| Apr 15, 2009

These kanji have literally all gone to the dogs

Despite tough economic times, many dog owners in Japan still shell out big yen to pamper their pooches: Delectable ドッグおやつ (dogguoyatsu, dog snacks), perky 犬洋服 (inuy ōfuku, dog clothing), and outings to the 犬の美容院 (inu no biyōin, dog beauty salon) are de rigueur for ...

| Feb 18, 2009

A rainbow of kanji brightens Japan's palette of colors

Guys who received Valentine’s chocolates from female friends or coworkers last Friday are expected to reciprocate with small gifts on ホワイトデー (howaitodē, White Day) on March 14. ホワイトデー is one of many color-related gairaigo (foreign loan-words, mostly English, written in katakana) now firmly established ...

| Feb 18, 2009

A rainbow of kanji brightens Japan's palette of colors

Guys who received Valentine’s chocolates from female friends or coworkers last Friday are expected to reciprocate with small gifts on ホワイトデー (howaitodē, White Day) on March 14. ホワイトデー is one of many color-related gairaigo (foreign loan-words, mostly English, written in katakana) now firmly established ...

| Dec 16, 2008

A judgment on Aso in the negative . . . kanji-wise

Prime Minister Taro Aso is notorious for making insensitive off-the-cuff remarks to the media, and on more than one occasion recently, he has also raised eyebrows for mispronouncing kanji in his scripted speeches. Last month, speaking at prestigious Gakushuin University about the earthquake in ...

| Oct 28, 2008

Take the first step to writing home in kanji

A friend in North Carolina recently showed me a yellowing nengajō (年賀状, New Year’s card) I had sent her soon after first arriving in Japan back in the early 1980s. The return address, penciled in my best effort at the time — a childlike, ...

| Aug 19, 2008

Cache of weapons concealed in kanji

By 200 A.D., Chinese scholars had already created the 50,000-kanji prototype for the modern written languages of China and Japan. Many Sino-Japanese characters still in use today feature components picturing objects from everyday life in ancient China, including weapons for battling other humans or ...

| Jun 17, 2008

King Kojien dictionary knights new words

The four writing systems utilized in Japanese (>kanji, katakana, hiragana and the Roman alphabet, known as romaji ) provide Japanese advertising copywriters, journalists and young people with an abundance of raw material from which to create new words. The great majority of these neologisms ...

| Oct 16, 2007

Self-study sites welcome you to the world of kanji

When I first suggested in this column using Internet resources for learning kanji in 2001, a Yahoo search yielded 12,700 hits for “kanji learning.” That number has now reached a staggering 1.4 million. New, sophisticated online kanji self-study resources are increasingly enabling foreign kanji ...

Nov 22, 2005

TV shows confront decline of Japanese language

Beginning this fall, four of the major commercial television networks began broadcasting variety programs aimed at rehabilitating Japanese television viewers’ inability to correctly utilize their native language. Why the sudden flood of kokugo (national language) programs? Some observers trace the decline of the Japanese ...

| Nov 4, 2004

Thinking of naming your baby 'Spiderman'? Think again

Unlike that of many countries, the Japanese government has the legal authority to prevent parents from giving their children certain names — say the kanji incarnation of “Spiderman.” In order for the birth of a baby to be registered with local authorities in Japan, ...