The Joy o' Kanji Essays

This page provides a synopsis of all 524 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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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."
time
JOK: 2011
Learn to approximate time, as in "about noon" or "toward the end of June." Find out how to say, "I have seen nothing of him lately," "Young people wear their hair long these days," and “At your age, you ought to know better.” Learn how to announce that it's a great time for seeing cherry blossoms and that it's high time for a vacation. Also discover the "age at which one has many worries.”
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.
sand
JOK: 2013
Find out about a kanji that only means “sand” but almost always appears in keywords with no connection to beaches. Learn to say, “I haven't written you for ages, “If you can make it public, do that,” “Saying such a thing is the height of madness,” “The matter was brought into court,” “I smoke to give my hands something to do,” and “Violence erupted all over because of food shortages.”
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.”
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