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Hi I am a complete ignoramus as far as Japanese language is concerned. Please forgive me my silly question: Can you create the word YAMA DO - the way of the mountain, like the word KARATE DO - the way of karate? Thank you. Tom

  • 山道 The "do" is actually "dou" which indicates that it is a long "o" sound. – G-Cam Sep 3 '18 at 21:20
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    「山道」 is read 「さんどう(sandou)」 or 「やまみち(yamamichi)」 – Chocolate Sep 4 '18 at 2:27
  • Depending on why you are asking this question you might be interested in Shugendou. If you're creating "Yamadou" for a character maybe you could draw some inspiration from Shugendou for how they practice their way of life? – Nadya Sep 4 '18 at 14:07
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Creating words in Japanese, especially in anime and manga, is not all that uncommon - so in the abstract I think this is a reasonable thing to try and do. However, let's talk about the specific word you want to create here.

The DO in your KARATE DO , a kanji which can mean "way" or "road". It's used in a number of Japanese martial arts, such as 空手道 , 弓道、or 剣道 to mean "way". Note that if we are looking at kanji meanings here, karatedō is literally "way of the empty hand".

The other relevant kanji here is , which just means mountain.

Now, we can just put these two characters together for

山道{やまみち}

but there's a problem - this word already exists, and it doesn't mean what you want it to. 山道 is read as yamamichi and means "mountain road" in the very literal sense. *

That said, there is plenty of precedent for words in Japanese that have multiple readings corresponding to different meanings. See 大家, , and 生物, among many others.

Consequently, I think you could create a word

山道{やまどう}

as long as it was very clear to your readers that you intended for them to read it yamadō, and that it referred to whatever you wanted it to mean, and not a mountain road. You would likely need to provide furigana, and/or use the word in some context that made it very obvious what you were talking about.

In short, you can do this, but you would need to do it in such a way that makes it obvious to readers that you are trying to convey something specific and not "mountain road". If you just try and use the word in speech, native speakers will likely either not understand or assume that you are are incorrectly pronouncing 山道{やまみち} unless you explain your intent.

* If you are wondering why 山道 is yamamichi instead of yamadō, you can read more about multiple kanji readings here as well as all over the internet. A full explanation of kanji readings is beyond the scope of this answer.

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