Funny Kanji 01: Unreasonable!

Long time scholars of kanji know that there’s nothing more frustrating than having to memorize an arbitrary combination of characters that make absolutely no sense. Atsugiri Jason, one such comedian, points out all too well in his comedy pieces that sometimes, even if you think really very hard about it… it still doesn’t make sense no matter how hard you try.

So what’s a foreign language learner to do in a pinch? As I suggested to my own kids recently: you just gotta wing it and come up with something funny to help yourself because sometimes that’s just the best you can do.

And so, I bring you, dear readers, to the funniest kanji I’ve yet encountered in my three years learning Japanese. That lovely kanji combination is non other than:


Literally comprised of the kanji for ‘nothing’ and ‘tea’, when paired together the word means ‘UNREASONABLE’. A quite literal reading would thus render it as ‘NO TEA’.

They were so unreasonable they didn’t even have tea to offer!

Tea in Japan is what water or mineral water is to all others on the planet: it’s life’s blood and the drink of warriors. Spring? Then it’s tea made of sakura petals for you. Summer? There’s mugicha for that. You want something salty and not bitter? No problem; they’ve mastered the art of turning even konbu seaweed into tea. You got a really traditional party or company meeting coming up? Green tea. You’re feeling western today? There’s black tea from Europe. I feel as if, you’re more likely to get tea than water at the restaurants here, although this could be just where I’m living and what I’ve experienced so far, it’s practically complimentary. Though I’ve also gotten water served so if tea isn’t your cup of tea… well there’s water.

So, it makes sense why not even having tea to offer someone is unreasonable, it’s just really funny to think about as an American.


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