Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Kitakata Draws Visitors with Ancient Chinese Pictographs

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Kitakata Draws Visitors with Ancient Chinese Pictographs

Article excerpt

AIZUWAKAMATSU, Fukushima -- The city of Kitakata, Fukushima Prefecture, may be famous for traditional warehouses and ramen noodles, but now it has an unlikely addition: ancient Chinese pictographs.

About 200 buildings along Kitakata streets are adorned with wooden signs inscribed with ancient Chinese pictographs. They were put up in a bid to attract tourists to the city, which is still reeling from persistent public fears over the ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The venture was started by Masami Takahashi, a 67-year-old professional inscriber fascinated by the origin and history of kanji characters.

Standing on the platform of JR Kitakata Station, you will be greeted by a two-meter-high panel with 34 pictographs on it. Such pictographs were used in China more than 3,000 years ago.

They can be found here and there on the warehouse-lined streets, inscribed on signboards measuring 20-30 centimeters in length and 60-80 centimeters in width. For example, a flower shop had a pictograph meaning "bloom," while the pictograph on a clothing store is "dress."

The Kutsu no Kobayashi shoe store has a sign inscribed with the pictograph meaning "walk." In recent months, the store has seen a surge in the number of tourists who come into the store, asking how to pronounce it, store representatives said.

"More people are walking around the town while solving the riddles of the pictographs," said shop owner Kenji Kobayashi, 44.

Keisuke Mikami, 13, visited the city with his family from Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, and observed the pictographs he came across with keen interest. "Some of them are similar to kanji characters we use today, but some of them are like drawings," he said. …

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