The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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mountain stream
JOK: 1199
While learning terms for types of valleys and mountain streams, enjoy spectacular pictures of Japanese gorges. Learn which valley features snow year-round and which ravine is filled with apricot trees. Discover a gorge named for a lion’s nose, a “white horse” mountain, and a valley abounding with monkeys. And see how “ravenous” relates to “ravine” in both languages.
relax
JOK: 1205
Learn to unwind in Japanese! Find out how to say, “He needs time to relax now,” “Parks are places for relaxation,” and “Let's take a coffee break.” Examine titles that translate as “The Places I Love to Relax” and “A 10-Minute Break for Your Brain.” Also discover a resort area on Honshu that a novel and film made famous, inspiring a “tribe” of sun worshippers to emulate the characters.
meet
JOK: 1207
Eminently practical, 迎 plays a role in terms for shuttle buses, welcome parties, and phrases like "Your ride is here," "I'll come get you," and "I met her at the station." But you can also use 迎 to discuss pandering, an optical illusion at dawn, and autumn leaves at their peak. Moreover, 迎 has a strong link to death, as in the case of spirits who welcome you to the other world before you die.
whale
JOK: 1208
See how whales relate to cows, hippopotami, and boars. Learn anatomical terms from blubber to the blowhole. Discover why sperm whales are “incense whales” in Japanese, see what “the scent of dragon slobber” represents, and learn why 鬚 (beard) appears in important whale words. Find out about Osaka’s whalebone bridge, and learn how the Japanese talk about the whaling controversy.
shoulder
JOK: 1212
Your head rests on two good shoulders. The roads you travel on may have shoulders. Metaphorically, your shoulders help you carry the weight of burdens. Clearly, you need to know how to discuss shoulders. This essay will teach you key vocabulary and expressions related to this topic. You'll find out, for instance, what a tap on the shoulder means in Japan. Furthermore, you'll learn what the slope of shoulders indicates about someone's state of mind.
thrifty
JOK: 1213
Find out why the Japanese have long valued thrift—but less so now. Read about the tyranny of gift exchanges. Learn to say, “He scrimped and saved for many years,” “To make our house payments, we'll have to tighten our belts,” and “Though he is fairly well off, he is frugal. He takes after his father in that respect.” Also see how John Lennon and Yoko Ono connect to this discussion of frugality.
sword
JOK: 1214
This packed-to-the-gills essay teaches everything about the Japanese sword, from its connections to Buddhism and samurai to its metaphorical role. You'll learn how people use 剣 and 刀 quite differently. Fantastic photos provide glimpses of sword-bearing martial arts, supplementing the discussion of kendo. In one quiz, you'll even consider which animals come equipped with swords!
range
JOK: 1216
This kanji makes us conceive of the world thematically, linking countries in unexpected ways (e.g., those that use euros or Chinese characters). With 圏 you can also convey that a restaurant is “within a 10-minute walk” or that you’re “out of range” and can’t make a phone call. Learn to say “Tokyo Metropolitan area,” “Kanto region,” and “My family lives far from a metropolitan area.”
cocoon
JOK: 1223
The Japanese associate 繭 with silkworms, even though other animals make cocoons. Find out how silkworms develop, producing a mile-long silky thread, and how people turn that filament into usable silk. See why the Japanese have been passionate about silk for millennia, and learn how that enthusiasm ties in with religion, architecture, literature, video games, and cosmetics.
illusion
JOK: 1226
This kanji enables us to talk about what isn’t really there: illusory countries on old maps, phantom limbs, an alcoholic’s hallucinations, sorcery, and mythical creatures. Learn about phantom rice and phantom railroad lines, and see what “pursuing phantoms” really means. Find out about magic mushrooms in Japan, as well as mushroom statues created long ago and very far from Japan.
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