あお/みどり Go, the traffic light is blue!?

As you may or may not know the Japanese drive on the left side like in England.

One common thing though that you might hear is Go, the “traffic light is blue!” Blue you may ask, what gives? It’s not that the light is even blue, it’s actually green. But in Japanese green みどり(midori) is consider to be a type of blue あお(ao). In ancient Japan their were four main colors to describe things; red, black, white, and blue. Red was to describe thing that were bright and blue for the opposite, pale or faint. The word for green wasn’t in existence in Japanese till the Heian Period(794-1185AC) and still then it was considered a shade of blue. It was only after WWII that the word for green みどり(midori) was used more often.

Not only is the traffic light called blue, also a few other things that are green kept the tradition of blue あお(ao). A green apple is consider a blue apple あおりんご(ao ringo) and green leafy vegetables are considered blue あおな(ao na). Spring trees are あおば(ao ba) meaning youth or newness. Though many modern day things keep to the word for green, like a green car or a green sweater.

Also if you ask what color the sun is they will say red. Also a baby is called あかちゃん(akachan) since they are red at birth. Red is an auspicious color. Another one is that the moon is yellow. いろ(Iro) means color and いろいろ(iroiro) is various.

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