Risuko in katakana

Seasons of the Sword — Glossary

Risuko - Drawing the Sword
Read the opening chapters of Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale

What follows is a glossary of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese words and phrases that occur in Risuko and Bright Eyes. (There’s even some Portuguese and a bit of Sanskrit!) If you have questions about any of these translations or about any words you’ve encountered in the books, please let us know either in the comments below or by email!

The straight line over some vowels (for example, ō or ā) is called a macron. It indicates that the vowel should be given a longer sound.


-chan—child

-ko—ending meaning that the word is a girl’s name or nickname

sama—my lady or lord (honorific)

san—sir or ma’am (honorific)

senpai—senior student (honorific)

Ai, minha cabeca! (Portuguese)—Oh, my head!

Amor é um fogo que arde sem se ver, é ferida que doi, e não se sente.
(Portuguese)—“Love is a fire that burns unseen, a wound that aches yet isn’t felt.”—Luis de Camões

baesinja (Korean)—traitor

baka, baka yarō—idiot, complete idiot (offensive)

baka ama—stupid woman (offensive)

bakufu—the military government headed by the shōgun

Benten—Buddhist deity of beauty and art (also known as Benzaiten)

Bishamon—Buddhist deity of strength and war

busu—ugly person, usually used for women (offensive)

byeong-shin (Korean)—idiot (offensive)

che—interjection (not particularly offensive)

daikon—a large, white, mild radish

daimyo—lord (roughly equivalent to an English duke or earl)

dōmo arigatō—thank you very much

genmaicha—green tea flavored with toasted rice

go—a Chinese game of strategy

—actions (in Buddhism, karma: the spiritual weight of your actions or karma determines your next life)

hai—yes

hanyak (Korean)—herbal medicine

hiragana—phonetic script used for Japanese words for which there are no kanji

ichi—the number one

jinmaku—circular, curtained enclosure used in military camps

Jizō-bosatsu—the Buddhist saint (boddhisatva) of lost children; he is often portrayed with a blank face and large sleeves in which he protects the children

kami—spirit or god; Shintō tradition says there are eight million, but that figure is meant simply to suggest “beyond number”

kanji—Chinese ideograms; over three thousand of these non-phonetic characters are widely used in Japanese writing

karma—In Buddhism and Hinduism, the sum or weight of one’s actions, which determines one’s next life

katakana—rounded phonetic script used for most foreign words and for emphasis (similar to italics in English)

katana—a samurai’s long, curved sword

kimchee (Korean)—pickled cabbage, often spicy

kudzu—Arrowroot, a fast-growing vine

kitsune—a mischievous nine-tailed fox spirit

koshukin—gold coin, worth fifty silver monme or about 1000lbs
(450 kg) of rice, enough to feed four people for a year

koto—a long, plucked, stringed musical instrument, like a zither

ku or kyu—the number nine

kumiho (Korean)—mischievous fox spirit (similar to a kitsune)

kunoichi—“nine in one”; a special kind of woman trained as an assassin, bodyguard, or spy

Kwan-um (Korean)—the Buddhist saint (boddhisatva) of mercy and beauty; called Kwan-yin in China and Kannon in Japan

Mãe de Deus (Portuguese)—interjection meaning “Mother of God”

miko—shrine maidens; young women who assist at Shintō festivals and ceremonies

mizutaki—a hot-pot dish made with fish, chicken, or some other meat

Mochizuki—“Full Moon”; the clan of Lady Chiyome’s late husband

mogusa—mugwort; formed into pellets and burned (with the lit end away from the flesh) as a stimulant and as a way to celebrate children’s aging during the New Year festival

mon—the emblem of a noble house (like the European coat of arms)

monme—silver coin worth approximately twenty pounds (9 kg) of rice

Mukashi, mukashi—“Long, long ago” (traditional beginning to Japanese folktales, similar to “Once upon a time”)

nattō—fermented beans

no—preposition meaning of, in, or from

oni—ogre, monster

Okā-san—Mother

opa (Portuguese)—oops

Otō-san—Father

Risuko—Squirrel (a girl’s name or nickname)

samisen—a long-necked, five-stringed instrument, similar to a guitar or banjo

senhora (Portuguese)—my lady, ma’am

sensei or -sensei—teacher (honorific)

seppuku—ritual suicide (also called hara-kiri)

shi-de—Paper streamers, usually cut in a zigzag shape, for use in Shintō rituals

Shi-ne—Die! Drop dead!

Shintō—the native religion of Japan; Shintō believes that there are many gods or spirits (kami) inhabiting different parts of the natural world and is frequently practiced side by side with Buddhism

shakuhachi—a long flute carved from bamboo

shōgun—the emperor’s warlord

shoyu—soy sauce

soondae (Korean)—blood sausages

tatami—a straw mat that is traditionally used to cover floors in Japan

torī—a large arch or gateway usually found at Shintō shrines or temples

wakizashi—a samurai’s short sword; traditionally used for defense and for committing ritual suicide (hara-kiri or seppuku)

Wihayeo (Korean)—Cheers!

yang (Chinese)—the male force

yin (Chinese)—the female force

Risuko - Drawing the Sword
Read the opening chapters of Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale

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