The Joy o' Kanji Essays

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composition
JOK: 2048
For millennia, humans have jotted down notes, and 箋 has long served that purpose. Find out which materials the ancient Chinese and Japanese wrote on before paper. Also learn terms for pieces of paper that serve various functions, from Post-its and stationery to prescriptions. As several images show in this illustration-packed essay, the word for "prescription" can be richly figurative.
tray
JOK: 2049
Learn about inventions in Japanese dining, such as box trays and low personal tables, both of which people whisk away after meals. Read about formal meals in which one eats from dishes on multiple trays, and learn when a tray should or shouldn't have legs. Find out why a popular bento box has theater connections and why one meal-related term means "a woman's sexual advances."
target
JOK: 2050
Whether you want to talk about aiming a camera or aiming a golf shot, this kanji is for you. It literally has to do with guns but figuratively offers much more, appearing for instance in terms for intentions and hidden agendas. Through 狙, find out what made a female Soviet teenager famous in World War II, and learn who may have conspired to take down a recent U.S. president.
go upstream
JOK: 2051
Learn to say that a temple dates back to the 9th century and that a conflict goes back to childhood. Find out how the Japanese say that they've hiked toward the source of a river or sailed up the Sumida. (The verb changes on the return trip!) See how the Japanese have been pioneers in time travel. Also become versed in the habits of salmon and the way their lives end in a noble but tragic way.
formerly
JOK: 2052
See which yomi tripped up a prime minister, prompting endless ridicule. Find out which literary giant was also a military doctor who misunderstood an illness, causing the “beriberi dispute.” Also learn to say, “He lived to meet his great-grandchildren,” “My family has lived in Tokyo since my great-grandfather's time,” and “The area was struck by the greatest earthquake on record.”
refreshing
JOK: 2053
Learn to mention lactic acid bacteria in ads for alcohol as a way of making a drink sound refreshing! Of course, as many sample sentences and ads in this essay reflect, the Japanese also refer to sleep, cooling drinks, autumn weather, breezes, certain pills, shampoo, flowers, and (surprisingly) music as refreshing. Oh, and cigarettes, coffee, and (did I mention?) bacteria!
footprint
JOK: 2055
Read about people who vanish into thin air. Some disappear inexplicably (e.g., Agatha Christie!), others opt to change identities (e.g., a famous manga artist). The circumstances determine the vocabulary you need; learn to refer to the Japanese abducted by North Korea versus those who disappeared during a disaster (such as the 2011 tsunami) and are presumed dead.
piled high
JOK: 2060
Learn to say, “The desk was piled high with documents.” Also see how layers of minerals and earth can yield helpful clues about what really happened with past volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Find out why it’s beneficial to have shallow parts of the sea, and learn how they form. And discover how horse or cow dung and piles of human waste can enhance your life!
dawn
JOK: 2063
This kanji may be graphically simple, but it's associated with a bewildering mess of meanings! Primarily, 旦 relates to dawn and the first day of a year or month, but 旦 also pops up in a term meaning "momentarily" (and its spinoffs). And then a very common word with 旦 involves powerful men (and their sons and businesses) and even geishas and mistresses. The essay connects these dots!
unravel
JOK: 2064
What do ripped seams and budding flowers have in common? What does it mean for a face to come apart at the seams? Learn those answers, as well as various words that apply when governments and companies collapse economically. See why some refer to Japan as a failed state and are predicting a national financial collapse, and find out how to say "America is unraveling."
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