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I don't understand the Japanese language or kanji, and this might be related to that.

As Chihiro gives her name to Yubaba, she writes 4 symbols in a piece of paper. 3 then fly away and she reads the remaining symbol and calls her Sen.

What was written in those symbols, and why did Chihiro's name turn out as Sen?

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    Kanji don't just correspond to syllables. That's more or less how hanzi (the Chinese writing system) works, but kanji are a bit different. They often have multiple different readings. – sumelic Mar 19 '17 at 0:55
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    Question is still about the film only, so I am opening it. If anyone have counter argument, kindly express them on respective meta. – Ankit Sharma Mar 20 '17 at 9:36
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Answer: The remaining Kanji is what Chihiro's name will become if she was to stay in the spirit world.

First thing first, her name in Japanese is this:

「荻野千尋(おぎの ちひろ)= Ogino Chihiro」

Breaking it down,

「Last name 荻=おぎ=Ogi , 野=の=no 」

「First name 千=ち=Chi , 尋=ひろ=hiro 」

Her name does not have any meaning per se, but breaking down the Kanji, In English Chi or sen, which means 1000 in English. The second Kanji , tazuneru or hiro means to search or inquire.

And just for a bit of trivia non relating to this question, when she signs the contract she makes a mistake and sign the first kanji as this: This Kanji is not used in Japanese BTW

enter image description here

The reason for this was the longer she was to stay in the land of the dead the more she would forget about the living world, her making a mistake of her name is the first time we see her displaying this.

Onto the question about why the Kanji 「千, せん = sen」 remained. Does this mean anything? From a Japanese language point of view, no it doesn't. But, did Miyazaki Hayao want this to mean something, I don't know???

I am guessing this is what you were talking about,

enter image description here

Unfortunately this web page 千と千尋の神隠し【謎解き・解釈】~宮崎駿が伝えたかった事~ is all in Japanese and the translator does a poor job, but most of the information comes from interviews with Miyazaki Hayao

To sum it up, basically Miyazaki Hayao is saying that your name is something that defines you through out your life and as I stated earlier being that Chihiro is now in the spirit world that she starts to forget about the living world. When Yubaba takes those other kanji all that is left is 「千, せん = sen」, this is what Chihiro's name will become in the spirit world if she ends up staying there forever. So she will effectively forgot everything about her life of the living. who she was, her parents and basically everything she ever knew. Hence the reason for the other Kanji disappearing, having a symbolic message that she will lose herself in the spirit world.

And I am guesing that is why the movie is named this 「千 と 千尋 の 神隠し」 in Japanese. Emphasis on 「千尋」.

Miyazaki Hayao gives some really deep messages, unfortunately it is not easily translated into something that an English speaker, well whit a short answer like this anyway.

  • I watched a video today that mentioned most names in the movie to have literal translations. Like, Yubaba meant hot water. Does Chihiro or Sen have meanings? – BlueMoon93 Mar 19 '17 at 2:29
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    @BlueMoon93, I edited my answer abut Chihiro's name meaning. And Yubaba, does not mean hot water. It is broken down like this, Yu-baba, Yu meaning hot-spring/Bath-house in this case (Can mean hot water) and baba meaning old hag. So it means the 'Bath house hag` in a none literal translation. – KyloRen Mar 19 '17 at 5:49
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    Yubaba is a pun. There is a Russian folk tale of Yubaba, a witch. But in Japanese "Yuu" is hot water (as used in baths) and "baba" is a childish way of saying grandmother. Hence the pun. Look also at the scene when sen is "clocking in" for the first time. All the other workers have shortend names. Haku's name has also been shortened. – James K Apr 7 '17 at 21:09
  • If I'm careful with my long and short vowels: Obaasan is grandmother, Obasan is aunt, baa means old lady (without the honorifics). baaba is a childish way of referring to their grandmother see wwwjdic ばあば. The Russian witch is Yubaba, but the character in Sen is Yuubaaba. – James K Apr 8 '17 at 10:18
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    @JamesK, I should have said Yubabaa in English. – KyloRen Apr 9 '17 at 23:09
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The four symbols are Chihiro's Name, the first two are her family name, the second two are her given name: "Chihiro". The symbols are "Chinese characters" since Japanese uses the writing system of China (much as English uses the writing system of the Romans)

Chinese characters often have several pronunciations in Japanese. The context is important in knowing how to read a Chinese character. The character 千 (meaning "thousand") is pronounced "sen" on its own, but "chi" as part of the name "千尋" Chihiro. Learning how to read kanji in context is one of the challenges of reading Japanese.

When a person asks Yubaaba for work she is compelled to offer them a job but controls them by stealing their name. When the Kohaku river was redirected to culverts and sewers, the god of the river, having nowhere else to go, came to Yubaaba and asked to become her apprentice. She stole his full name "Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi", and he became Haku, and subject to her will. She tries to steal Chihiro's name, but fails as Chihiro has the goodbye card from her old school friend.

There is a scene, on Sen's first day at work, when she has to turn her name tag over, to show she is present for work. You can see the other names that workers have. Some are single Chinese characters. A tall humanoid woman behind Sen turns over the tag lablled "口" (kuchi) meaning "mouth". She must have also had her full name stolen. On the other hand, "Rin" has her name written phonetically, as "リン".

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