JOK Notebook

Drops of Rain, Drops of the Moon

A friend sent an email that contained a lovely word:

雨宿り (あまやどり: taking shelter from rain)   rain + shelter

To me, this kun-kun construction sounds eminently gentle and soft. The word appeared in this sentence:


Coming back from work, I stopped at another branch of the restaurant I’m working at and took shelter from the rain for two whole hours.

仕事 (しごと: work); 帰る (かえる: to come back); 働く (はたらく: to work); チェーン店 (チェーンてん: chain store); 2時間 (にじかん: two hours)

Speaking of rain, I've come across one of those highly specific words that make Japanese rich and fascinating:

樹雨 (きさめ: precipitation resulting from thick fog condensing on leaves)   timber + rain

That's quite evocative! As I read the definition, I can just imagine walking through a wet forest, feeling the drip-drip-drip on my hood or umbrella. Actually, I had that experience not long ago in Nisene Forest near Santa Cruz, California, during a major downpour. In the pictures, you can see the drops of water spotting the camera lens!

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

Speaking of drops, I can't seem to get enough of this beautiful sign:

Photo Credit: Eve Kushner

I've been writing about this photo in essay 1640 on 豆 (bean), a kanji that appears on the upper right in 豆冨料理 (とうふりょうり: tofu cuisine; tofu cooking). The correct way to write "tofu" is 豆腐, but 腐 means "rotten," which doesn't sound too appetizing, so they playfully changed 腐 to 富 (780: rich) here. That was possible because 腐 and 富 share the on-yomi of フ.

As clever as that wordplay is, the larger kanji are the ones that have truly captured my heart. The name 月の雫 (つきのしずく: moondrops) brings to mind the Train song "Drops of Jupiter," but that's not why I like 月の雫! Possibly concocted in Japan (though sources differ on this), the non-Joyo 雫 kanji means "dripping, drop, trickle." This involves another bit of cleverness. The character combines 雨 (rain) with 下 (to fall down; to drop). After all, rain falls in the form of a "drop."

But what are moondrops?! With 月の雫, is the moon dropping on us?! Or do drops of water slide off the moon onto our heads? Maybe this name refers to drops of moonlight.

The restaurant name 月の雫 sounds and looks beautiful if you don't think about it too much, so that's what I'm going to do!

For more wet musings, check out essay 1785 on (浦: seaside), which I've just posted. Essay 1188 on 屈 (to bend) is now available, as well. More details here.

Have a great weekend, and be sure to watch out for anything falling from the sky!



Matt's picture
There's a term for 樹雨 in English - it's called "fog drip," which doesn't sound as poetic as "timber rain". It can be the main source of precipitation in California coast forests during the summer dry season. Without fog drip, the coast redwood trees wouldn't grow so tall.
eve's picture
Wow, I had no idea! Thanks so much for sharing that!

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