The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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bowstring
JOK: 1228
Discover the imaginative leaps the Japanese have made by associating 弦 with objects whose shapes suggest curved archery bows and their taut strings. Learn terms for “guitar string” and two categories of stringed instruments, as well as “string quartet” and “orchestra.” Also find out how to speak of stringed, wind, and percussion instruments collectively with a tidy acronym.
alone
JOK: 1229
The 孤 kanji runs the gamut from lonely isolation to enjoyable solitude. This character pops up in terms for orphans, solitary islands, villages cut off by floods, someone fighting alone for a lost cause, and countries that are isolated economically and politically. Learn to say, "She led a solitary life," "To tell the truth, I felt lonely," and "We shouldn’t confuse solitude with isolation."
boast
JOK: 1233
Learn about the positive kind of pride that even dogs (and flowers!) can feel, and see what Japan is proud to show the world. Discover five ways of saying "to take pride in." Also learn to say "I'm proud of you" and "He proudly made an announcement." Read about terms for "ostentation" and "exaggeration," finding out how one of them relates to political propaganda.
hand drum
JOK: 1234
Learn about a wide range of Japanese drums, including the small, ropy type played on the shoulder. See what "taiko" means in Japan versus abroad, and learn how ensemble drumming was created quite recently. Also discover traditional drumming contexts, from the battlefield to the shrine to the theater. Find out which "drums" you can consume and where drums lie in the human body!
give
JOK: 1237
This kanji has no popular meaning! Nevertheless, 呉 pops up in a word about rivalry, the name of a famous theater, the name of a significant city, terms for stores selling kimono fabric, and more. Learn about 呉音, a word on page 1 of every essay. See how the ancient Chinese Kingdom of Wu still influences modern Japan. And find out just how 呉 became connected with くれる (to give).
enlightenment
JOK: 1239
Do you know how to talk about preparing for the worst outcome or selling items at a loss? Can you translate the following: "At last he realized that he was mistaken," "I noticed some kind of glint in her eyes," "They were ready to run the risk of being shot by the enemy," and "How can one become enlightened?" Find out about all this and much more, including baseball players' wisdom.
cavity
JOK: 1241
It makes sense to find our kanji as “hole” in terms such as “nostril,” “porous,” “perforation,” “vent,” and “buttonhole.” What a surprise, though, to discover its connections to Confucius on the one hand and peacocks on the other. By studying peacocks we end up contemplating ancient Indian beliefs, ferns, malachite, and the dining habits of medieval elites from Europe to Japan!
stream
JOK: 1244
This essay immerses you in Edo (the old name for Tokyo) and its cultural, linguistic, and botanical legacies. Read about Edo-style sushi (which you likely love!), see what characterizes a true Edoite/Tokyoite, and find out what "Little Edo" and "Big Edo" mean now. Learn to read 江 in several names, some famous. Also meet the alligators and dolphins associated with the Yangtze River!
again
JOK: 1248
See how the four Joyo yomi of 更 will take you in very different directions. With ふ•ける and ふ•かす, you can stay up late. With さら, you can talk about what's new. By adding hiragana to さら, you produce adverbs, such as one for 'furthermore.' Finally, コウ means 'change' in terms for 'renewal,' 'revision,' and 'rehabilitation.' As a bonus, learn what it means to change clothes in Japan!
constancy
JOK: 1251
Find out what's "fixed" about a star - and why a planet conversely seems confused! Then come back to Earth to focus on steady livelihoods, annual events, constant wars, and permanent peace. See how "constant river sand" traveled from India through China into Buddhism and even further from there. And learn how a poisoning scandal from 1955 could help Fukushima victims.
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