It's not all administrative whining here at No-sword

This piece of calligraphy was on display at a restaurant I had dinner at the other day in transit:

The basic message is, "Dear [restaurant named] Marufuku (丸福). I, [the talent named] KAYAMA Yuuzou (加山雄三), wish you all the best (祝, upper right)."

The specifics of the good will are:


Now, the visual effect of a bunch of Chinese characters with no kana is classy, suggesting a quotation from, well, the classics. These characters, however, add up only to nonsense: "Spring, summer, winter / Two masu, five gou" (masu and gou are units of measurement).

If you're in on the joke, though, you read it like this:

masumasu hanjou

Which has the following meanings and implications:

  • Akinai can mean "no (nai) Autumn (aki)", i.e. the missing element in "Spring, Summer, Winter", but it also means "trade, business" (from the verb 商う, akinau, "to do business").
  • masumasu, i.e. "two masu", is an adverb meaning "more and more"
  • hanjou is, I think, an iffy rendakued word meaning "half a shou" -- a shou being a unit of measurement equal to five ten gou (half of which is five gou, 五合). But another word with the same pronunciation is 繁盛, meaning "prosperity".

So, painful to interpret though it be, it comes down to "may your business prosper more and more".

I don't even know what an equivalent to this would be in English -- maybe fake Latin ("HIC RESTAVRANTO REGNET"), or using Cyrillic characters for appearance rather than sound?

Final note: these puns are so common they verge on boilerplate, as you'll see if you Google them.

Popularity factor: 6


This post had me barking, but what do I know? All kindling astride, this is a ril, ril good post.

(the above, mostly stolen from a book cover I own, seems to be kind of similar in some conceptual ways, except it isn't exactly boilerplate English...)


Actually, I believe it would make more sense to say that 1升(shou)=10合(gou)... so 5合=半升 (hanjou)...

Its also interesting to note that shou and masu are different readings of the same kanji.

As for an English equivalent... that would be tough. Perhaps "l33t" or usage of certain alphanumeric characters or symbols in interesting ways.

Kyle Goetz:

I've been a reader of your blog for about a month (enjoying it the whole time), and I finally feel compelled to speak -- WOW. Excellent post. I'm going to memorize this, then google more puns like that (although I wouldn't know what to search for other than what was posted above and hope it appears on "Japanese pun" pages).


Thanks, Mark + Kyle! And Anonymous too. You're completely right... my explanation doesn't even make sense now that I re-read it. I guess I got so excited about the puns that I forgot how to add.

I also forgot to mention that the 賛江 is a fancy (but more or less meaningless -- the characters are chosen for sound only) way of writing -san e (さんへ), i.e. "Dear ...-san" (in this case, applied to a restaurant instead of a person)


A possible good source of similar puns would be the ways that [i]bousouzoku[/i] use [i]ateji[/i]. For example, 夜露死苦 (yoroshiku).


I think the English equivalent would be like those puzzle where it says:


and the answer is "Long underwear".

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