The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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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.
wandering
JOK: 1937
From wild waves to wanderers to wastefulness, this essay takes you on quite a ride. It also explores figurative takes on “ronin” and an old (but still relevant) name for Osaka. Learn to say, “I am currently unemployed,” “It's certainly a waste of time,” “He lives the life of a vagrant,” and “The vagabond, when rich, is called a tourist.” Also discover the meaning of “zodiacal rabbit” + “wave”!
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.
leak
JOK: 1940
This kanji represents leaks in roofs, as well as of bodily fluids, oil, gas, radiation, and even sound or light that spills beyond its confines. And figuratively 漏 is connected to leaking information, revealing one’s intentions, making omissions, and failing to do certain things. Find out how 漏 ended up in a term for “as usual,” and see what “Water falls even from skillful hands” really means.
bribe
JOK: 1941
If you’re offering meals or bribes, 賄 is your kanji! Learn how to distinguish linguistically and judicially between giving and receiving bribes. Find out how to say, “They bribed the witness into silence,” “She is honest and above things such as bribery,” “The bribery came to light,” and “His acceptance of the present was regarded as bribery.” Also see how 賄 helps you talk about financing things.
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.
gulf; inlet
JOK: 1944
Find out which Japanese bays are famous for mirages, a devastating typhoon, and pearls. Learn about 湾 versus 江 (bay). Discover how to say, “Our house overlooks the bay” and “We were granted the special privilege of fishing in this bay.” See why たられば conveys “what if” (as in, what if Pearl Harbor hadn’t happened). And learn how ginger, vegetarianism, and Portugal connect to Taiwan.
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