Daily Archives: March 1, 2014

On: Haiku, Kanji & Hanko

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

Now the words in the title of this might sound like the Japanese word-sounds for sneezing, they are not, but they are words used in Japan.

Haiku is a three line, 17 syllable poem (in English anyway). It usually is about nature and the form has 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the second and 5 on the third.

'Wisdom' - haiku & photograph © 2006-14 by Dahni, all rights reserved

‘Wisdom’ – haiku & photograph © 2006-14 by Dahni, all rights reserved

Kanji is a pictorial text originating in China where the characters/symbols have sounds. One definition of the word kanji is “listen.”

There are three basic components in the Japanese language: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Whereas the picture of kanji is used to pronounce the sounds, katakana is most often used to pronounce native words, where there is no kanji. Hiragana is often used in transcribing foreign words, for example:



“hot coffee” in Japanese

It sounds very similar to “hot coffee” and trust me, it is something that I have used in the past and will use again shortly. 🙂

Speaking of coffee, did you know my favorite coffee is Jamaican Blue Mountain and that Japan has imported nearly 90% of all the Blue Mountain coffee and have for many years? True enough! 

Many people use their own personal kanji for purposes of identification. Artists often use a more stylized kanji to sign their work by hand lettering or with a Chinese red stamp, along with their signed katakana or kanji in black, usually vertical and to the left or right of the kanji, but sometimes on top.

My kanji

My kanji

I very much wanted my own kanji and because I met the criteria, I was able to get mine.

Kanji is unique as the pronunciation of my kanji in Japanese is actually dah +  knee. The characters (dah + knee) are the Japanese symbols da(h) + ni  and are the sounds for either a coiled snake ready to strike or a samurai with blade, ready to strike or as a man (warrior)  of action. Both examples are interpreted as being purposefully restrained by choice, which connotes, ‘wisdom.’

One of the signs of the Japanese zodiac is a snake. This corresponds to our zodiac as November/December or the sign of Sagittarius the archer. I was born in 1953, which was also, the year of the snake according to the Japanese zodiac. Since I was born in a year of the snake, in the month of December (under the sign of the snake) and my name combines the Japanese kanji(s)  da + ni (pronounced dah + knee), I have a legitimate right to this kanji. Some people just call me, ‘snake man.’ 🙂

The kanji is as unique as a fingerprint (no two are alike) and can be used as legal identification in Japan. I’ve seen many people at banks in Japan, pull out their kanji kits (ink pad and kanji) and stamp important papers, cash checks and etc., just like we use our signatures in the United States. My interest in having my own kanji was purely artistic. But wanting a kanji and even having the right to one is not enough! It must be thoroughly researched and determined that it has never been used before. Specialists in this field pore over many books to assure this, before granting their authority and recording the kanji in a book. The last stage is, to make the actual kanji into something that can be used and duplicated by its owner. This is performed by an authorized hanko maker. 

Hanko (seal) is typically a stone with the kanji cut into it so that when it is stamped in ink, it leaves the impression of the kanji. The hanko maker hand cuts the design into stone or other material. In Japan, seals in general are referred to as inkan 印鑑 or hanko 判子[4]Inkan is the most comprehensive term; hanko tends to refer to seals used in less important documents.

A hanko, like a fingerprint, is one of a kind. The styles are either round or square as shown. The Kanji can either be actual or more stylized as shown in my design. The latter is preferred by most Asian artists. To the side of the design, the characters are usually hand signed with black ink and are the actual characters of the Japanese type script known as Katakana or kanji. The Katakana is the same as the Kanji in meaning and pronunciation as in mine, dah + knee.

da(h) ni - Hiragana, katakana and Kanji

da(h) ni – Hiragana, katakana and Kanji

Yes, I am proud of my kanji, but I am not boasting. I thought perhaps you might find this whole thing interesting as do I?

I sometimes use my kanji on my original artwork and photographs. And I do one more thing. I place my actual signature within my kanji and it all becomes part of the design.



“good evening” in Japanese

even though it is presently morning in Japan –


“good morning” in Japanese


‘Snake Man’ 🙂

Categories: Australia, Family & Friends, Haiku, Hanko, Inspiration, Japan, Kanji, Poetry, The Gathering Place, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.