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JOY O' KANJI

The Joy o' Kanji Essays

Welcome to Joy o’ Kanji, which will enable you to discover the joy of kanji! Below you’ll find introductions to detailed essays covering every aspect of each Jōyō kanji. Through loads of sample sentences and images containing the character in question, the essays give you the real-world experience you need so you can master kanji. You can download the essays in PDF form. After reading them, you can play games and use flashcards to work with the vocabulary and sentences from the essay.
These essays come from our partner, Joy o' Kanji.
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die
JOK: 1475
Japanese perceptions of death emerge in this essay. The kanji in certain terms imply that a dying person is going far away or will be gone forever. Somehow “early + life” means “early death.” People refer so casually to the “world of the dead” that that phrase ends up in ordinary sentences like “I can’t believe it’s been six years since my dad died.” And one book urges the elderly to die at home alone.
reject
JOK: 1480
Learn to talk about rejecting suggestions and plans, and find out how to say, "They dismissed his criticism as hypocrisy." Read about campaigns against Japanese goods, and study Japanese Wikipedia passages about the North American history of banning Asian immigrants. Discover which sports Japan encouraged and disallowed during wartime. Bonus: study space science!
ancient; old
JOK: 1481
Discover how calling something "old-fashioned" in Japanese can be an insult or a compliment. Learn to say that the recent past feels like ancient history. Also learn to say "I used to be a different person," "Hollywood isn't what it used to be," and "That was then and this is now." Find out how although 昔 can currently mean "decade," it once meant a time span as long as 66 years!
bungling
JOK: 1487
With 拙, you can condemn art as crude, writing as unsophisticated, foreign policy as unskillful, and yourself as incompetent. But 拙 isn’t only about impossibly high standards. The essay shows that speed sometimes matters more than good results. Of course, maybe others won't see your shoddy work that way. Conveniently, the essay also teaches you to say, “I’m screwed!”
stealth
JOK: 1488
By reading about everything from art heists to kleptomania, learn to say that a person is suspected of theft, is charged with theft, and is guilty of theft. Find out what there is to steal from Japanese temples and how such thefts have played out internationally. See whether or not the Japanese have traditionally protected their property and whether or not thievery has been an issue in Japan.
hermit
JOK: 1490
Coming from an ancient Taoist context, 仙 blurs the line between what's real and fictional. It refers to a human who has become immortal with magical powers, as seen in Japanese folktales and art. People use 仙 in more grounded ways when discussing geniuses and oddballs. Find out why 仙 is in the name of a major Japanese city, one that pops up in the names of some beef dishes.
folding fan
JOK: 1492
You might be envisioning a handheld fan as a dainty item held by a dainty woman, but war commanders used to hold fans, and fans have served as weapons! Far from being confined to a genteel world, 扇 plays a role in words about instigating trouble. Learn about two shapes of fans and see how they influence animal and plant names, as well as descriptions of many everyday objects.
step
JOK: 1495
This kanji is for people who like to take action! Our character appears in the titles of "practical manuals" and books that offer "practical training." By studying 践, you'll learn to say, "Actions speak louder than words," "He used Western knowledge in a Japanese way," "Anyone can put it into practice," 'It's important to combine theory with practice,' and "He carried out his duty."
push open
JOK: 1496
Manners are paramount in Japan, and 挨 has to do with the right words said at the right time (though it originally represented rude behavior!). See how 挨 relates to greeting and parting from others, apologies, expressions of sympathy, speeches, the yakuza, visiting relatives, Zen dialogues, writing letters, and more. Also learn why you might give toilet paper as a gift!
recommend
JOK: 1499
People typically use this kanji to recommend things (e.g., restaurants, books, and hotels) or people (e.g., for positions). But 薦 also has connections to everything from saké barrels, straw mats, and wall coverings to Shinto rituals, flute-playing priests, and beggars, as well as the sacrum, wild rice, and azuki beans. This essay explores the relationships between these disparate themes!
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Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
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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.
Example
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.