The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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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."
scar
JOK: 2012
Find out how to talk about physical scars, as well as psychological ones, saying for instance that World War II scarred a place. Learn how to say, “The blood on the road must be mine,” “One senses that each era has left its mark on the city,” and “It sank without a trace.” Also discover what fingernail marks have to do with the ravages of nuclear testing and of volcanic explosions.
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).
die; dice
JOK: 2015
Find out about a kanji that carries meanings as disparate as “dice” and “appearance” while popping up in terms for “baton” and “cheering.” Learn to discuss leadership roles and discover a link between dice and food. See ways of saying, “We rolled dice to decide whose turn it was,” “She bowed to acknowledge their cheering,” and “He has a slightly foreign appearance.”
cape
JOK: 2017
One could envy Saitamans. Their prefecture has gorgeous mountains, acres of colorful flowers, icicle displays, and a whitewater river. One city is in a national park and has a Shrine of Wolves, plus maybe a “Mikado” connection. Another city, “Little Edo,” has lovely old buildings and “Candy Street.” However, Saitama is the butt of jokes, especially in a “dissing” manga that’s now a movie!
fence
JOK: 2018
From bamboo fences to iron railings, from electric fences to doors on subway platforms, 柵 can represent many barriers in our daily landscapes. Learning 柵 therefore provides access to practical vocabulary. This kanji is also associated with ancient forts. On a more abstract plane, 柵 can stand for "ties of obligation between people," something that often shackles those in Japanese society.
temple
JOK: 2019
Find out about how 刹 (temple) once meant “to kill”! Learn about a shady network of Buddhist temples in the past. Discover how long a moment of consciousness is, and learn to say, “The moment I wasn’t looking, the accident occurred.” Also find out how to say, “I’m the sort of person who lives for the moment,” and how you can aggrandize this lifestyle by calling it a principle.
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