The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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lawn
JOK: 1335
The lawn grass kanji is intimately tied to the theater world. Knowing about 芝 therefore enables you to discuss the pretension and theatrical behavior that can characterize that culture. Learn how to use the word for "theater" to say that someone is faking something (such as illness).
snake
JOK: 1341
I'm the biggest snake-phobe around, and even so I can tell you that there's plenty to enjoy about an examination of 蛇. It whisks us away in fun figurative directions, as with its connection to heavy drinking. On top of that, delving into this character opens a window onto Japanese culture, from its mythology, festivals, and religions to its musical instruments and children's songs.
bartending
JOK: 1343
Learn to say, “I channeled the composer’s intentions,” “I took over my late father’s shop because that’s what he would have wanted,” and “You should take his youth into account.” See what the Japanese infer about you when you pour your own drink, rather than letting another person do it. And find out how, if someone screws up, the Japanese say in a joking way, “Show no mercy!”
lonely
JOK: 1345
Find out how to say everything from “I miss you a lot” and “The land became terribly desolate” to “A scream broke the silence,” “The patina creates a nice ambiance,” and “This temple garden has an elegant simplicity that is indescribable.” See why author Ryu Murakami said that Japan has become lonelier than ever, and learn what Japanese people think about wabi-sabi. Note: This kanji plays an important role in a Thematic Explorations essay called "The Relationship Between 'M' and 'B.'"
scarlet
JOK: 1346
See how 朱 connects to red writing and learn to say, "The editor used red to correct the misused kanji" and "The envelope said 'express delivery' in red." Discover what "Anything that touches vermilion will turn red" means. Find out about red seal stamps, a red-lacquered gate, and the red-faced bird of Sado. Learn to say that a sunset "dyes" the sky red and "He went red in the face with rage."
pearl
JOK: 1349
Japan invented a way of making pearls! Find out about pearl culturing and where to go in Japan to learn more about the inventor and his method. Read about divers (mostly women) who have risked it all to collect shellfish. Learn how to say "Tahiti is the pearl of the Pacific" in Japanese. And find out about strings of prayer beads, which have inspired a great figurative expression.
寿
longevity
JOK: 1351
See how to invoke a god's name while saying, "Granddad is fully smiling.” Discover a waterfall that prolongs life. Unpack the riddles inherent in terms for auspicious birthdays. Learn to say, "He lived to a ripe old age," "The human lifespan has become twice as long as before," "Here's to a long and happy life!" and “For eons humans have longed for perpetual youth and longevity.”
Confucius
JOK: 1352
"Even though Japanese ways of thinking are based on Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism, many people think they have no religion." That sample sentence in this essay sheds light on how Confucianism (with its emphasis on hierarchy, filial piety, and education) permeates the culture but how the Japanese don't necessarily recognize the Confucianism underlying their values.
boat
JOK: 1354
Find out how to talk about small, hand-propelled boats, and learn about Japanese boats across the ages, from dugout canoes to washtub boats to small straw boats that play a key role during Bon. See why a book about a retiree unnerved Japan, and learn about a famous story in which a man delights in being arrested. Also learn a boat-related expression for traditional rivals.
excellent
JOK: 1355
Learn to differentiate 天才 (genius) from 秀才 (brilliant person). Discover a script that may have preceded kanji in Japan. And find out how to say, "Everyone recognized him as a brilliant pianist," "He's an outstanding lawyer," "This school is one of the best," "He ought to pass the examination, for he is very capable," "Edison was not a talented student," and "His snow haiku was excellent."
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