The Joy o' Kanji Essays

This page provides a synopsis of all 528 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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pillow
JOK: 2115
This wide-ranging essay examines literature over millennia, from ancient China to "The Pillow Book" to Basho and Soseki, plus the connections between pillows, travel, and poetry. The essay covers several types of pillows (e.g., those atop boxes, those you hug, and manly pillows), pillows as cures, pillow-flipping ghosts, figurative pillows (e.g., railroad ties!), a confection, and more.
noodles
JOK: 2118
Japan has oodles of noodles! Aside from udon, soba, and ramen, there’s chilled tsukemen, stringy somen, slender sanuki udon, horse chestnut flour noodles (which inspired a figurative term), and noodles named for Go stones. Read about ethnic separation of noodles, as well as manga and films centered on noodles. And see why the names of some non-noodle foods include 麺.
melt
JOK: 2119
Find out how far back the Japanese craved metal and see how acquiring it changed society, enabling people to have weapons, tools, coins, bells, sewn clothes, and even sacred mirrors. Learn to talk about metal experts, from blacksmiths and swordsmiths to metallurgists and those who separate metal from ore. Also discover why there are wavy patterns on Japanese sword blades.
increasingly
JOK: 2120
Discover the shocking roots of the language and people of Japan (i.e., Yayoi versus Jomon). Find out about Buddhist figures and terms that have eluded you. And learn to say, “They hooted at his suggestion,” “That makes you even more attractive,” “That’s nothing more than a temporary remedy,” and “The origins of (certain) kanji will make your hair stand on end with fear.”
illustrate
JOK: 2122
Learn to compare life to climbing a mountain, to a stage, and to a voyage, while likening death to sleep. Discover the Japanese metaphor for being unable to use one’s talents in a new environment. Find out how to use “torii,” “bow and arrow,” and “bread” to stand for larger entities, along with “mountain” and “temple” in certain regions. Also see what alchemy and lemons represent in Japan.
play with; ridicule
JOK: 2123
Learn to toy with others and to say, “There’s a limit to how much you can disrespect me,” “Brazil’s offense toyed with Japan’s team,” and “Stop making fun of me!” Find out how to speak of fiddling with hair, playing with keys, and searching for a switch in the dark. Reconceive of gardening and farming as playing with dirt, learning to say, “Father gardens whenever he gets a chance.”
gush
JOK: 2124
With 湧, you can talk about hot springs and cool pools. You will discover a famous group of springs at the foot of Fuji and will see how marketers associate brands and products with words for "springs." You'll also encounter a wealth of figurative expressions about things that emerge (e.g., a flood of ideas) and that come out of nowhere, whether storm clouds or enemy soldiers.
bewitching
JOK: 2125
See why people needed to invent yokai, the supernatural creatures populating manga, legends, and woodblock prints. Learn various terms for “monster,” including one that can figuratively refer to villains or heroes. Discover words for “magic” (Eastern vs. Western), “something that confuses people,” and “bewitched sword,” and examine the female side of some 妖 terms.
swelling; tumor
JOK: 2126
This kanji surfaces in terms for “ulcer,” “tumor,” and pertinent spinoffs, but don’t be scared! The essay explores fascinating etymologies of medical words, making them feel fun and manageable. Learn about a “tumor of good nature” (which sounds downright amiable!), a “sperm nest,” and 出来物 (which does not mean “things one can do”). Also see how 12 fingers relate to the duodenum!
fertile
JOK: 2127
Learn to talk about fertile land, as well as a “fertile field” of thought. Learn to say, “Rich soil yields abundant crops” and “Where there used to be a fertile plain, there is nothing but a wasteland now.” Also find out about iodine—the terms for it, the human need for it, and the special Japanese relationship to this trace mineral. Finally, discover a psychoactive plant once used in magic brews!
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