Kanji Craziness
I often hear the question asked: "What do the symbols on everyone's clothes mean?" I used to wonder that myself, and once I started learning Japanese, I was able to satisfy my curiosity to some degree. As far as I know, there aren't any DB web sites that have tackled the subject yet, which I thought was a pretty good indication that it needed to be done. So, if you're willing to trust a guy who isn't exactly an expert on the language, perhaps I can satisfy your curiosity, too!


WHO WEARS IT: Goku, on the chest and back of his gi, from around episode 60 onward.

WHAT IT MEANS: It is the first Kanji in Goku's name, and can be read to mean "perceive," "realize," "discern," "understand," or "enlightenment."


WHO WEARS IT: Goku and Yamucha, for almost all of Dragon Ball, and a good portion of Z, and Kuririn, for almost all of Dragon Ball, and almost all of Z.

WHAT IT MEANS: "Turtle," as in "Turtle Hermit" (Kame Sennin). This was the first symbol worn in DB, displayed on the gi of all of Kame Sennin's disciples.


WHO WEARS IT: Young Gohan, on the front of his overshirt, and above the front doorway of the Son house.

WHAT IT MEANS: "Son" is the surname of Goku, Gohan and Goten. It means "grandchildren" or "descendants."

a combination of

"Kai" and "Ou"

WHO WEARS IT: Kaiou, Goku wears it on the back of his gi for about forty episodes, Yamucha wears it on his chest for a brief period as well.

WHAT IT MEANS: The combination of "Kai" and "ou" resulted in this single kanji, which Toriyama invented himself. Although not actually used by the Japanese or Chinese, there is no reason why it couldn't be considered legitimate, since the origin of most kanji can be traced to combining two or more that already existed.

As for the individual kanji themselves, "Kai" means "world," while "ou" means "king." Therefore, Kaiou's name could be translated as "World King," or in this case, "King of the Afterworld."

"King Kai" is the translation used in the English version, which is fairly accurate, I suppose. I personally think "Lord Kaiou" would not only have sounded a whole lot cooler, but it also would have been more appropriate, since he IS a deity after all. Oh well. People don't generally use the word "lord" anymore, certainly not on US children's television, unless they're talking about you-know-who.


WHO WEARS IT: Uh... Kami, on the chest of his robe.

WHAT IT MEANS: In this case it means "God," but it could also be read as "mind" or "soul" in certain contexts.


WHO WEARS IT: Gohan from episodes 8-21, on the back of his gi. Also worn by Piccolo and his henchmen in the original Dragon Ball.

WHAT IT MEANS: "Demon," as in Piccolo Dai *ma* ou, meaning Piccolo, the Great Demon King. (Yes, that's the same "ou" as in Kaiou. Are we learning yet??) Heh heh. It's a good thing most American kids can't read kanji, otherwise FUNimation would have to paint over this one and change it to "candy" or something.


WHO WEARS IT: Chaozu, on the chest of his overshirt from his first appearance in DB to near the beginning of Z. Tenshinhan also wore this kanji during DB, but stopped once Z started.

WHAT IT MEANS: "Crane," as in "Crane Hermit" (Tsuru Sennin.) Tenshinhan and Chaozu's master, and Kame Sennin's rival.


WHO WEARS IT: Chaozu, on the chest of his overshirt from near the end of Dragon Ball onward.

WHAT IT MEANS: The word "Chaozu" is the Chinese reading of Gyouza, a Japanese crescent-shaped pan fried dumpling. "Gyou" (or "Chao" if read in a Chinese context) is the first of the two kanji that make up the full word.


WHO WEARS IT: It is on Gyuumaou's helmet for all of DB and DBZ.

WHAT IT MEANS: "Ox," "Cow," or "Bull." So, my student, now that you know what "gyuu" means, tell me, what does his full name "Gyuumaou" mean altogether? That's right! "Demon King of the Oxen." If you're wondering about the "demon" part, remember that like most Dragon Ball characters, he was evil when he first appeared.


WHO WEARS IT: Yamucha on the chest of the outfit he wears before training with Kame Sennin

WHAT IT MEANS: This is a wierd one! I asked people who knew Japanese, they asked people THEY knew who knew Japanese, I even looked it up in a dictionary, but I STILL couldn't find out anything about this kanji! Anybody out there know? I'm dying of curiosity!

UPDATED! Thanks to a few kick-ass readers, I now have more of an idea of what this Kanji might mean. I still don't know about the Japanese pronunciation, although I am told that it is "le" in Chinese. As far as the meaning, one reader said it was "music" or "pleasure," and two others said it was the old form of the Chinese character meaning "joy." Judging by the people who responded, the kanji appears to be more familiar to the Chinese than to the Japanese. Thanks to Prince Vegeta, Cookie, and Aric for their help with this!

So there you have it! Now when you watch DBZ, you'll have no excuse for asking about those wierd heiroglyphics on everyone's clothes. If I forgot something, you have some more information, or I was just plain wrong at some point, get in touch with me; I find kanji a very interesting subject.

NEXT TIME: The Bukujutsu mystery... a little something that has been buggin' me for quite a while.

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