| Nov 17, 2010

Autumn is the perfect season to view leaf-kanji

A mosaic carpet of autumn foliage tinted in shades of green, yellow, orange, and red is currently rolling southward through the archipelago of Japan. 紅葉 (kōyō, crimson/leaves), the Japanese word for “autumn leaves,” only hints at the splendor of this multihued natural phenomenon. Beeches, ...

| Sep 15, 2010

196 more reasons to explore Heisig's imagination

Last spring, the bar was raised for kanji learners aiming to attain literacy in Japanese through mastery of the general-use (jōyō) kanji, when the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced the addition of 196 characters to the original list of 1,945 ...

| Jul 21, 2010

Kanji for ‘big' will expand your Japanese skills

Every year on Aug. 16, at exactly 8 p.m., the first in a series of five giant bonfires is lit on a mountainside overlooking the city of Kyoto, signaling the moment when ancestral ghosts return to the spirit world after visiting relatives on Earth ...

| May 19, 2010

Soak up a sprinkling of rain-component kanji

The kanji compound word for Japan’s annual rainy season — set to commence in early June — is the poetic 梅雨 (“plum rain,” baiu/tsuyu), but any resident of the archipelago whose closets have been invaded by noxious green mold during 梅雨 will appreciate why ...

| Mar 17, 2010

You can count on the tales behind number-kanji

When giving talks on Japan in elementary school classrooms in the United States, I chalk the kanji 一, 二, and 三 on the blackboard and ask the children to guess their meanings. “One, two, three!” they shout, easily intuiting three kanji introduced to Japanese ...

| Jan 20, 2010

'New' hope, anxiety in Japan's Kanji of the Year

As the first decade of the 21st century drew to a close, the Japanese Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation conducted its 15th annual Kanji of the Year poll, inviting the nation to decide which single kanji best symbolized 2009. Until the call for votes went ...

| Dec 16, 2009

New kanji are mighty compound-word builders

Joyo (general-use) kanji, which currently number 1,945, are the characters officially approved by the Japanese government for use in newspapers and government publications. Japanese schoolchildren study these during their nine years of compulsory education, and non-Japanese speakers must do battle with them, too, to ...

| Oct 21, 2009

Get set for next year's overhaul of official kanji

Kanji aficionados and educators are buzzing over the biggest kanji news in nearly three decades: Next fall, for the first time since 1981, Japan’s government is expected to announce a revision of the joyo (general-use) kanji list. Currently numbering 1,945, these kanji comprise the ...

| Aug 19, 2009

Driving you 'crazy for kanji' — in a good way

Here’s an addiction that doesn’t require a 12-step recovery program. For the past six years, Berkeley, Calif.-based freelance writer Eve Kushner has been a self-proclaimed, unapologetic “kanji-holic.” Kushner details her passion for Sino-Japanese characters in a new textbook, “Crazy for Kanji: A Student’s Guide ...

| Jun 17, 2009

The crafty names of Japan's cleverest companies

Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s top 500 earners for 2008 included 64 Japanese companies. The English names of these global giants are used in both the international and domestic markets. But Japanese versions of each also exist. To cook up these, the enterprises ...