The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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broken
JOK: 2014
Through copious book titles you'll see how the Japanese speak of experiencing setbacks and going on to succeed. Find out how to say, "I lost my nerve," "Repeated failures crushed his ambition," and "Don't be discouraged if you fail." Also learn to talk about demoralizing opponents and thwarting plans, as well as sprains, bruises, and "crush injury" (first identified in Japan).
die; dice
JOK: 2015
Find out about a kanji that carries meanings as disparate as “dice” and “appearance” while popping up in terms for “baton” and “cheering.” Learn to discuss leadership roles and discover a link between dice and food. See ways of saying, “We rolled dice to decide whose turn it was,” “She bowed to acknowledge their cheering,” and “He has a slightly foreign appearance.”
cape
JOK: 2017
One could envy Saitamans. Their prefecture has gorgeous mountains, acres of colorful flowers, icicle displays, and a whitewater river. One city is in a national park and has a Shrine of Wolves, plus maybe a “Mikado” connection. Another city, “Little Edo,” has lovely old buildings and “Candy Street.” However, Saitama is the butt of jokes, especially in a “dissing” manga that’s now a movie!
fence
JOK: 2018
From bamboo fences to iron railings, from electric fences to doors on subway platforms, 柵 can represent many barriers in our daily landscapes. Learning 柵 therefore provides access to practical vocabulary. This kanji is also associated with ancient forts. On a more abstract plane, 柵 can stand for "ties of obligation between people," something that often shackles those in Japanese society.
temple
JOK: 2019
Find out about how 刹 (temple) once meant “to kill”! Learn about a shady network of Buddhist temples in the past. Discover how long a moment of consciousness is, and learn to say, “The moment I wasn’t looking, the accident occurred.” Also find out how to say, “I’m the sort of person who lives for the moment,” and how you can aggrandize this lifestyle by calling it a principle.
selfish
JOK: 2022
Learn two homonyms for very different types of thinking. Find out how to say, “The fear is that the law will be applied arbitrarily,” “We’ll have as much money as we like,” and “He exercised his power to the fullest.” See what “arbitrariness” has to do with linguistics. And find out what -まま means in four words, including one that implies unparalleled ability, strength, or political power.
seriousness
JOK: 2023
Learn to talk about doing things in earnest and having an unwavering focus. Find out how to say, "She is studying the arts with sincere passion," "His political activity is based on a sincere belief in social welfare," and "Serious scholars tend to worry a lot." Also learn which quasi-proverb people would use to admonish singers not to be so eager to perform on TV before honing their skills.
鹿
deer
JOK: 2025
In parts of Japan (e.g., in Nara and Miyajima), deer are quite visible - so much so that oblivious people can't see the mountains for the deer, figuratively speaking. Because it's half of 馬鹿 (fool), this new Joyo kanji enables us to ridicule idiots (who have a contagious and incurable condition, by the way). As both a radical and an autonomous kanji, 鹿 appears in the names of several animals.
ashamed
JOK: 2031
Find out how to say, "A bashful look came over her face," "These slums are a disgrace to our city," "I'm ashamed of my poor English," and "You ought to be ashamed of yourself." Learn to overcome performance anxiety, especially by seeing the audience as vegetables! Find out how the name of a popular band arose from a misreading of 羞. And read about famously shy people.
yearn for
JOK: 2033
This kanji enables us to talk about people we find hot, the professionals we admire, and the celebrities we worship. We can also use it to convey our yearning for a lifestyle (urban or rural), our dreams for the future (and how 夢 differs in this respect), and our longing for the past. See how the Japanese freely coin terms with 憧, leaving even native speakers uncertain about the yomi.
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