The Kanshudo Blog

How to read Japanese kanji

Posted: 2019-01-20 | Tags: studyaids kanji readings
Kanji readings whitebg
Ever since we started Kanshudo a few years ago, one of the most consistently requested features has been for help answering questions like this:
  • Which kanji readings should I learn?
  • Which kanji readings are actually important?
  • When a kanji has several readings, how do I know which one to use?
We're delighted to let you know Kanshudo now has the answers! Today we're announcing three major new features: together, they will give you all you need to know to understand how to read kanji.

A comprehensive step by step 'how to' guide: 'Kanshudo's guide to reading Japanese kanji'

Our new guide is a practical step-by-step introduction to kanji readings, with many examples, and simple rules of thumb for determining how to read any word you encounter.

Detailed data for each Jōyō kanji on how important each reading is

We have analyzed every common word for every Jōyō kanji, and created a comprehensive assessment of how useful each reading of each kanji is.
Now, whenever you click on a kanji to get the 'quick view', you will see a summary of usage of each reading.
Plus, you can click through to the kanji's details page, where you'll see a summary of all readings used in all words in Japanese!
To check this out, run a search for a kanji. In the search results, click the blue box to get the quick details, and you'll see the usage summary. For example, try:

Ability to search for words that use a specific reading of a kanji

You can now search for all words that use a specific reading of a kanji. Our new search syntax even lets you search for different variations of the same reading separately.
To use this function, enter a search of the form kanji:reading. For example, try this search for all words that use 本 with reading ほん: 本:ほん
Together, these new tools let you quickly find the most useful words for any reading, so you can get a sense of how important that reading is, and determine how important it is for you to learn.

Change component list
By default the component builder shows the most common components (themselves joyo kanji, or used in at least 3 other joyo kanji). Select an alternative set of components below.

Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Help with the component builder
For detailed instructions, see the Component builder how to guide.
To find any kanji, first try to identify the components it is made up of.
For any components you recognize, if you know the English meaning or name, start typing it in the text area. Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Alternatively, count the strokes of the component, and scan the list to find it visually.
To find the kanji :
  • Notice that it is made of several components: 氵 艹 口 夫.
  • 氵 艹 口 all have three strokes, so you could look in the list in the 3 stroke section. 夫 has four strokes.
  • Alternatively, you could start typing 'water' (氵), 'grass' (艹), 'mouth' (口) or 'husband' (夫) in the search area, and the components will be highlighted in yellow.
  • Keep adding components until you can see your kanji in the list of matches that appears near the top.