The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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sculpt
JOK: 1590
Do you know the purpose of the tiny sculptures known as netsukes? Do you know how a pharmacist’s mortar relates to a way of engraving? Do you know why the Japanese compare some people to sculptures or why two constellation names include 彫? Do you know about traditional tattoos that cover a great deal of the body, with the picture often coming directly from ukiyoe? You soon will!
watch
JOK: 1591
Japan has countless views to rave about, and this essay teaches many ways of doing so. You’ll learn to refer to a view “of” a tower versus a view “from” that tower. You’ll also understand the meaning of 眺 versus 見, plus 眺め (view) versus 眺望 (view) versus 眼差し (look). Bonus: finding out about Japan’s first Western-style skyscraper (with the nation’s first electric elevator)!
storm
JOK: 1593
Whether you're discussing a literal storm that uproots trees or a figurative tempest that blows through the political world, 嵐 is your kanji. This essay abounds in sample sentences describing all aspects of actual storms (from winds that rattle shutters to power outages and crop damage). Small excerpts from works such as Botchan also showcase 嵐 as an intriguing metaphor.
become clear
JOK: 1597
Clean waterfalls, cloudless skies, and a resonant voice. The clear taste of a malt beer. A mind cleansed of distracting thoughts. The senses heightened at a spa. Listening attentively, observing carefully, and taking careful aim. The 澄 kanji affords all these experiences. Learn to say, “The water is clear to the bottom,” “I can see a clear blue sky,” and “I sit in Zen meditation and clear my mind.”
royal we; we
JOK: 1603
By focusing on a pronoun that emperors have used for themselves, you enter the world of their pronouncements. Learn why one said it’s as if he were being choked. Enjoy a close reading of the speech Hirohito made when telling his citizens (whom he called his “babies”!) that the war was over. See a photo of the handwritten speech. Also find out why they couldn’t grasp his basic point!
hillock
JOK: 1607
The mound kanji appears in very few words, but it's prevalent in Japan nonetheless, thanks to its role in surnames and place names. Mounds have also played a significant role in Japanese history, from burial mounds and memorial mounds to shell mounds. Unexpectedly, studying 塚 opens a fascinating window onto the Japanese past.
pickle
JOK: 1608
Pickles as colorful as fall leaves are a key part of Japanese cuisine, from bar snacks to traditional meals. This essay presents an array of pickle types (including alcoholic ones!), pickle shop photos, and reasons for all this pickling. Literally and metaphorically, 漬 also means "immersion." Learn to say that you're up to your neck in work, drenched in sweat, or immersed in a language.
pavilion
JOK: 1614
Find out why -亭 is suffixed to the names of many restaurants, buildings, and some artistic people. Learn to read scads of gorgeous signs, whether for eateries or shops. Discover how a ryotei is a restaurant far too expensive for many of us to try, and yet it can be hard to determine which restaurants qualify as such. And learn about a term for "husband," one that appears in colorful idioms.
sovereign
JOK: 1616
Find out why some people call Japan にっぽん, how the mikado kept himself busy centuries ago when he had no power, and how to address the emperor properly if you ever meet! The essay also examines how the old Empire of Japan has influenced the country today, from traces of imperial words in the contemporary language to Japanese feelings about what happened in the past.
parcel post
JOK: 1618
To distribute mail across mountainous islands over 1,500 years, Japan has used everything from special bells and “flying legs” to railway ferries and post towns on a network of highways. Learn about all this, plus a company that takes pride in the four months during which its drivers had no collisions. Also see what the mythical creature inside the old form of 逓 could do.
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