The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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toy
JOK: 1982
Find out about traditional Japanese toys (e.g., limbless kokeshi and wheeled pigeons) and see how they vary regionally. Learn to talk about fiddling with hair, playing with dolls, and keeping pets. Then lose your innocence with terms for toying with people or treating them as playthings. Afterward, redeem yourself by learning to express deep appreciation for things like calligraphy.
seclude
JOK: 1983
Do you know about the kagome pattern or the “bird in the cage” game? Do you know who was called a “caged bird” or how insect cages influenced Kyoto architecture? Do you know how baskets helped when crossing valleys? With this essay you’ll learn all that plus terms for shutting oneself up in one’s study, bottling up discontent, and stammering. Oh, and several words for lanterns!
turtle
JOK: 1985
People universally associate turtles with slowness. The Japanese do, too, but they've taken turtle symbolism quite a bit further. They also see these ponderous animals as representing luck, longevity, wisdom, experience, divisiveness, ugliness, and sexual attractiveness! Ugliness and sexual attractiveness?! Quite a range! As if all that weren't enough, 亀 is also a radical and a new addition to the Joyo set, as of 2010.
city
JOK: 1986
This essay presents everything you always wanted to know about the Kinki region but were afraid to ask! Learn the origin of the name "Kinki," and see how that region compares with Kansai. Find out about a railroad named after the tango, a snack that tastes like deep-fried meat, and old nomenclature for the Kinki area. Also discover what a 都道府県別 approach involves.
mortar
JOK: 1987
This kanji gives us an entry point into the earthy world of grinding crops. Through 臼 we learn about the mortar and pestle, the original (and best?) way of making mochi (and the basis for a saying about how men and women need each other). The essay also introduces medical terms, including one for "molar." After all, "mortars" in the mouth grind food!
turban; cloth
JOK: 1989
This versatile character helps you discuss anything from dishrags to the width of a waterfall. It's in {search巾着} (pouch), which has influenced both fashion and food (having lent its pyramidal shape to two dishes that are considered lucky). As a radical, 巾 pops up in scads of kanji, including some of the first ones you learned.
very little
JOK: 1990
Find out about an 11th-hour kanji surprise. Also learn to say, “The Giants won by a narrow margin,” “only a few left in stock,” “He missed the last train by a hair,” “I gave him what little money I had,” “He lost his mother when he was just seven,” “There is little, if any, hope of his being alive,” and “At first only a few people protested, but now they’re all coming out of the woodwork.”
fear
JOK: 1992
Whereas “danger” drives the word “endangered,” fear lies at the heart of Japanese terms about endangered species. This essay is mainly about animals at risk of extinction, but as the book covers and sample sentences show, plants, occupations, and even railways can vanish, too. Learn to discuss all that and to talk about anxiety about matters ranging from real estate to global warming.
skewer
JOK: 1993
Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) is famous, but the Japanese also pierce other foods with rods, including a sweet and one fruit. Discover ways of using 串 figuratively. Learn about skewers shaped like rifles, hairpins, and pine needles. And learn to say, “He ate three yakitori skewers,” “To make shish kebab, they roast lamb skewers,” and “I now have an idea of what’s going on.”
bear
JOK: 1995
See why the Japanese fear bears and how to prevent attacks. Find out why various bear names contain 月 (moon), 赤 (red), 白 (white), 灰色 (gray), 袋 (pouch), and 猫 (cat), while combining 熊 with 洗 (washing) or 穴 (hole) produces names of animals that aren’t even bears. Learn about Ainu rituals with bears, as well as the sacred Kumano region and an ancient people who may be mythical.
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