Point of interest: Suhama-Shaped

299 words
For more on this topic, see the 浜 essay in the Joy o' Kanji essay collection.
Consider this word:
Most common form: 洲浜
1. sandy beach; sandbar that projects into the ocean, particularly in a wavy form
2. designs and objects with a wavy pattern
(click the word to view an additional 1 reading, 1 meaning and 1 form, examples and links)
The meaning is clear from the breakdown of the second kanji form, 洲浜, 'sandbar + beach' (click the word's green box to view all forms), which is how people used to write this word. However, 洲 is non-Jōyō, so the Japanese today tend to write this word as 州浜, which breaks down nonsensically as 'state + beach'. As a result of this usage, 州 has now acquired the secondary meaning of sandbank.
The first definition of 州浜 relates quite literally to beaches—or more precisely to the sandbars jutting out from beaches.
As you can see from the second definition of 州浜 (“designs and objects with a wavy pattern”), the Japanese describe certain types of curves by using the border between land and sea as a reference point.
I would have expected the curves in “suhama” designs to be serpentine, but that’s not the case. For instance, the term applies to a gravel garden raked in rainbow formations, a family crest that looks like an upside-down Mickey Mouse, and a dish that resembles a dog bowl.
The term 州浜 is also at the root of this word, which breaks down as 'designs and objects with a wavy pattern (first two kanji) + table':
low, decorative table adorned with wavy shapes
(click the word for examples and links)
People often decorated these tables with flowers, bird motifs, and so on. In the Heian period (794–1185), the Japanese used the tables for auspicious occasions. In later eras, people displayed dishes on these tables on wedding days or on New Year’s Day.
In the past, the Japanese also made tables with suhama shapes to symbolize an imaginary island inhabited by
, immortal creatures. Because of the connection between the suhama shape and 仙人, some families even developed crests with suhama shapes, hoping that this would confer on them some kind of immortality.

Kanji used in this point of interest

ス    sandbank   
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ヒン   はま seashore, sands   
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シュウ    state, province, county   す sandbank   
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セン    hermit   
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ジン   ニン   ひと person   
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