This is another post in the series about life in Japan. The longer I am here, the more I am liking it.
Most of the homes in our neighborhood have name plates near their front door or gate. Most of them are in both English and kanji, the Chinese characters borrowed by the Japanese. We wanted to make our rented place a bit more like home, so we made our nameplate. At the local hardware store, Konan, we needed to make a design. My surname Kralovec, is Czech, and there is not a kanji associated with it. Foreign words and names are written in another Japanese script, katakana, which is used for those words that have been adapted into Japanese. Kralovec becomes クラロヴェツク- phonetically it is KU-RA-RO-V-E-KU. The “L” and “R” are not differentiated in Japanese and a source of constant confusion for newcomers and for Japanese pronouncing English words. I didn’t want to have katakana on our name plate because I wanted to fit in with others in the neighborhood and I like the stories and history behind the kanji symbols. I instead came up with kanji characters that I felt best symbolized our name.
Kral in the Czech language means “king” hence the first kanji character (pronounced oh-uu) means king. The second character means “love” (pronounced “ah ii” and the spelling our name has the word love in the middle, kraLOVEc. A portion of the love kanji has the radical, or building block heart, kokoro, in the center of the symbol. So we are the King Love family. I like to think we have a lot of love in our family. It always gets a confused look and then a big laugh when people encounter it. A good way to enter a home!