Photo: Twitter/@YokotaAirBase
lifestyle

The hidden meaning of the U.S. Air Force’s 'shake and fries' patch in Japan

15 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

For newly arrived foreigners in Japan, navigating the country can be a challenge. Even once you get over the difficulty of remembering place names themselves in a language unfamiliar to you, there’s still the matter of remembering the kanji characters they’re written with.

If you don’t already have a background in Japanese linguistics, oftentimes it’s helpful to remember/recognize kanji by associating them with a picture of some kind. An example was recently shared by the U.S. Air Force’s official Twitter account for Yokota Air Base.

▼ “Quiz: This morale patch reminds Yokota Air Base personnel of a two-kanji name place that they often see. What is it?”

Screen-Shot-2022-09-11-at-11.51.14.png

Yep, that’s a fast-food beverage cup and container of French fries, not some sort of military ordinance. And no, they’re not stand-ins for “Yokota” (which is written in kanji as 横田), though they are representing the name of somewhere near the base in western Tokyo. Any guesses?

The answer is…

Screen-Shot-2022-09-11-at-11.52.06.png

…Tachikawa!

Unlike some kanji, the characters for Tachikawa, 立川, are pretty straightforward. The first, 立, means “stand” or “rise,” and is meant to be a picture of a man standing on the ground. The second, 川, means “river,” and shows flowing currents of water. Both of those visual renderings are a little on the abstract side, though, and to some of the non-linguistically trained eyes at Yokota Air Base, they look closer to a milk shake and an order of fries.

As to why it’s important for those stationed at Yokota to be able to recognize the kanji for Tachikawa ASAP, Tachikawa Station is the closest major rail hub to the base, and often the station where you’ll need to transfer if you’re heading into downtown Tokyo from Yokota or on your way home, so being able to spot the “shake and fries” is a necessary life skill.

Obviously, native Japanese speakers/readers don’t need this mnemonic device, but Japanese Twitter commenters were all smiles after learning about it.

“What a fun way of thinking! I’d never forget this!”

“Smart idea to be able to recognize them right away.”

“Haha it totally looks like a shake and fries to me now.”

“Please, somebody, make stickers of this!”

“I’d heard that kanji look like pictures to people who don’t read Japanese. Turns out it’s true!”

“That’s really funny and clever.”

“Useful idea!”

“Oh wow, I just saw one of those patches yesterday! So that’s what it was.”

Morale patches, by the way, aren’t official uniform components, and are instead optional gear accents, so you won’t see each and every person stationed at Yokota sporting one. In recent years it’s also become increasingly common for rail networks to list the names of stations on platforms and transfer signs in both kanji and the English/Latin alphabet, so the food-and-drink association isn’t quite as critical as it once was. Yokota’s tweet says that the “shake and fries” technique is one that base personnel have been using since long ago, though, and it lives on as a sign of comradery among those in the know.

Source: Twitter/@YokotaAirBase

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© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

15 Comments
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Dumbing down for the people trained in using expensive and highly machinery. Absurd.

-12 ( +6 / -18 )

*highly sophisticated

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

I thought McDonald's retired Ronald McDonald.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Dumbing down for the people trained in using expensive and highly machinery. Absurd.

Good thing you weren’t around when bomber crews painted pinup models on their planes and field manuals were in comic book form, featuring “Buxom Betty.”

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Good thing you weren’t around when bomber crews painted pinup models on their planes and field manuals were in comic book form, featuring “Buxom Betty.”

Let me explain and maybe you'll come round to my way of thinking.

Did Buxom Betty replace learning two very simple kanji (立 and 川)?

From the article

why it’s important for those stationed at Yokota to be able to recognize the kanji for Tachikawa ASAP, Tachikawa Station is the closest major rail hub to the base, and often the station where you’ll need to transfer if you’re heading into downtown Tokyo from Yokota or on your way home, so being able to spot the “shake and fries” is a necessary life skill.

Kanji that are so important they have to make cartoons of daily objects (shake and fries) out of them so the people in charge of the expensive, dangerous and highly sophisticated weapons could remember them when they went off base?

Nice patches, cute story but the reason for them us just dumb.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

For a second, I thought that was the ID patch for ex-President Trump's security detail. Then I remembered that his was ketchup packets. Not patches. Just actual ketchup packets pinned to their jackets.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Elvis, when you are in the military you are sent abroad to utterly unfamiliar places with languages and alphabets you have never before encountered and expected to get along there. Unless your job requires a specific language skill there is no language training before you are sent abroad. You go from some stateside posting to Japan, or maybe from Germany or UAE to Japan. That fellow in the photo is a mid career officer, an Captain, and it appears he has wings on his flight suit. He will have a university degree and years of training behind him to get those wings. It is like my own dear wife who is an accomplished electrical engineer but she came from China and speaks what can charitably be called Engrish. I have to help her a lot. No reflection on her intelligence. English is a hard language to learn and Japanese is considered to be one of the most difficult. You also have to understand military humor. Stuff like that is funny and builds camaraderie.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Thank you Dessert Tortoise. I see your point of view.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I thought McDonald's retired Ronald McDonald.

His name is actually Donald McDonald in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A friend once called his then fiancée to say he was lost in central Tokyo.

He stopped a passerby to read the name of the location for him from the map he was pointing to:

Genzaichi.

His beloved, used to his dimwittedness, asked what characters he could see closest to him on the map.

Three boxes and three lines

came the reply.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Now if US service people could figure out how to pronounce Yokosuka correctly, that would be a miracle.

Where are you stationed? At Yokuska!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Now if US service people could figure out how to pronounce Yokosuka correctly, that would be a miracle.

Where are you stationed? At Yokuska!

Ok, I'm not being snarky or sarcastic here. Ex Pacific Fleet sailor, well Navy pilot, so guilty as charged! How do you pronounce it? I am going to throw one other name I have probably been butchering all these years, Matsushita as in Matsushita Electric. I have long thought it was pronounced like "mat-SHOOS-ta". I try to pronounce the names of places and people correctly out of respect but as I mentioned Japanese is a tough language for the western tongue.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I think it's illegal to add any sign or patch to a military uniform not issued by the military.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think it's illegal to add any sign or patch to a military uniform not issued by the military.

In the US military, yes and no.

The Marine Corps have no unit patches, and rank and skill badges are metal pins.

The US Army (from what I’ve observed) is more lenient to morale and humorous patches and badges.

Of course no service person would wear these in an official function, but in the field, whatever the 1LT tolerates is good to go.

From what I’ve seen from my experience working with the SDF, they have all sorts of patches. Some official and some not, and their patches were a pretty hot trade item with US troops.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

garypenSep. 14  10:50 am JST

For a second, I thought that was the ID patch for ex-President Trump's security detail. Then I remembered that his was ketchup packets. Not patches. Just actual ketchup packets pinned to their jackets.

Please don't bring up that unamerican disgrace.

> Desert TortoiseSep. 14  11:10 am JST

Elvis, when you are in the military you are sent abroad to utterly unfamiliar places with languages and alphabets you have never before encountered and expected to get along there. Unless your job requires a specific language skill there is no language training before you are sent abroad. You go from some stateside posting to Japan, or maybe from Germany or UAE to Japan. That fellow in the photo is a mid career officer, an Captain, and it appears he has wings on his flight suit. He will have a university degree and years of training behind him to get those wings. It is like my own dear wife who is an accomplished electrical engineer but she came from China and speaks what can charitably be called Engrish. I have to help her a lot. No reflection on her intelligence. English is a hard language to learn and Japanese is considered to be one of the most difficult. You also have to understand military humor. Stuff like that is funny and builds camaraderie.

I know some veterans who go overseas to Japan, Korea, Germany and lately the Middle East. They do learn some of the language, but the writing systems can be (and often are) pretty complicated. I've been told that since Arabic has a true alphabet, it's not really that difficult to learn. Korean the same way. For some 'newer' jobs such as the cyberwar field, you have to write programs that will act as viruses and trojan horses on enemy computers. That means learning the languages themselves (AND their writing) as well as the computer coding 'languages' they use; syntax and all.

For US personnel who don't need to know these 'exotic' languages so intensely, stuff like this can be a good help in getting around.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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