0

You often see hiragana ゆ in bathhouses, and after reading this answer, I think I understand why. I have noticed hiragana nu ぬ at festivals on banners, and wondered what do these characters represent in that context?

Is there a term for seeing these characters in these places? Are there some other noteworthy examples of a hiragana character being used as shorthand for a point of interest?

  • 1
    Was ぬ everything on the banner? I have no idea what it could mean. Do you have a photo? – naruto May 16 at 1:08
  • Could it be that 「め」 in the samples like this? google.com/… – Mitsutoshi Watanabe May 16 at 7:41
  • I think it was me, 「め」, now I'm curious what that means as well. These shorthands are what I'd like to learn with this question. – FoxDeploy May 16 at 16:27
2

If it was not ぬ but め, it refers to firefighters in the Edo period. This め is originally just a code name of a certain firefighting team, somewhat akin to Alpha/Beta/Delta (Team) used in English-speaking military.

Fires in Edo

Forty-eight groups were formed to the west of the Sumida River. All of them except four were designated using single hiragana letters and thus were collectively referred to as the iroha 48 gumi (いろは 48 組, "48 alphabetical groups").

め組【ぐみ】, which just means "め-group", has become the subject of many fictional stories after the Edo period. For example, see 暴れん坊将軍. The hiragana め has become somewhat like a nationally-known symbol of traditional Japanese firefighters.

Are there some other noteworthy examples of a hiragana character being used as shorthand for a point of interest?

ゆ and め are not "shorthands". ゆ on its own means "hot water", and め is just a code letter. There are not many similar examples, either. Perhaps many Japanese people know Hisaya Daikokudo's unique ぢ ("hemorrhoid") ad.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.