as Japanese prefectures turned English. Have a favorite?
Am I crazy?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
My husband says he found the kanji for the states:
Approximated based off of sound.
Interesting. Thanks for sharing!
Though it seems to only have a few states, and focuses more on some major cities. And as you said, they are all 当て字 (kanji chosen for sound and not meaning) and don’t actually mean what the states mean.
Wow! Really interesting and funny!
Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.
I have an 1864/1865 rifle with inscription on the stock (Kanji?)
My father brought it home from Japan after WWII
How can I send you pictures to try to get it interpreted?
Rio Grande do Norte: 大北河
Distrito Federal: 邦区
Mato Grosso: 叢拡
Mato Grosso do Sul: 南叢拡
Espirito Santo: 聖霊降
Rio de Janeiro: 一月川
Minas Gerais: 金広地
São Paulo: 小雨
Santa Catarina: 純女聖
Rio Grande do Sul: 大南河
Since I’m Canadian, I decided to test it out with the provinces and territories here! I started back when this article was first published, but never got around to posting it until now. Luckily there weren’t that many names to figure out.
British Columbia: 英鳩
New Brunswick: 新褐村
Northwest Territories: 北西領
Nova Scotia: 新闇
Prince Edward Island: 富護王子島
It’s interesting seeing how some of the provinces have pretty much the same meanings as some of the states in the United States, Michigan and Ontario being one such example. It certainly makes sense with them being in such close proximity to each other geographically, bordering on the Great Lakes.
Great addition! I’m excited to finally see another country on this post.
Really cool! I wonder how these would be pronounced.
(also I live in Michigan .3.)