Saturday, April 23, 2011


Recently, in a somewhat run-down part of town, I was charmed by this character hanging cock-eyed from a dilapidated building:

As a verb, uku (浮く) it means to float; or to become merry; or to feel cut off from those around you. It is the first kanji in ukiyoe (浮世絵) the Edo period color prints popularized by Hiroshige and Hokusai.

Ukiyo itself (浮き世) means "fleeting life" or "this transient world," and so to see this kanji alone brings to mind those associations.

But I am, to tell the truth, cheating a little here, utilizing the selection process of both camera and brain, for there is another kanji in hiding under vines to the right of this one which changes the meaning of the whole, turning it into just a name.

I think I'll hide it from you though — I'd much rather see this kanji floating free, cut off from its mate; ready to fall off its nail and slide down the side of the building and rust among the weeds.

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