The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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watchtower
JOK: 1939
Enjoy gorgeous photos of temple bell towers and temple gates and discover the rich symbolism of their design features. See how a building can be a tower even if its width rivals its height. Learn to talk about "castles in the air." And find out why 楼 appears in terms related to brothels and in restaurant names, as well as the title of a Michael J. Fox movie and the name of a cliff.
uncertain
JOK: 1942
Whether you're confused, embarrassed, annoyed, doubtful, tempted, or fascinated, 惑 can help you express your feelings. Just as 惑 can mean 'to lead astray,' it leads us to many topics - everything from planets, predictions, and seduction to impossible bosses and spam blocking. Find out how to say "suspicion of having had breast implants" and "suspicion of lying about one's age'!
framework
JOK: 1943
From spiderwebs to decorative borders on paper, a 枠 surrounds whatever is important. It also supplies support, as in a six-legged torii or in structures reinforcing fences, hedges, and even shorelines. Enjoy photos of gleaming wooden frames around openings in a traditional Japanese house. Also learn to use 枠 abstractly in reference to frameworks, allocated amounts, and quotas.
gulf; inlet
JOK: 1944
Find out which Japanese bays are famous for mirages, a devastating typhoon, and pearls. Learn about 湾 versus 江 (bay). Discover how to say, “Our house overlooks the bay” and “We were granted the special privilege of fishing in this bay.” See why たられば conveys “what if” (as in, what if Pearl Harbor hadn’t happened). And learn how ginger, vegetarianism, and Portugal connect to Taiwan.
persimmon
JOK: 1946
Learn to say, “Some boys made off with all the ripe fruit on my persimmon tree.” Find out why a persimmon was named after a writing brush, which animal adores persimmons, and what a “persimmon house” might be! See what people go through to make persimmons edible, and discover how this fruit connects to a spicy snack, sushi, mochi, alcohol, tea, and skewers.
raise
JOK: 1947
Let Japanese teach you about English! That is, Japanese terms for "lactation" and "mammal" are closely related. This is also true of "mammary" and "mammal," but English speakers rarely perceive such a link. Similarly, one Japanese word can mean "bringing up" and "breastfeeding." In English, "suckling" covers both meanings, but we miss this until we study Japanese!
model
JOK: 1948
To understand Japanese writing fully, one needs to know about the three main scripts in which kanji and kana appear. Those styles affect stroke order, stroke count, and above all legibility! This essay contrasts the three main scripts and introduces three more, then focuses on the standard, square style, explaining how it looks and showing where one is most likely to encounter that style.
intimate
JOK: 1949
This spiky character may not look the part, but it is the kanji of reconciliations, cease-fires, and peace treaties, as well as harmonious marriages and lovers' talk. The Japanese use 睦 most when referring to friendships, particularly those that are deepening. Practice reading 睦 terms with a description of the TV show 'Friends' and a summary of the British film '45 Years."
iron pot; kettle
JOK: 1950
Pots look lifeless, but 釜 is full of fun. It plays a great role in a folktale and has connections to necessities in life, plus car crashes, cross-dressing, and demons who boil people in cauldrons. It pops up in colorful place names. And of course this kanji has a culinary side, appearing in terms for "rice cooker," the names of rice and udon dishes, a salty fish dish, a way of making tea, and more.
tie
JOK: 1951
Take a walk on the dark side with 錮! Find out how to discuss the length and severity of prison sentences (possibly including hard labor) and punishments in the past that involved exile to remote islands. Along the way, learn several words for "imprisonment" and "judicial sentence," and read about spiral shells, tinkering with molten metal, and political unrest in ancient China.
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