When white people have asked me (sorry, they’ve all been white people, no Asians, Latinos or Africans) what their tattoo means, I’ve half-jokingly told them “It means ‘I’m a dumbshit.’” or something to that effect. No one I know would ask me that, because they would know that I DON’T READ KANJI.
It’s like when non-Japanese people come up to me and introduce themselves by saying something in Japanese. I know only a little conversational Japanese….
Any Japanese person could tell at a glance that I’m Japanese American, not Japanese, and would not assume I could speak the language.
But that’s another blog post….
UPDATE: A reader, Linguarum, posted a link in the comments below to a site that actually goes to the trouble of translating Kanji tattoos off photos that people have submitted. The site is Hanzi Smatter and it’s a hoot.