Introduction III

Japanese characters meaning

Previous entry This Album Refs Global N&C Refs Songs Index Next entry

  This is directly from the old dusty pre-www era file when called A.F.F.-Z. Main FAQ. As was put together by then maintainer Rob Sweet
  Q16. What is the Japanese text on the cover of "Zoot Allures" ?
A16. From: (Dennis Guertin)
  Back when ZOOT ALLLURES came out I was working in an engineering department, which had a Japanese exchange engineer posted to Canada. I brought the album in to ask him and the converstaion went something like this:
  "Yoshi, what's this say?"
  "What do you mean "nothing"?"
  "I mean it doesn't mean anything?"
  "Do you mean you can't read it?"
  "No, I can read it."
  "Well, what's it say?"
  "Yoshi, can you read this or not?"
  "I can read it."
  By this point I finally figured out that he meant since the meaning was not decipherable to him, it meant nothing to him.
  "Yoshi, say what this says."
  "I don't know what it means. It says "Frank Zappa".
  Now, I don't know if he was pulling my leg and goddamn he WAS so polite he wouldn't have said "Shit" if his mouth was full of it, but that's what he said. I assumed his thought processes were going "What's a frank zappa?". That reminds me: Anyone know the joke for which the punchline is "What's an Ali McGraw?". Been trying to remember it for a decade or two.
From: (Johannes Labisch)
  I have an old interview (from that time) at home (german translated) where Franks is asked about these signs and he says it's his name, in two different ways of writing. One of it was "Fu-ran-ku Zap-pa".
From: (Mark Erdman)
  Yeah, the five characters on the back cover are just random characters that can be read as "Furanku Zappa". It's not the way the Japanese people _really_ write his name, though. Actually, the characters for writing foreign names in Japanese are really simple, maybe 4 lines at most. The ones on the back cover are Chinese-style characters, which would usually be used to express ideas instead of sounds like the ones they write foreign languages or conjugate verbs with. I'm not sure why he put it on that cover, but I have a suspicion about how it got there. In the book I mentioned last time, Frank said that when his son, Dweezil, was a kid he used to have a Japanese friend, and would try writing things in kanji all the time. So my theory is that Dweezil did it for the album. About the thing on the front cover - I'm not skilled enough to read it, but I recognize it as a _hanko_ print. These are little seals that Japanese people register and use as their signatures when they sign bank transactions. Usually, they're just the person's name in stylized form. I have a penfriend living near Yokohama whose father is a skilled _hanko_ craftsman.
From: Noriyuki Tsunofuri <>
  The characters on the back cover can be pronounciated ``fu ran ku za ppa''. The hanko graphic on the front cover can be ``za ppa''. Those are kanji characters.
  There are three character systems in Japanese language. Two kanas, Hira-kana and Kata-kana, and Kanji. Kanas are Japanese invention and has no meaning in each character. You know ``A'' itself doesn't mean anything. It makes sense when it used with other characters. Combination. That's the same with kanas.
  But kanji is not the case. Kanji was imported from China, VERY LONG AGO (although usage and pronounciation is very different). And it does have meaning.
  Normally, in Japanese, foreign things and names are described in Kata kana. Its shape is simpler than kanji. I think that is what Mark Erdman says.
  Sometimes western people use kanji. I understand they want to have an ``oriental feel''. That's good but, as I've said, each Kanji has meaning so maybe they should be careful about the selection of character. Otherwise, it might give wrong impression.
  For example, the characters on the front cover of ``Zoot Allures'' mean ``miscellaneous leaves''. Some say it's inappropriate word which stands for ZAPPA because it reminds of drugs. We all know FZ was strictly against any kind of drugs.
  The back cover ones mean ``no-frantic-pain miscellaneous school''. (this school is not the school of medecine or law. The impressionist school, the Stoic school. That school.) That's better, I think.
  But basically, these character was chosen in accordance with pronouciation. So it's grammatically incorrect and as a sentence, it means nothing.
  Regarding the origin: the Mothers did concert tour in Japan, early 1976. It was the last tour as ``The Mothers'' and only Japanese tour of FZ. The Mothers performed once in Kyoto University, and hanko and name-plate were presented to FZ from student committee. FZ used the hanko on the front and words of the name-plate on the back cover. (according to the liner notes of MSI's edition of ``Zoot Allures'')
  FZ must be impressed people of Kyoto. They welcomed FZ in various unusual way. FZ performed superbly and the Kyoto concert became legendary among Japanese fan.
From: Vladimir Sovetov
  Heh. Yep! These islanders were so impressed by FZ that litterally bootlegged all four 1976 japanese shows
  Anyway. For more kanji stuff check out TINSEL TOWN REBELLION. Introduction II (Barking Pumpkin logo)

Previous entry This Album Refs Global N&C Refs Songs Index Next entry

SOVA NOSE Any proposal? I'd like to hear!
Provocation, compilation and design © Vladimir Sovetov, 1994-2004
You could download, copy and redistribute this material freely as long as you keep copyright notice intact and don't make any profite on it.