Oh. My. God. (Unbelievably bad kanji tattoos)

I just came across a blog called “Hanzi Smatter,” which chronicles the butchering of Chinese and Japanese writing in the west.

Oh. My. God.

I can’t stop repeating that over and over as I see some of the tattoos people have gotten. They’re so horrible they’re not funny.

Chinese Tattoo Let’s use this one for an example. It’s no better or worse than any of the others, and that’s what’s so horrifying. It’s really, really bad.

First we have an old character for “money.” One of those big ancient coins, I think. Next, “fugu,” “buku” which means “poisonous blowfish.” absolutely nothing. Next, “a.” (Just the sound “ah.” No meaning whatsoever.) After that, “ouch.” And finally, “love”. Roughly translated, this means, “I’m a complete imbecile.”

Not even to mention the font. It looks like it came out of an inkjet printer.

Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I mean, I see people all the time here wearing T-shirts with English gibberish on them, but for chrissake, they can take the damn things off at the end of the day and throw them in the wash.

If anyone out there has a kanji tattoo, please, don’t ever ask me to translate it. Don’t even show it to me. After seeing so many really, really bad ones, I get the feeling that there’s probably no such thing as a “good one.”

Rich Pav

Richard has been living in Japan since 1990 with his wife and two teenage sons, Tony and Andy.

15 thoughts to “Oh. My. God. (Unbelievably bad kanji tattoos)”

  1. I think he actually meant to use ๆณกใ€€(abuku) with money to mean bubbling over with money… Maybe he was thinking it would be read bottom to top? Love hurts, but I am bubbling over with money??? Regardless it doesn’t make sense….

  2. Well, I did my research before commiting to ink, and then I only inked the back of a denim vest I wear ๐Ÿ™‚

    (http://spielberg.grossman.com/~jschmidt/peace.jpg – just offering the link to an image, since I dunno if linking is allowed here)

    I was wearing it at a store in Indianapolis a few years ago, and one of the workers there, an elderly Japanese man, came walking down my aisle. He stopped, looked at my back, looked me over, and said “What’s that say on your back?”

    I looked at him and said “As far as I know, it says ‘peace’.”

    He gave me a bit of a look with one squinted eye and said “And who told you that?”

    Suddenly feeling a bit concerned that I wrote something wrong, I explained that I researched the characters online, and found several places that referenced the same characters, so I hoped it was right…

    He paused for a few uncomfortable seconds, then grinned and said “Yep, that’s exactly what is says!” He then turned and walked back down the aisle, chirping to himself – “Peace, huh? You no like war? Good, that’s good…”

    I’ve got the katakana for my wife and kid’s names painted onto the jean jacket I wear as well – no way I could get actual tats, so I went with the paint on my second skin.

  3. @Hage: You should see some of the other tattoos on that site. Many people have kanji written on themselves either upside-down or backwards, or written so poorly it looks like Klingon. I don’t know if I’d be able to hide the look of horror if I met someone with a tattoo like that. I can’t believe that rocket scientists and quantum physicists can be of the same species as the colossally stupid people who get these tats. The rift in intelligence between the two poles is just too great.

    If I were to go back to school, I think I’d learn how to do laser tattoo removal and retire very wealthy. It can’t be that difficult.

    BTW, “abuku zeni” means “easy money,” like lottery winnings or money given to you for free.


  4. This is the opposite of the theme of this post, but has anybody seen similar websites that show tattoos that actually are true to their intended meanings? I always see the horrible ones, I wonder if anybody is actually getting them right.

  5. @Mark: I was wondering the same thing. After seeing so many bad ones, I wonder what they look like when done right. Try this search in Google on the Japanese word for tattoo.

  6. Well it would look pretty retarded for you to get “fire” for instance tattooed on you back. I would assume that would be the same for a Japanese person to have tattooed on themselves in Kanji.

  7. Rich, My wife tells me that, even though all Chinese dialects use a common written language, they have different meanings (and of course, different pronunciations). So those tattoos may be correct in Cantonese or Mandarin or Taiwanese. Then, new words, such as computer, were derived differently due to cultural separation. For example, in Taiwan, the Mandarin for “computer” is a combination of “electric” and “calculator,” but in China, the word is constructed from radicals meaning “electric” and “brain.” -Bill

  8. No Bob. The last character is not hen (ๅค‰) it is koi (ๆ‹) which does mean love, but a different kind of love from the character ai.

  9. I am new to studying kanji but I actually see an intelligent joke in the tatoo in the picture above:

    1st character (kanji) – “coin”
    2nd (2 hiriganan characters) – boo-koo
    3rd (hirigana) – ‘A’
    4th (kanji + 1 hirigana character) – “pain” + ‘i’ pronounced ‘ee’
    5th (kanji) – “romance”

    Now think boo-koo as in bookoo (buku) bucks – lots of money.
    And pain+ee = penny.

    And you get “Buku coins for a penny romance.”

    Yes, if the maker wanted pure Japanese/Chinese then it’s jibberish but I see a fairly witty wordplay in two languages (possibly three, I’m not sure of the origins of ‘buku’).

    You might want to reserve judgement on the guy’s intelligence (though possibly not on the guy’s relationship to women).

  10. hey there are good ones….ones that were made by people who can actually speak japanese and write kanji…..I’ve actually seen a couple that were successful in their kanji and its interpretation….

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