Actually, if you live in Japan, you probably know some of street names or bridge names in your town. If you live in central Tokyo, you likely have heard “Meiji dori”, “Aoyama dori” or “Nihon bashi”. And when you make your own sentences, you might say, “kono dori o migi ni magaru.” (Turn right on this street.) or “ano bashi o watarou.” (Let’s cross that bridge.) In fact, they are not right.
- street, road: toori (Not “dori”)
- bridge: hashi (Not “bashi”)
“kono tori o migi ni magaru” and “ano hashi o watarou”
When a proper noun is put in front of “tori” or “hashi”, the pronunciation of their kanji changes to “meiji dori” or “nihon bashi”.
Let’s have a look at other examples like this.
1. When a word is preceded by a proper noun, the first letter of the word takes on voiced consonant marks. (There are exceptions to this rule.)
- saka → zaka [example: Fujimi zaka]
- kawa → gawa [example: Sumida gawa]
- yama → san [example: Fuji san]
- mizuumi → ko [example: Yamanaka ko]
- shiro → jo [example: Osaka jo]
Moreover, Many non-Japanese have an interesting understanding of Mt. Fuji (Fuji san). The san in Fuji san is the Chinese pronunciation of 山(yama), but those who don’t know kanji sometimes confuse that san with the san that we put after someone’s name. Sometimes they say, “Fuji san is an important mountain to Japanese, so you call it Fuji san to pay it respect, don’t you?” But, this is not the reason.
Incidentally, why is the big park in Shinjuku, Tokyo called “Shinjuku gyoen”, not “koen”? It is because this place was an imperial property during the Meiji period and “gyoen” means an “imperial park/garden”.