Skip to content

I am a terrible kanji student – but let me tell you about OTHER people’s faults.

I am a terrible kanji student – but let me tell you about OTHER people’s faults. published on

In this post, I mutter about poor graphic design decisions to downplay my own laziness in kanji study.

For a while my mail wasn’t showing up. I got it fixed, but I only figured out why it had happened today. It’s 95% due to my own genius, but I can at least put the other 5% on my apartment complex.

They send you this notice when someone moves out of the apartment next door, to tell you what days it’s going to be cleaned, because the cleaning is noisy.

The Shibata post office sends you a notice, when the apartment you’re in has recently changed hands, asking you to confirm who you are and that you are, in fact, living there.

These two notices are nearly identical. The typeface are the same, boldface and underlines are used in the same places, the dates at the top are formatted the same way. The font size varies in the same places. The borders are different – the complex’s is dotted and slightly thicker than the other one – and the paper’s a different size and thickness, but that’s about it. They both have big strings of kanji across the top that I don’t immediately recognize except for “shirase.”

I got two or three of the cleaning notices from the complex before I got my first notice from the post office. Now, if I weren’t a lazy idiot about studying kanji that show up in bureaucratic contexts, I would have noticed the two forms had different strings of kanji at the top, and taken the time to get out the kanji dictionary translate the one from the post office. As it is, I’m a lazy idiot – I saw a big string of kanji I didn’t know at the top of a form that looked like one I’d read through before and marked as unimportant, and didn’t look any further.

But I still think it’s really stupid of the apartment complex to make their Unimportant Notice form look so much like an Important Notice form from the post office. They know what the post office’s form looks like – when no one is living in an apartment, they receive the form and contact the post office to say, “Yup, no one there.” This seems like a pretty basic design thing to me.

(My confusion here was compounded by the fact that people from the complex dump a bunch of junk mail in vaguely official-looking envelopes in my mailbox every week or so, which meant I didn’t immediately notice that my real mail (as in, my water bill) wasn’t showing up. But again, that’s my own fault for not distinguishing between Mail-With-My-Address on it, which the post office handles, and ads without an address, which people stuff in your box. The school’s had me post ads myself, and I’ve seen the big horns of them sticking out of vacant apartments’ mail slots, so I know the post office has nothing to do with that.)

So, mostly my fault, but I’m still irritated at the complex.