沼 - Numa - Pond 

The Chinese characters for Kabukuri-numa are “蕪栗沼”. Looking at the individual characters, (kabu) is ’turnip’, (kuri) is ’Japanese Chestnut’, and (numa) is ’bog’ or ’swamp’. Thus, Kabukuri-numa would be bog where turnips and chestnuts can be harvested. However, as Kabukuri-numa is also an inland, stagnant pool of fresh water, it could also be considered to be a ’pond’ . Thus, bogs or ponds, that is, wetlands, are areas that provide many benefits to local residents.

In Japanese, a term similar to numa, (ike) , is also used. Both terms refer to small accumulations of water and there is no clear distinction between them. From ancient times, the neighboring residents made the decision to use numa or ike. If we wanted to highlight the differences in usage, we could say that numa has the image of being far removed from human habitation, gloomy, and somewhat creepy. Ike has the image of being located nearby, appealing and an important resource for daily life. In the case of parks, temples, shrines and house yards, the bodies of water are artificially created and are thus usually referred to as ike. Bodies of water that are greater in area than (numa) or (ike) are referred to as (Mizuumi), or ’lake’ in English.

There are many place names that include (numa) or (ike) Some examples in the Tokyo area are Tsudanuma 津田沼, Inbanuma 印旛沼, Tameike-sanno 溜池山王 (Located in the Tokyo central business district) and Ikebukuro 池袋 (A major business and entertainment center that boasts Tokyo’s 3rd busiest train station). Numa and ike are also often used in Japanese surnames. Two examples are 沼田 (Numata) and 小池 (Koike).

氵(sanzui), the radical (root of Chinese characters)* that appears on the left side of (numa), means ‘water’ and appears in a variety of Chinese characters related to water such as 江 (kou: river) , 海 (umi: sea, ocean), 浜 (hama: beach, shore), 浦 (ura: bay) and 港 (kou: harbor).

* The radicals in Chinese characters have a similar function to Greek and Latin roots. They usually have the same meaning in the words in which they appear.

Takayuki Musha