The Joy o' Kanji Essays

This page provides a synopsis of all 531 kanji that have so far been featured by Joy o' Kanji. Each section provides the ability to purchase and download a kanji essay (), study flashcards for the essay content (), play entertaining study games (), or view the kanji's details on Kanshudo ().
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JOK: 1953
Discover why 勾 means both “hook” and “arrest.” Find out about an ancient bead (one of three sacred treasures) that may symbolize anything from a soul to the moon! Learn how the Japanese discuss steep streets and sloped roofs. Read about an important stone wall curved like a crescent moon, and see how that curve prevents the wall from bulging like a pregnant woman’s belly!
JOK: 1954
Learn about a long-term movement that nearly eradicated Buddhism in Japan, destroying many thousands of temples. See what "praise and criticism cancel each other out” means. Discover how to say, "The best thing is to destroy them," "They called off their engagement," "That destroyed all his dreams," "The old building was demolished," and "The actress sued the magazine for libel."
lose strength
JOK: 1956
Learn to talk about withering and atrophy, as in "Flowers wither when exposed to frost," "The flowers wilted in the summer heat," "Old vegetables wilt and cannot be sold," and "Unused muscles will atrophy." On the figurative side, find out how to say, "I shrink in her presence," "I lost my motivation to work," and "Losing signal from the spacecraft dampened hopes for a moon landing."
JOK: 1957
Find out how to say, “The curve of this chair makes it feel luxurious,” “In the center stood a desk with a red leather swivel chair,” and “This easy chair is comfortable.” Learn to use “musical chairs” figuratively and see how 椅子 (chair) connects to “He is a shoo-in to win the presidency.” Read about what it really means when a restaurant worker offers seating in a chair or on the floor.
JOK: 1958
You likely know 単語 (たんご: vocabulary). One can think of 単語 as the equivalent of a single book in the library that 語彙 (ごい: vocabulary; lexicon) represents. The Japanese associate the size of a 語彙 with adulthood (whereas some in the U.S. correlate the size of something very different with manhood!). See how the Japanese use 語彙 and 語彙力 (“word power”) syntactically.
JOK: 1962
Find out about 唄, which always plays second fiddle to 歌 but is more likely to represent Eastern songs, whereas 歌 is more for Western music. See why the Japanese prefer to see "Singin' in the Rain" in English. Discover a term that means "song sung by a blind person with the accompaniment of the shamisen, esp. in the Kamigata area of Kansai"! And learn a bit about Okinawa via its music.
JOK: 1964
From the Japanese perspective, those who carry grudges into the afterlife (including emperors!) become vengeful, troublemaking ghosts. Find out about that and how to drive nails into an effigy to lay a curse on someone. Also learn to say, “He has a grudge against you,” “The resentment runs deep,” “He seems to have it in for me,” and “The cockroach and centipede are my sworn enemies.”
beautiful woman
JOK: 1965
This essay teaches you to discuss highly regarded women and to say, for instance, “He married the most educated and talented woman in town.” It also whisks you away to Ehime Prefecture, home to famous writers (e.g., Soseki, Shiki, and Oe) and attractions such as Dogo Onsen. One of the oldest hot springs in Japan, this site inspired Soseki’s “Botchan” and Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away.”
JOK: 1967
If you’re a spirited sort, this essay is for you! It’s about being full of energy, drive, vitality, curiosity, and the like. And it will teach you to say all of this: "This school’s ideal is to help students grow to be full of verve," "He’s not afraid to take on challenging work," and "He is writing prolifically." On the flip side, the essay sheds light on Jabba the Hutt’s less-than-laudable appetites.
JOK: 1968
Find out what role 岡 (primarily 'hill') could possibly play in a bathhouse, on an inkstone, in a wooden carrying box, in unrequited love, and in a 2nd-class red-light district. The essay provides connective thread between uses of 岡 that otherwise seem completely random. See how 岡 relates to 丘, another kanji for "hill." And enjoy a bevy of photos with 岡 in the names of people and places.
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