The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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illustrate
JOK: 2122
Learn to compare life to climbing a mountain, to a stage, and to a voyage, while likening death to sleep. Discover the Japanese metaphor for being unable to use one’s talents in a new environment. Find out how to use “torii,” “bow and arrow,” and “bread” to stand for larger entities, along with “mountain” and “temple” in certain regions. Also see what alchemy and lemons represent in Japan.
play with; ridicule
JOK: 2123
Learn to toy with others and to say, “There’s a limit to how much you can disrespect me,” “Brazil’s offense toyed with Japan’s team,” and “Stop making fun of me!” Find out how to speak of fiddling with hair, playing with keys, and searching for a switch in the dark. Reconceive of gardening and farming as playing with dirt, learning to say, “Father gardens whenever he gets a chance.”
gush
JOK: 2124
With 湧, you can talk about hot springs and cool pools. You will discover a famous group of springs at the foot of Fuji and will see how marketers associate brands and products with words for "springs." You'll also encounter a wealth of figurative expressions about things that emerge (e.g., a flood of ideas) and that come out of nowhere, whether storm clouds or enemy soldiers.
swelling; tumor
JOK: 2126
This kanji surfaces in terms for “ulcer,” “tumor,” and pertinent spinoffs, but don’t be scared! The essay explores fascinating etymologies of medical words, making them feel fun and manageable. Learn about a “tumor of good nature” (which sounds downright amiable!), a “sperm nest,” and 出来物 (which does not mean “things one can do”). Also see how 12 fingers relate to the duodenum!
fertile
JOK: 2127
Learn to talk about fertile land, as well as a “fertile field” of thought. Learn to say, “Rich soil yields abundant crops” and “Where there used to be a fertile plain, there is nothing but a wasteland now.” Also find out about iodine—the terms for it, the human need for it, and the special Japanese relationship to this trace mineral. Finally, discover a psychoactive plant once used in magic brews!
kidnap
JOK: 2128
Find out all about the bizarre "abduction issue" in Japan, a mystery that has persisted for decades. Delve into questions about the origins of ramen and various ways of representing that word. Discover a manga character inspired by noodles! Learn to use 拉 to indicate that you've been crushed by misfortune or weighed down by worries. And see how such random meanings all connect to 拉.
bitter
JOK: 2129
Find out how 辣 lights food on fire, especially in Chinese dishes. Learn about a spice that both wakes up the tongue and puts it to sleep. See how 辣 as “severe” appears in sentences that mean “His sharp words seemed to hurt her” and “He is a villain,” as well as the manga title “The Bitter Gourmet.” See why a book title about a Japanese army officer alludes to Dostoevsky.
indigo
JOK: 2130
Indigo became important in Japan partly because commoners couldn’t wear silk and instead chose cotton. Farmers’ indigo work togs shaped the creative inclinations of a contemporary dyer who loves to wrestle with indigo’s “persona.” A term for “temple” is inside a word for “pelican,” just as “cabbage” lies inside “kale” and “brussels sprouts.” The essay unravels all of these mysteries.
afraid; tremble
JOK: 2132
Learn to talk about what makes people shake like a leaf, including horror movies. Find out how to say, “They were horrified by the news,” “She was trembling with fear,” “The news of the bizarre accident made TV viewers shudder,” “In a shaking voice she cried, ‘Help!’” and “The armed hijackers terrified the passengers.” Also read about the time Japanese forces fought in India.
companion
JOK: 2133
Adults who are determined to be together for life, soulmates who reconnect with each reincarnation, pets who are steadfast companions—侶 brings us all that love, as well as the loss of love when death separates life partners. Find out how priests fit into the picture, see how one priest wants temples to be entertainment centers, and learn to say “sexual abstinence” and “secular burial.”
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