The Joy o' Kanji Essays

This page provides a synopsis of all 529 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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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."
detailed
JOK: 2065
This kanji is about getting the details right. When people are bent on doing that, they go to fascinating extremes. This essay covers books about drawing ultra-detailed otherworldly scenery, playing mah-jongg carefully, and creating sacred rock formations. You'll learn to say, "The company is famous for its accuracy" and "Her dyed works are very elaborate and at the same time dynamic."
sake
JOK: 2066
Learn how to drink shochu, how to make it, and how to classify it. See how a love of shochu made 16th-century carpenters resentful. Discover what shochu has to do with Marlon Brando, Napoleon, sweet potato shortages, and longevity. Learn when tastelessness is a virtue in a drink. And find out how moonshine inspired a term used to denigrate certain literature.
make progress
JOK: 2069
If you're overwhelmed with all that you need to do, 捗 is just the kanji for you! It has only one meaning and appears in very few words. Moreover, 捗 enables you to make upbeat statements such as "The city plan is getting under way" and "I made progress with work, so it looks like I can go home on time." The essay examines book titles about ramping up efficiency and productivity.
beech tree
JOK: 2070
This kanji yokes two very disconnected topics. With its on-yomi, 椎 primarily represents “spine,” so it appears in terms related to vertebrae, spinal diseases, and disc herniation. But with its kun-yomi, 椎 means “Castanopsis,” a type of tree. In that world we discover delicious nuts that look like acorns and even find our way to shiitake mushrooms, which grow on Castanopsis logs.
claw
JOK: 2071
Delving into the 爪 kanji introduces you to rich idiomatic expressions about a wide range of things: following in people's footsteps, not showing off, preparing to defeat opponents, saving money (sometimes to extremes), and bearing scars after traumas. This new addition to the Joyo set is a prevalent radical that's useful to know, but the variants can be hard to recognize unless you've learned what they are.
crane
JOK: 2072
Cranes once lived in large flocks in Japan but have since become scarce. By contrast, the image of the crane pops up everywhere. As a symbol of 'longevity' and 'good fortune,' this bird appears in proverbs, paintings, ceramics, poems, Noh dramas, songs, folktales, and even math problems! Find out about the significance of folded paper cranes and the true story of Sadako Sasaki.
wisteria
JOK: 2078
From wisteria-viewing parties to hair ornaments to a type of doll and dance, wisteria has left its mark on Japanese culture. The 藤 kanji appears in the names of colors, plants, and animals, some with no connection to this vine. Above all, one finds 藤 in people's names. Thus, we have the Fujiwara period of art history, the Fujiwara effect, and the Fujita scale of tornado intensity.
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