Turning 100 years old is indeed a great achievement. Not only can we appreciate and look up to those who seem to follow the correct path to a ripe old age, but it’s always a shining example of how far we have come as a people to extend our lives so much over the years.
And so, it’s with great honor and reverence that we here at RocketNews24 would like to wish a happy belated birthday to Ms… erm… Mxy…zptlk Sugahara!
Apparently we weren’t alone in not being able to read this woman’s name. Netizens came out in droves shrugging their shoulders and figuring a cockroach got into the printing press. A chosen few however, scolded their peers for not being cultured enough to decipher it.
The woman’s last name “Sugahara” (菅原) was easy enough to understand. Her given name though, caused people to ask “Is it Korean?” and “I can’t read it. How were they able to print those characters?”
The second character, as many readers correctly assumed was an old variation of “mi” (美) the kanji for “beautiful” and a popular affix for women’s names. One commenter actually managed to track down the character codes for it.
The first character was a little harder for people to understand. Some thought it might have been an alien language. Others suggested it was a kirakira name which refers to the popular trend of giving children highly unusual names based on traditional kanji such as “Tomoroh” (明日).
But this would be the opposite case as, rather than an unusual interpretation, the symbol itself is hard to read. That and the fact that this woman was born a century before this fad got into full-swing. Before the head-scratching got too intense, some more learned netizens were eager to point out that this character was hentaigana.
Not to be confused with the homophone hentai as in “pervert,” hentaigana means an “alternative kana” or different way of writing existing letters. The characters in hentaigana have largely fallen by the wayside but can sometimes be seen in places such as restaurant signs.
In the case of this centenarian’s name, it’s a now-defunct way of writing “to” and derived from the kanji (登) which means “climb.” Someone managed to track down the font information for this one too.
Indeed Japanese is a deep language full of confusing surprises. I cæn’t imagine what English would be like if long forgotten letters were randomly mixed in like that. Anyway, with that mystery solved we’d now like to properly wish an even more belated 100th birthday to Ms. Tomi Sugahara! May you freak people out with your name for many, many more years to come!
Source: Nikita Sokuhou (Japanese)
▼ And here’s a whole island of misfit letters in case you’d like to spell your own name in obsolete Japanese.