The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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return
JOK: 1920
With the eminently useful 戻 kanji, you can talk about returning to a place, recovering from illness or jet lag, and making up with someone. Mastering 戻 enables you to say, "We can't backslide," "He brought the world back to its senses," "We must work hard to make up for lost time," "I'd like a refund," "The article revived my passion for Eastern religions," and much more!
small bell
JOK: 1921
From small, jingly bells to resonant singing bowls, from “cooling” wind chimes to enormous bells at shrines, 鈴 can be heard throughout Japan. But this kanji is most important for its role in the name Suzuki. Read profiles of six famous Suzukis. Also learn about the unexpected influence of 鈴 on the names “Isuzu” and “Misuzu.” And find out what it means figuratively to bell a cat.
zero
JOK: 1922
Knowing 零 gives you access to terms for subzero temperatures and 12:00. But far beyond that, truly grasping 零 enables you to say all of the following: “There is no chance of rain this weekend,” “They were shut out two games in a row,” “The sun peeked through,” “The milk boiled over,” “Hungry dogs were hoping for scraps,” and “I beg you to overlook my offense.” What a range!
calendar
JOK: 1927
Learn why Amazon describes a new calendar as 新暦・旧暦. Find out about Japan's relatively recent switch to a solar calendar, an event that inspired a novel, manga, and movie! Learn to calculate age and the year in multiple ways, read about the significance of turning 60 in Japan, and learn about calendars for illiterates and flower calendars. Also see why one temple has 暦 in its name.
public; dew
JOK: 1935
Learn how 露 connects to everything from dew to lightning, from Russia to Peru, from weddings to poetry, from sumo to kabuki, from teahouse gardens and high-quality green tea to edible locusts, from street vendors to open-air baths, from exposure of secrets to showing one’s true colors, from debuting songs to demonstrating karate skills, from photography to transience, and still more!
husband
JOK: 1936
This kanji lets us in on the private lives of celebrities such as baseball player Ichiro Suzuki. When a Japanese man's name ends in -郎, it tells us about his family composition! Although 郎 has strong connections to goodness, it helps us deride men as jerks and "bad boys." On the flip side, words such as 太郎 enable us to speak of "the greatest," as in enormously tall trees.
corridor
JOK: 1938
Lose yourself wandering down rustic wooden covered passageways that connect buildings at shrines and temples, keeping people dry while providing psychological benefits. See how such corridors qualify as cloisters when they wrap around courtyards or even seawater! Also learn about a Japanese writer who had connections to the Marquis de Sade and Yukio Mishima.
watchtower
JOK: 1939
Enjoy gorgeous photos of temple bell towers and temple gates and discover the rich symbolism of their design features. See how a building can be a tower even if its width rivals its height. Learn to talk about "castles in the air." And find out why 楼 appears in terms related to brothels and in restaurant names, as well as the title of a Michael J. Fox movie and the name of a cliff.
uncertain
JOK: 1942
Whether you're confused, embarrassed, annoyed, doubtful, tempted, or fascinated, 惑 can help you express your feelings. Just as 惑 can mean 'to lead astray,' it leads us to many topics - everything from planets, predictions, and seduction to impossible bosses and spam blocking. Find out how to say "suspicion of having had breast implants" and "suspicion of lying about one's age'!
framework
JOK: 1943
From spiderwebs to decorative borders on paper, a 枠 surrounds whatever is important. It also supplies support, as in a six-legged torii or in structures reinforcing fences, hedges, and even shorelines. Enjoy photos of gleaming wooden frames around openings in a traditional Japanese house. Also learn to use 枠 abstractly in reference to frameworks, allocated amounts, and quotas.
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