Sometimes I say to myself, “Andrew, you’re a genius.” And very occasionally, I prove it.
I sometimes get requests for information about various topics, or “Can you identify this?” Well, I recently received an e-mail from all-round good guy Ian G. “Goat” Fraser:
I instantly recognised the large character at the bottom, kai (界), usually meaning “world”. I wondered if it was some kind of Buddhist term – one would expect such things on a pilgrim route. Although on a marker like this the smaller characters would be read top-down, right-to-left, I decided to tackle the three on the left first, simply because I recognised them straight away. Well, recognised them individually, which is of little help when trying to read unusual vocabulary.
Google to the rescue. I entered the characters individually – actually, the 々 symbol is like a ditto mark, meaning the previous character is repeated. As it turns out, 久百々 is read “Kumomo” – a phonetic combination that it hardly likely to be a native Japanese speaker’s first choice. It is the name of a district within the city of Tosashimizu, Kochi Prefecture.
The set on the right turned out to be more challenging. First, I used a stroke count application to get the reading for the second character, 岐, ki. The angle of the photo and the particular writing style made it difficult to pick out straight away. The first character looked like 六, so I tried searching under the reading “Rokki”, but to no avail. However, when I tried the search term in conjunction with Kumomo, I got links to Oki no hama. The first character was actually 大, not 六!! (A Japanese friend said that she agreed with me as to how the character appeared due to the style of the engraving)
A search for Oki gave location just south of Kumomo. That was when inspiration struck – I recalled the word kyokai (境界) meaning “boundary” or “border” – and tried a map and then street view search of the border between Kumomo and Oki.
As it turns out, 界 by itself can also mean the same.
So Ian’s mysterious marker was marking the boundary between the old villages of Kumomo and Oki, which were incorporated into the city of Tosashimizu in 1889.
OK, hardly anything to get excited by – not marking a battle or shipwreck, but I’m nevertheless congratulating myself on a job well done.