The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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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!
mend
JOK: 1504
Learn to talk about smoothing over a gaffe, making excuses, and keeping up appearances. Find out how to say, “Show me clothes you think will look good on me,” “He got dressed quickly,” and “I had my mother mend this sweater.” Consider whether the Japanese view of mending has Shinto underpinnings. And see how a mushroom relates to darning and how beans relate to cloth!
pair
JOK: 1513
This photo-studded essay will have you seeing double! You'll learn which items in Japan are countable in pairs. On the flip side, you'll also see which sorts of entities have been deemed "peerless" (that is, not a pair). One expresses that idea with a negated form of 双. You'll encounter words for "twin" and "mutual," as well as sentences such as this: "He is as great a poet as ever lived."
mulberry
JOK: 1518
The Japanese have found uses for every part of the mulberry - the fruit, leaves, wood, bark, and roots. In Japan, mulberries have been so important that some maps mark mulberry fields. Aside from its mulberry connections, 桑 factors into the names of several significant places, including San Francisco and Japan itself! Our kanji also pops up in surprising sayings and a famous bit of wordplay.
nest
JOK: 1521
Nests—they’re not just for the birds. Spiders, bees, and even dragons live in homes symbolized by 巣. Humans, too, inhabit “nests” until they leave their parents’ home (a move expressed with 巣). Find out about nest-building agreements between crows and people. Learn to discuss feelings strongly rooted in the heart. And see why 巣 is embroiled in a radical controversy.
dry up
JOK: 1528
By understanding 燥, you can talk about everything from dry skin and dehydration to dried fruit and dryers. You'll be able to say, "We preserve shiitake mushrooms by drying them," and you'll know terms for "instant miso," "sun-dried mackerel," and "powdered milk," as well as "arid land" and "dry season." With 燥 you can even have a good time, as that's a minor meaning!
hate
JOK: 1532
It's important to know if others hate you. It's even more crucial to recognize that someone is using 憎 ironically to say that you're cute or amazing. Find out when the Japanese avoid mentioning hatred and when they're surprisingly direct. See which book titles contain 憎, including one about tsunami victims who simply can't hate the sea. And enjoy a folktale about love gone horribly awry.
bundle
JOK: 1535
With 束, you can create order: Establish binding agreements, promises, and appointments. Pull together unions! Using just one verb, either make a ponytail or govern a nation! If you have keys on a keyring, a cluster of raw noodles, or a bouquet, 束 is a vital kanji. See how bundles of cash have inspired fun idioms. Also learn how a wooden post gave rise to a common term for "short-lived."
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