So the title of the book is in the top right corner, the four characters written from top to bottom. There are actually three words there. But wait, you say, how can that be? There’s no spacing or anything to denote different words!
Well, remember how I mentioned that Japanese has not one, not two, but three alphabets? Well, this friggin’ title uses every single one of them. Every word is in a different alphabet.
The first word is:
This is katakana, the phonetic Japanese alphabet typically used for names, especially names of foreign origin. The first character, “キ”, is “ki”, pronounced “kee”. The second character, “ノ”, is pronounced “no”. So this is “Kino” — someone’s name.
The second word is in the hiragana alphabet, which is the phonetic alphabet used for native Japanese words and concepts that aren’t expressed in other alphabets:
Which is pronounced “no”. It is a “particle”, used as a possessive in this sentence, like ‘de’ in Spanish except with the word order reversed (it’d be Viaje de Kino en español).
The third word is:
This is kanji, and blatantly stolen from Chinese (it means the same thing in written Chinese). This one symbol is the word “Tabi” (pronounced “tah-bee”), or Journey. The ‘no’ preceding it means that it belongs to Kino.
So the four Japanese characters of the title of the book,
is, translated to English, “Kino’s Journey”. If you were speaking Japanese, you’d say “kee-no no tah-bee”. The Kanji being the hard one there — that’s a complicated friggin’ mess and a quick glance at a Kanji list did *not* turn it up, I had to poke it into Google Translate and then backport the word ‘Journey’ to Japanese via an English-to-Japanese dictionary to get the Japanese pronunciation.
No bloody spaces. Three friggin alphabets. What a language. Sigh!
– Badtux the Monolingual Penguin