The word “shinonome” actual origin comes from a special type of bamboo plant unique to Japan called “Shino/Sasa” in Japanese and its scientific name is “sasamorpha borealis(篠 )
These were dried and knitted together to form a net-like structure having large gaps in between.
These gaps are called eyes and since they are made from “Shino/篠” they came to be known as “eyes of the Shino/篠 plant” or “shino-no-me (篠の目) “.
(目 is kanji character which represents “eye” and its KUN-yomi is “me”. の(read as “no”) is connective particle which here implies “of” and connects the two nouns in context “eye” and the “Shino plant”.)
The analogy as to why they are called eyes would be same if we compare it to “eye of a needle” which is the the section of a sewing needle formed into a loop for pulling thread, located at the end opposite the point.
So since this knitted structure made of “Shino plant” was used a skylight, so that the first sunrays of a day enters through its gaps(or “eyes”) into a traditional Japanese house, the word “shinonome” symbolized the meaning of “daybreak”.
Thats the beauty of the Japanese language we can relate to so many topics just through one word.
A shino-no-me (篠の目) in a Japanese house
. Photo credit: Atsushi Ishikawa
A guest blog by Tilak Bhattacharjee on his musings with kanji. This is the first part of a two-part blog post.
The word 東雲 comprises of two Kanji (chinese characters used in Japanese) characters.
But before that I would like to explain about the pronunciation used for the Kanji characters.
The Japanese language has in general two pronunciations for each Kanji characters.
One is called ON-yomi(音読み) which is Chinese pronunciation of a given Kanji character and the other is called KUN-yomi （訓読み) which is Japanese pronunciation of a given Kanji character.
Note:Japanese had a well developed spoken language before the arrival of Kanji through China, so Japanese assigned KUN-yomi for a given Kanji character in addition to On-yomi from China.
That is why there are generally two pronunciations of a Kanji character.
Now the Kanji of my topic is 東雲.
The first Kanji character 東 means “east” and its ON-yomi or chinese pronunciation is “TOU” and its KUN-yomi or Japanese pronunciation is “Higashi”.
The second Kanji character 雲 means “cloud” and its ON-yomi is “UN” and its KUN-yomi or Japanese pronunciation is “Kumo/Gumo”.
So by definition these characters would imply “eastern clouds”, but in reality it implies “daybreak” and its pronunciation in Japanese is also special as it is called “shinonome”.
This type of special Japanese pronunciation given to a word is called “Ateji (当て字)” which uses substitute Kanji characters for a given pronunciation and does not imply its actual meaning.
So that lead me delve deeper as to what is it is the origin of the word “shinonome”.
A skylight in a Japanese house. Photo credit: Atsushi Ishikawa