The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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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.
embankment
JOK: 1620
Embankments save lives and could even be why we have government! But they're so well integrated into landscapes that you could walk on an embankment and not know it. See why Japan has built these structures for millennia. (A folktale particularly brings the topic to life.) Also find out about embankment stew, tsutsumi dolls, 'super embankments,' and a "battleship seawall."
flute
JOK: 1624
Woodwind instruments have played a prominent role in Europe (e.g., the Pied Piper), but what about Asia? Find out about bamboo flutes in Shinto music, Noh theater, gagaku (old court music), hunting, and old-time candy peddling. Read about a bamboo instrument that resembles a phoenix and may express a ray of heavenly light! Also learn about a whistle that you'll hear only in Japan.
pluck
JOK: 1625
Do you know what it means to be pinched by a fox?! And do you know the Japanese for "bar snack" (which is also the term for "knob, handle")? How would you talk about picking strawberries? Learning about 摘 will give you access to this vocabulary. With 摘, you can also zero in on the fundamental aspects of something - or on people's errors! With 摘, 'picking' often turns into 'nitpicking'!
drip
JOK: 1626
With 滴 you can talk about dewdrops and eyedrops, fogged and rain-spattered windows, rain dripping off roofs, sweaty foreheads, IV drips, waterproof items, dripping-wet towels, meadows overflowing with freshness, drops of ink, and teardrop-shaped jewelry. Learn to say, "I felt a drop of rain." Also discover how three drops of water mysteriously fall from a shrine roof every day.
transfer
JOK: 1627
Have you longed to see certain politicians get the ax? This kanji enables that to happen! The Japanese mainly associate 迭 with political shakeups (so you'll learn to say, "Minister Tanaka's 'resignation' was actually a dismissal"), but the essay also includes sentences about nonpolitical firings. You'll find 迭 in Amazon Japan synopses of episodes of several TV shows (e.g., House of Cards).
Big Dipper
JOK: 1633
The dipper kanji helps you hold your liquor! That is, its core meaning is "dipper," a device to scoop saké. (It means "dipper" in the constellation sense, too!) Using 斗, we can also measure large quantities of that saké. By studying 斗, we find out about noshi. And that's not all! The 斗 shape is a ryakuji (a simplified form of more complex kanji), as well as a radical.
cross
JOK: 1636
If you want to talk about crossing bridges, emigrating, people ranging in age from 18 to 25, possessing an heirloom for generations, a room that looks out onto the ocean, handing someone paper, extraditing criminals, advancing wages, or bouncing a check, you'll need the indispensable 渡! Find out about all these structures, as well as a deadly form of transit that some Japanese once used!
angry
JOK: 1639
Through 怒 one can learn about the transformative power of anger - namely, what it does to the body. (Nothing attractive.) Find out, too, about ways of flying into a rage and of shouting (with the help of a bird!). If rage turns you on, there's also information about making people angry. Finally, explore the differences between おこる and いかる, the two yomi of the verb 怒る. Both mean "to get angry," but beyond that, they diverge in unexpected ways.
bean
JOK: 1640
From edamame to natto to tofu, Japan abounds in bean dishes. Learn about the most popular beans in Japan (unexpectedly named 小豆 and 大豆!), one of which is even popular with foxes! Find out which piece of furniture 豆 used to represent, as well as alternate meanings of 豆. Also discover its role as a radical in kanji such as 豊 (790: plentiful). Finally, learn a Japanese insult that involves tofu!
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