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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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!
axis
JOK: 1330
From Earth’s axis to a penholder, from a car axle to the shaft of a feather, 軸 represents entities that are straight and long. In addition, 軸 has fun figurative uses, enabling people to say, “the core of my thinking,” “innovative plan,” “central role,” and “Language is a vertical axis connecting you to your ancestors.” Our kanji is also in terms for “Axis powers” and “axis of evil.” Learn their back stories!
hold on to
JOK: 1332
With the take-charge kanji 執, you can conduct orchestras, manage corporations, perform surgery, and command armies. Passions run hot with 執, which drives words for "antagonism," "obsession," and "stubborn," appearing in sentences that mean "That team won through tenacity rather than technique," "He still sticks to his opinion," and "He clung to the hope that he could be a lawyer.”
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.
bartending
JOK: 1343
Learn to say, “I channeled the composer’s intentions,” “I took over my late father’s shop because that’s what he would have wanted,” and “You should take his youth into account.” See what the Japanese infer about you when you pour your own drink, rather than letting another person do it. And find out how, if someone screws up, the Japanese say in a joking way, “Show no mercy!”
lonely
JOK: 1345
Find out how to say everything from “I miss you a lot” and “The land became terribly desolate” to “A scream broke the silence,” “The patina creates a nice ambiance,” and “This temple garden has an elegant simplicity that is indescribable.” See why author Ryu Murakami said that Japan has become lonelier than ever, and learn what Japanese people think about wabi-sabi. Note: This kanji plays an important role in a Thematic Explorations essay called "The Relationship Between 'M' and 'B.'"
scarlet
JOK: 1346
See how 朱 connects to red writing and learn to say, "The editor used red to correct the misused kanji" and "The envelope said 'express delivery' in red." Discover what "Anything that touches vermilion will turn red" means. Find out about red seal stamps, a red-lacquered gate, and the red-faced bird of Sado. Learn to say that a sunset "dyes" the sky red and "He went red in the face with rage."
pearl
JOK: 1349
Japan invented a way of making pearls! Find out about pearl culturing and where to go in Japan to learn more about the inventor and his method. Read about divers (mostly women) who have risked it all to collect shellfish. Learn how to say "Tahiti is the pearl of the Pacific" in Japanese. And find out about strings of prayer beads, which have inspired a great figurative expression.
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