The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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rainbow
JOK: 2090
Learn how the Japanese speak about the colors of the rainbow, as well as double rainbows and "fogbows." Find out where in Japan you can see rainbows, both real and artificial. And come to understand how rainbows have colored Japanese culture, from music and religion to Rainbow Day celebrations and LGBT parades, not to mention all the organizations named for rainbows.
chopsticks
JOK: 2094
Learn how chopsticks can rest and bathe—and what “pregnant chopsticks” signify. See how 箸 can serve as a stand-in for “eating.” If a human uses one end of chopsticks, find out who eats from the other end. Discover dozens of chopstick taboos, and see which ones remind people of funerals. Find out about the おてもと on chopstick wrappers, and learn why the Chinese dropped 箸.
spread out
JOK: 2095
Learn to talk about literal floods, saying things like "This river sometimes overflows after the snow melts" and "The river flooded a wide area." Also find out about figurative floods (e.g., a flood of colors or a flood of desires), learning how to say "Our everyday language is flooded with Western words." Discover when the Japanese use 氾濫 versus 洪水, another word for "flood."
slope
JOK: 2097
Enter the city of pleasure! This essay covers everything about Osaka, including its name, history, cuisine (e.g., Kansai sushi), castle, and entertainment industry, as well as the Osakan's colorful personality, conversational style, accent, and dialect. Learn about the "Osaka Metropolis Plan" that terrified some people, and find out about often-used terms such as "Keihan" and "Hanshin.'
spot
JOK: 2098
This essay will make you dotty about all things spotted! With 斑 we can describe everything from polka-dotted species (including humans, with their birthmarks and freckles!) to rocks (e.g., those that the Japanese use in barbecues). The same character means "unevenness," and the essay shows how these disparate meanings connect. Great photos and fun quizzes!
knee
JOK: 2100
See what a Buddhist priest and a mollusk have to do with kneecaps. Also learn what role the knee plays with regard to intimacy, romance, negotiations, protection, influence, respect, and sudden emotion or comprehension. Find out why the Japanese would go down on one or both knees, even sliding forward on the knees instead of walking, and why rakugo performers hide their knees.
elbow
JOK: 2101
Learn how the Japanese talk about leaning on elbows, standing with arms akimbo, hitting the funny bone, and elbowing someone in the ribs. Find out about massaging the elbows versus massaging with the elbows. See what an "elbow gun" might be and what it means to pull someone's elbow figuratively. Also learn words for the elbows on dogs, clothes, and even buildings!
news of someone's death
JOK: 2102
Find out how to say “The news of his sudden death astounded me” and “I heard that my friend’s father had died.” Learn about a politician who died the very day he was elected, inspiring this photo caption: “Supporters suffer deeply at the news of the death of Noboru Tanigawa.” Also find out about the marketing potential inherent in death, at least as reflected on Amazon Japan.
hill
JOK: 2103
Find out why Gifu Prefecture is considered the center of Japan and has been crucial as a crossroads. Learn about Gifu products, from paper umbrellas and lanterns to swords, plus UNESCO heritage sites and a well-preserved town on the Nakasendo. Also read about cormorants that catch and regurgitate fish for the imperial family to eat, a practice that inspired a famous artist.
Chinese artifact
JOK: 2106
See how jade disks connect with a term for “perfect,” and read the fascinating history of a hunk of ore that inspired the word. Learn to avoid a kanji error that native speakers commonly make when they write about perfection! Find out how to talk about perfection and perfectionism, as well as about people who excel at something equally and who therefore tend to become rivals.
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