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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
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to color
JOK: 1290
Knowing 彩, you can discuss color in artwork, saying things like “Using watercolors, he made strokes with an almost vertical brush.” Aside from art contexts, 彩 helps you talk about brilliance and vividness, saying, for instance, “The newcomer’s work is remarkably brilliant,” “He seems really depressed and lifeless today,” and “He has stood out since his school days.“
dish
JOK: 1307
Learn words for everything from segmented condiment dishes to ice cube trays. Find out how to count empty and full plates differently and to ask servers for share plates. See how corporations and nursery schools can be saucers, hear about ghostly torment associated with dishes, and learn where we keep dishes in the body. Also discover the role 皿 plays in 18 Joyo kanji.
scaffold
JOK: 1308
This kanji gets around! It appears in terms for "door frame" and "windowsill," as well as words such as "pier" and "wharf." This character also has connections to bridges, ladders, roof tiles, fabrics, sumo stadiums, kabuki theaters, rice containers, and more! Reading about 桟 takes you to a touristy pier in Yokohama that resembles a ferry, as well as a place called Elephant's Trunk!
umbrella
JOK: 1310
Find out how paper umbrellas are made and why they're rare. Discover why one type of Western umbrella (which is named after a blind animal!) was banned in the Osaka area. Also see why one kind of umbrella has 蛇 (snake) in its name. Learn to say "overprotected," "subsidiary," and "mushroom cap" with 傘, and read about the role of umbrellas in kabuki dances and in young love.
temporarily
JOK: 1311
Find out about a common term that means both "a short while" and "a long while," sometimes confusing native speakers! Learn to talk about tentatively set times, provisional agreements, and interim governments. And see how various ways of saying "It's been awhile!" or "He came back after awhile" have subtly different nuances, as do assorted terms that mean "for awhile."
purple
JOK: 1320
Purple (紫) has special meaning in Japan. An old name for one of the four major islands contains 紫. The 'Tale of Genji' author chose an alias that included 紫. Kyoto and Edo each had a shade of purple named after them, thanks to a purple plant dye. Purple is associated with various types of elites in Japan. And some Japanese perceive soy sauce and tobacco smoke as purple!
luxuriant
JOK: 1327
Do you associate "nutritious" with "delicious"? The answer may depend on culture! Find out how to talk about both things with the same term, which can also mean "feast for the senses." See how Japanese and European ideas about medicinal cooking have intertwined, discover how Japanese superstars boost their energy, and learn how to help your ears by tending to your kidneys!
varnish
JOK: 1334
This richly illustrated essay features photos of rare lacquered works, including a suit of armor with an image of the deity Fudo-Myoo, a cabinet shaped like a monk's backpack, a tiered picnic set, and a large seated Buddha. Find out about Zeshin Shibata's lacquer art and methods of decorating lacquerwork with gold and silver. Also learn about lacquer toxicity and the meaning of "japanning"!
lawn
JOK: 1335
The lawn grass kanji is intimately tied to the theater world. Knowing about 芝 therefore enables you to discuss the pretension and theatrical behavior that can characterize that culture. Learn how to use the word for "theater" to say that someone is faking something (such as illness).
snake
JOK: 1341
I'm the biggest snake-phobe around, and even so I can tell you that there's plenty to enjoy about an examination of 蛇. It whisks us away in fun figurative directions, as with its connection to heavy drinking. On top of that, delving into this character opens a window onto Japanese culture, from its mythology, festivals, and religions to its musical instruments and children's songs.
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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.