Mount Fuji is one of Hiro-san’s favourite places to visit. It is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” because of its symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year. It is also an active volcano but last erupted in 1707–08. It is the most well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers, climbers and, of course, the Japanese people.
Sometimes Mount Fuji is called “Fujisan.” This is not the same “san” as in Hiro-san. Using the word “san” after someone’s name means “Mr” or “Mrs” – a formal way of addressing each other in Japan. For Mount Fuji we should look at the Japanese characters – Kanji. It is written:
富士山 – the first two Kanji, 富士, means wealth and abundance with great status. 山 means mountain and can be pronounced “san” or “yama.”
富士山 is a volcano. The word for volcano has two Kanji – 火山. We already know the second Kanji means mountain. The first Kanji – 火 – means “fire.” So in other words it is a “fire mountain.”
Did you know that in Japanese there are three ways to write words? The first is Kanji which originally came from China. The second is Hiragana which is a phonetic alphabet for Japanese words. The third is Katakana which is a phonetic alphabet for foreign words.
So volcano – 火山 – can be written in hiragana as かざん. か = ka and ざん – zan. So the word for a volcano is “kazan.”
So what about Katakana? Well, let’s take the names of Hiro-san (ひろ) and his young friends Josh and Alex. In Japanese Josh would be written ジョシュ and Alex would be written アレックス.
Later I shall introduce you to other words in Japanese so that you can begin to learn some words!