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.






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)!


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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