Gaijin, he zen

変幻自在
hen.gen.ji.zai

Literally: change – illusion – self – exist

Alternately: Able to change one’s form or appearance, or appear and disappear, at will. Shapeshifting; protean; phantasmal.

Notes: This is a compound of compounds; 変幻 refers to an illusion or vision that flickers into and back out of existence, while 自在 refers to being able to act freely at will.

A close synonym is 変幻出没 (hengen shutsubotsu), replacing the “at will” part with explicit “appearing and disappearing”; compare and contrast 神出鬼没. Another synonym emphasizes the changeable nature of the thing in question: 千変万化 (senpen banka), literally “one thousand changes, ten thousand transformations.”

 
A scaly rainbow zen boi

A lot of Japanese image sites seem to feel that the chameleon is the definitive poster child for this phrase

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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