The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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yearn for
JOK: 1997
Our kanji will fill you with yearning, pining, and adoration. You can use it in a highbrow way when describing deep stirrings of the spirit and the life you long to have, or you can use it to talk about people you idolize or find hot. Learn about a festival featuring bamboo lanterns, illuminated buildings, and a "Path of Yearning." See how much 憬 shares with 憧 and how little sets them apart.
gap
JOK: 1999
Learn to use 隙 to represent everything from physical gaps to mental ones. Find out how drafts can blow through houses and marriages. And discover how to say the following: “Rain was dripping through a leak in the roof,” “Sweets are jam-packed in the box,” “He began to talk before I could state my name,” “He is utterly unguarded,” and “Internet scams catch users off guard.”
column
JOK: 2000
Learn to talk about single-digit temperatures and being "off by an order of magnitude." Discover creative interpretations of "beam," including one in your face; see what distinguishes those born in Showa 1–9; and learn to read warnings on low overpasses before crashing into one! Find out how the abacus, wells, sailboats, and kimono patterns all relate to our kanji!
key
JOK: 2002
Find out about lock picking made easy! Learn to determine when 鍵 represents the key to a door, a piano key, the key on a computer keyboard, or the key to a problem. Discover how to say, “She locked her jewels in the safe,” “Remember to lock the door,” “The room was locked,” “The door locks automatically,” “the key to success,” and “He's the person who holds the key to this case.”
thigh
JOK: 2004
What does it mean to be born from the crotch of a tree? Why do some monkeys in Japan wear shorts? Why do some Japanese men go to sacred places in their underwear? Why would yakuza walk like ducks? Why does our kanji (as “thigh”) factor into terms about wavering loyalty? The essay provides all these answers, also discussing mittens with just three compartments for fingers.
tiger
JOK: 2005
In the Japanese imagination, the tiger is both a fierce fighter and a drunkard! Through 虎, a new Joyo kanji, we encounter expressions about fighting, danger, courage, risks, and vigilance. We'll see which famous companies, musicians, and sports teams are named after this awe-inspiring animal, also finding out who wears tiger-striped underwear in Japan! Don't miss the fantastic photos of tigers in Thailand!
blockage
JOK: 2006
After learning multiple Japanese terms for "stroke," and two more for "heart attack," you'll impress yourself with your new ability to read medical text in Japanese. You'll also be able to understand the warnings on cigarettes. Then you'll take a major leap to the botanical world, contemplating the role of a particular flower in poetry, pop culture, and above all in family crests.
throat
JOK: 2007
Read about how the Japanese see the throat as instrumental in holding back harsh words and unpleasant emotions. Find out what it means figuratively to swallow food that's too hot and then to forget that discomfort. See which udon comes from Shikoku, learn why people in Japan talk about the uvula, and discover which body part looks like Buddha sitting in contemplation.
treat someone
JOK: 2009
Find out why 岸 (beach) is in a term for "arrogance," learn how treating others to a meal might relate to 傲, see why people often refer to a clan from 800+ years ago, discover who wrote a book with the translated title "Japanese Arrogance, Korean Arrogance," and learn to say, "The foreign missionaries treated the Chinese with the arrogance of those who belonged to a victorious nation."
time
JOK: 2011
Learn to approximate time, as in "about noon" or "toward the end of June." Find out how to say, "I have seen nothing of him lately," "Young people wear their hair long these days," and “At your age, you ought to know better.” Learn how to announce that it's a great time for seeing cherry blossoms and that it's high time for a vacation. Also discover the "age at which one has many worries.”
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