What from Iwo Jima?

Poster of Letters from Iwo Jima

I just watched Letters from Iwo Jima. I thought it was a really good movie. Quite a bit different than (and in my opinion better) than Flags of Our Fathers and definitely worth renting if you get the chance. It’s currently the 141st best movie on IMDB and there’s many reviews out there so I’ll leave the review at that but I did want to point out a couple things I found funny (one fishy, one comical).

One thing that bugged me was that the part of Saigo, the guy who just wants to go home, seemed to be written for an older man and the actor they picked looked quite young (in fact he’s currently only 24). In the special features, the commentators were even talking about how he was being drafted late in the war because he was old. In any case, he did do a good job acting so it’s only a minor nitpick.

Anyway, what I found amusing is that the title in Japanese is 硫黄島からの手紙 (you can see it in the poster to the left) with “硫黄島” meaning Iwo Jima (sulfur island) and “手紙” meaning letters. The word for letters is made up of hand (手 – kind of looks like a hand with the fingers to the right or maybe the 5 points are fingers) and paper (紙 – this ones not quite as clear, the left bit means thread and I suppose the right part could look like a sheet of paper). That kind of makes sense since letters are paper with hand writing on them. Anyway the funny part is that the complex characters of Japanese can also be read by Chinese speakers but sometimes with shifted meaning. In this case, Chinese has a quite different meaning for the combination of hand and paper: bathroom tissue. Somehow ‘Toilet Paper from Iwo Jima’ just doesn’t have the same ring.

Thanks to Xiaofen for the Chinese translation