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JOY O' KANJI

The Joy o' Kanji Essays

Welcome to Joy o’ Kanji, which will enable you to discover the joy of kanji! Below you’ll find introductions to detailed essays covering every aspect of each Jōyō kanji. Through loads of sample sentences and images containing the character in question, the essays give you the real-world experience you need so you can master kanji. You can download the essays in PDF form. After reading them, you can play games and use flashcards to work with the vocabulary and sentences from the essay.
These essays come from our partner, Joy o' Kanji.
More info about Joy o' Kanji
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void
JOK: 1156
In 虚 we find a hollow space, though it's often filled with lies. As such, it pops up in words about bluffs, false fronts, and vanity, as well as emptiness, both emotional and physical. When an effort is in vain, leading to nothing, 虚 again enables us to express that. Learn about its surprising relationship to 実. Also find out why you should never choose a spouse who has a 虚業!
situation
JOK: 1163
Do you know how to say, “I don’t like grilled fish, let alone raw fish,” “The market deteriorated, so our inventory piled up,” or “Please let me know the status”? Through this essay you’ll learn all that, plus ways of talking about the business climate, booms and busts, live broadcasts, events packed with people, and more. Also find out how a term for “urgent state of affairs” connects to sumo.
gorge
JOK: 1164
In a nation of islands separated by straits that can be dangerously rough, geography is a vivid reality. The most common 峡 word by far is 海峡 (strait), so this photo-studded essay mainly looks at significant Japanese straits and at the bridges, whirlpools, and important events associated with them. You will emerge from this essay with a much sharper sense of Japanese geography!
put between
JOK: 1165
Find out why several places are called Fusabami, what it means to "discuss something across a table," and what to call attacks from two sides. Learn how one powerful verb can refer to sandwiching something or to filling that sandwich. Discover ways to talk about fingers slammed in doors, houses facing each other, hearsay, interruptions, and meddling (or "sticking your beak in"!).
narrow
JOK: 1166
The word 'narrow' makes me think of 'skinny,' as in the delightfully named diet book Skinny Bitch. But skinny isn't what you'll find with 狭, even though it means 'narrow.' The Japanese associate 狭 with crowdedness. Learn various words for cramped spaces, from a tiny apartment to a clogged artery. We'll even cover narrow-mindedness and narrow interpretations of words. You'll get the skinny on all of it!
fear
JOK: 1167
Discover the link between courtesy and extortion. Learn to talk about widespread panic, formidable talent, and possible accidents. Find out how to make requests sound timid, not pushy. See how one term means everything from 'Sorry, but can you ...' to 'I'm impressed!' to 'Thank you'! And learn about the 恐 associated with dinosaurs, moas, おそらく, and かしこ (in women's letters).
surprised
JOK: 1172
Find out what this means to a Japanese person: "Right now I'm so surprised that my feelings are like a bluefin tuna from the shelf.' Also learn to say these things: "Much to my surprise, the door opened without a sound," "Everyone marveled at her courage," "The most precious thing in life is wonder," "I didn't mean to surprise you," and "His stupid answer surprised everybody."
dawn
JOK: 1174
Although あかつき sounds like “red moon,” it doesn’t mean that. Learn the etymology of this yomi. Find out how dawn connects to success and enlightenment and how to say such things as “When completed, this building will be the world’s tallest.” Learn the Japanese for “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Read about a fascinating artist and an architect with 暁 in their names.
axe
JOK: 1176
The kanji 斤 originally meant 'ax' and now means 'loaf (of bread).' En route from one definition to another, it acquired yet another meaning: 600 grams. Find out how the Japanese came to associate one kanji with such disparate things! Also learn about 斤 as a radical and as a very common component.
koto
JOK: 1178
The koto (Japanese zither) connects to dragons, blindness, class differences, rice paddies, marriage, and an important myth. Find out why one needs to read each 琴 in 琴の琴 with different yomi. See which natural feature in Japan was named after a type of 琴, and learn about hidden kotos in the garden. Also discover certain Japanese words that always pull on people's heartstrings.
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By default the component builder shows the most common components (themselves joyo kanji, or used in at least 3 other joyo kanji). Select an alternative set of components below.



Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Help with the component builder
For detailed instructions, see the Component builder how to guide.
To find any kanji, first try to identify the components it is made up of.
For any components you recognize, if you know the English meaning or name, start typing it in the text area. Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Alternatively, count the strokes of the component, and scan the list to find it visually.
Example
To find the kanji :
  • Notice that it is made of several components: 氵 艹 口 夫.
  • 氵 艹 口 all have three strokes, so you could look in the list in the 3 stroke section. 夫 has four strokes.
  • Alternatively, you could start typing 'water' (氵), 'grass' (艹), 'mouth' (口) or 'husband' (夫) in the search area, and the components will be highlighted in yellow.
  • Keep adding components until you can see your kanji in the list of matches that appears near the top.