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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
bear
JOK: 1995
See why the Japanese fear bears and how to prevent attacks. Find out why various bear names contain 月 (moon), 赤 (red), 白 (white), 灰色 (gray), 袋 (pouch), and 猫 (cat), while combining 熊 with 洗 (washing) or 穴 (hole) produces names of animals that aren’t even bears. Learn about Ainu rituals with bears, as well as the sacred Kumano region and an ancient people who may be mythical.
go deep
JOK: 1996
See which word one author used when critiquing Abe for treating Obama reverently (i.e., as if the PM were visiting a shrine or seeing a god). Find out how a temple can lie in a lucky direction, and learn about birthplace deities. Discover the most popular pilgrimages and what they involve. See how 詣 and 参 relate to each other. And learn to talk about deep knowledge of a subject.
yearn for
JOK: 1997
Our kanji will fill you with yearning, pining, and adoration. You can use it in a highbrow way when describing deep stirrings of the spirit and the life you long to have, or you can use it to talk about people you idolize or find hot. Learn about a festival featuring bamboo lanterns, illuminated buildings, and a "Path of Yearning." See how much 憬 shares with 憧 and how little sets them apart.
column
JOK: 2000
Learn to talk about single-digit temperatures and being "off by an order of magnitude." Discover creative interpretations of "beam," including one in your face; see what distinguishes those born in Showa 1–9; and learn to read warnings on low overpasses before crashing into one! Find out how the abacus, wells, sailboats, and kimono patterns all relate to our kanji!
thigh
JOK: 2004
What does it mean to be born from the crotch of a tree? Why do some monkeys in Japan wear shorts? Why do some Japanese men go to sacred places in their underwear? Why would yakuza walk like ducks? Why does our kanji (as “thigh”) factor into terms about wavering loyalty? The essay provides all these answers, also discussing mittens with just three compartments for fingers.
tiger
JOK: 2005
In the Japanese imagination, the tiger is both a fierce fighter and a drunkard! Through 虎, a new Joyo kanji, we encounter expressions about fighting, danger, courage, risks, and vigilance. We'll see which famous companies, musicians, and sports teams are named after this awe-inspiring animal, also finding out who wears tiger-striped underwear in Japan! Don't miss the fantastic photos of tigers in Thailand!
blockage
JOK: 2006
After learning multiple Japanese terms for "stroke," and two more for "heart attack," you'll impress yourself with your new ability to read medical text in Japanese. You'll also be able to understand the warnings on cigarettes. Then you'll take a major leap to the botanical world, contemplating the role of a particular flower in poetry, pop culture, and above all in family crests.
throat
JOK: 2007
Read about how the Japanese see the throat as instrumental in holding back harsh words and unpleasant emotions. Find out what it means figuratively to swallow food that's too hot and then to forget that discomfort. See which udon comes from Shikoku, learn why people in Japan talk about the uvula, and discover which body part looks like Buddha sitting in contemplation.
treat someone
JOK: 2009
Find out why 岸 (beach) is in a term for "arrogance," learn how treating others to a meal might relate to 傲, see why people often refer to a clan from 800+ years ago, discover who wrote a book with the translated title "Japanese Arrogance, Korean Arrogance," and learn to say, "The foreign missionaries treated the Chinese with the arrogance of those who belonged to a victorious nation."
broken
JOK: 2014
Through copious book titles you'll see how the Japanese speak of experiencing setbacks and going on to succeed. Find out how to say, "I lost my nerve," "Repeated failures crushed his ambition," and "Don't be discouraged if you fail." Also learn to talk about demoralizing opponents and thwarting plans, as well as sprains, bruises, and "crush injury" (first identified in Japan).
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Change component list
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.