365 Days of Japanese Day #15

Magic the Gathering Mana Symbols

My image yesterday was a rather menacing skull symbol housed in a circle.

When I lived in Japan I learned a game that is actually a Western game, but extremely popular in Japan. Certainly more popular in Japan than in my home country of the UK, where I had never taken the time to get into it.

The game is Magic: the Gathering. It is a card game where you cast spells and summon creatures.

It is really fun!

What made the game particularly special to play in Japan was that the community was so strong. I could throw cards down with Japanese players and through a mixture of English and Japanese we’d carry out this detailed game with complex rules and everything would somehow work, despite the language barriers.

There was a recent documentary about the Magic community in Japan that really encapsulates the friendly vibe you get playing the game there. It is well worth a watch:

Something that I had to learn when playing the game with Japanese cards was to recognise certain important keywords.

When a new set comes out there are unique terms that often can’t translate as smoothly as one would like, so it is necessary to learn them specifically – but very rewarding when you do, and through that gain a deeper insight into Japanese Kanji.

The next Magic set that comes out is Ixalan and I want to construct a comprehensive list of the Japanese language keywords associated with that set.

Today I am going to keep things incredibly simple and just give five words that are useful not only in Magic but absolutely crucial to general Japanese: the five “colours” used in the game.


“shiro”
white


“ao”
blue


“kuro”
black


“aka”
red


“midori”
green

The five above are in their most simple noun form. To make the adjective form you have to alter the noun and – perhaps unintuitively – how you do this depends on the nature of the colour. I want to come back to this aspect of Japanese colours in a later entry, because it’s really interesting (and important)!


“iro”
colour

Tomorrow we’ll look at some useful kanji I learned playing Magic – there are a few in particular that are easy to remember when you associate a particular image with them.

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