The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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royal we; we
JOK: 1603
By focusing on a pronoun that emperors have used for themselves, you enter the world of their pronouncements. Learn why one said it’s as if he were being choked. Enjoy a close reading of the speech Hirohito made when telling his citizens (whom he called his “babies”!) that the war was over. See a photo of the handwritten speech. Also find out why they couldn’t grasp his basic point!
hillock
JOK: 1607
The mound kanji appears in very few words, but it's prevalent in Japan nonetheless, thanks to its role in surnames and place names. Mounds have also played a significant role in Japanese history, from burial mounds and memorial mounds to shell mounds. Unexpectedly, studying 塚 opens a fascinating window onto the Japanese past.
pickle
JOK: 1608
Pickles as colorful as fall leaves are a key part of Japanese cuisine, from bar snacks to traditional meals. This essay presents an array of pickle types (including alcoholic ones!), pickle shop photos, and reasons for all this pickling. Literally and metaphorically, 漬 also means "immersion." Learn to say that you're up to your neck in work, drenched in sweat, or immersed in a language.
pavilion
JOK: 1614
Find out why -亭 is suffixed to the names of many restaurants, buildings, and some artistic people. Learn to read scads of gorgeous signs, whether for eateries or shops. Discover how a ryotei is a restaurant far too expensive for many of us to try, and yet it can be hard to determine which restaurants qualify as such. And learn about a term for "husband," one that appears in colorful idioms.
sovereign
JOK: 1616
Find out why some people call Japan にっぽん, how the mikado kept himself busy centuries ago when he had no power, and how to address the emperor properly if you ever meet! The essay also examines how the old Empire of Japan has influenced the country today, from traces of imperial words in the contemporary language to Japanese feelings about what happened in the past.
parcel post
JOK: 1618
To distribute mail across mountainous islands over 1,500 years, Japan has used everything from special bells and “flying legs” to railway ferries and post towns on a network of highways. Learn about all this, plus a company that takes pride in the four months during which its drivers had no collisions. Also see what the mythical creature inside the old form of 逓 could do.
embankment
JOK: 1620
Embankments save lives and could even be why we have government! But they're so well integrated into landscapes that you could walk on an embankment and not know it. See why Japan has built these structures for millennia. (A folktale particularly brings the topic to life.) Also find out about embankment stew, tsutsumi dolls, 'super embankments,' and a "battleship seawall."
flute
JOK: 1624
Woodwind instruments have played a prominent role in Europe (e.g., the Pied Piper), but what about Asia? Find out about bamboo flutes in Shinto music, Noh theater, gagaku (old court music), hunting, and old-time candy peddling. Read about a bamboo instrument that resembles a phoenix and may express a ray of heavenly light! Also learn about a whistle that you'll hear only in Japan.
pluck
JOK: 1625
Do you know what it means to be pinched by a fox?! And do you know the Japanese for "bar snack" (which is also the term for "knob, handle")? How would you talk about picking strawberries? Learning about 摘 will give you access to this vocabulary. With 摘, you can also zero in on the fundamental aspects of something - or on people's errors! With 摘, 'picking' often turns into 'nitpicking'!
drip
JOK: 1626
With 滴 you can talk about dewdrops and eyedrops, fogged and rain-spattered windows, rain dripping off roofs, sweaty foreheads, IV drips, waterproof items, dripping-wet towels, meadows overflowing with freshness, drops of ink, and teardrop-shaped jewelry. Learn to say, "I felt a drop of rain." Also discover how three drops of water mysteriously fall from a shrine roof every day.
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