Easy to Read Kanji

It has been a while since I posted anything about learning Japanese so I’m back with a short and rather silly post about Kanji and how to recognise the easy ones and some of my favourites.

Through some examples I have raided from recent anime and Japanese news programmes I watched I want to show Kanji characters that anybody can quickly recognise.

Let’s go… or should that be 行きましょう!!!!

Locations

First things first… How do I recognise Japan in Kanji? Say I get off my JAL flight, what will I see exactly? You see this:

The Kanji NOT the girl!

Stop staring at the poor girl advertising the (tacky) tourism bra… Now notice the two Kanji I ineptly circled in the top-right corner?

日本

They can be read as

日      本

に  ほん

Ni   Hon

The first character can be read as 日Sun whilst the second character 本 can be read as Origin. Origin of the Sun. Land of the Rising Sun. Nihon. Japan.

Okay so chances are you’ve gone to Tokyo. What is Tokyo in Kanji?

Japanese Girls like Historical Figures News Report

東      京

とう  きょう

Tō           Kyō

Notice the hiragana から?  Kara effectively means ‘from’. This fine young lady in (rather fetching) historical costume is from Tokyo – Tōkyō kara desu.

What do the characters represent?

東 とう East

京 きょう Capital

Dates!

The date they dreaded in Occult Academy

So this picture is a date which has been helpfully translated. Dates are pretty easy to read due to the simplicity of the characters and the numbers. 

Days and months can be shown using Kanji or numbers. Here we have the numbers 7 and 21. While there are 7 days in a month, there aren’t 21 months in a year unless I missed some announcement. Even if this wasn’t translated you can work out the date because Japan uses the Gregorian calendar.  

Anyway, the Kanji character月represents moon or month and can be read as:

月  ガツ  Month

         Gatsu          

The second Kanji character日 represents sun or day and can be read as:

日     ニチ  Day

          Nichi

Knowing that the two characters represent month and day respectively, one need only look at the numbers in front of them to establish the date.

7 月   21日Seventh Month, 21st Day.  21st July in British English.

The Kanji for year is 年 ねん         

           nen   

2010 ねん = 2010 or the year 2010.

So the date: 11月 19日 2010年  is effectively 11th Month, 19th Day, year 2010. Or 19th November 2010 in British English.

Money!

An expensive bunch of apples. We all know that the Japanese use yen right? I should hope so. If you look at the numbers and symbols you will find shopping easy…ish. Money. like dates and time, can be represented by either Kanji or numbers. Here we have 100 followed be a series of characters.

Expensive Japanese Apples
Expensive Japanese Apples

Well the character for Japanese yen is:

円 えん

  En

So if you find something 100 円、that means it’s 100 yen and rather cheap. There are 100 yen shops, let me know if they stock anything interesting. Anyway, the other symbol, 万、 means ten thousand. 100 ten thousands? 100 multiplied by ten thousands equals… 1 million yen for APPLES?

百                 千                   万 

ひゃく                  せん                 まん

Hyaku                                                           Sen                                                                   Man

Hundred                                                      Thousand                                        Ten Thousand

Anyway, just look for the numbers in front of the circles and do your own multiplication.

What

Thanks to the television show, Heroes, the Japanese word for ‘what’ was cemented in my mind. Why? Because Hiro and Ando kept repeating it over and over again. Anyway, I like the word and the character because it’s simple.

何 = What

What? A versatile word whatever the language.

何 なに

      Nani – What?

何 を Nani o – With what?  

Anyway, next lesson I will try and come up with something of a much higher educational standard than this. Perhaps more reviews for online Japanese language learning games and maybe some more Kanji. I will also have a go at explaining Japanese verbs at some point… recipe for disaster? Maybe. Until next time, adieu.

Next lesson, Genki Jason digs up Japanese language games so people can actually have fun. 8o

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5 thoughts on “Easy to Read Kanji

  1. Vashdaman

    I really appreciate that you post all these helpful posts about learning Japanese. I will probably start reading them all soon, as I’m planning to start learning Japanese soon, and in a year’s time I’m also planning to dive right in a do a BA in Japanese(although the whole uni fees thing is greatly scaring me!).

    Anyway I wanted to ask you, before I start my Japanese lessons are their any good books thar you can recommend me, that might have helped you and will help me with the most basic of basics before I start my classes(which should be relatively soon hopefully).

    thanks

    1. It’s great that you are going to learn Japanese and I’m glad somebody is getting some help from my posts 🙂

      As far as books that helped me…

      Teach Yourself Beginner’s Japanese and Teach Yourself Beginner’s Japanese script, both by Helen Gilhooly. The first was great for conversations and the basics of speaking and the sounds whilst the second was great for learning Kanji.

      I also suggest buying Japanese for Busy People 1. My class used it extensively. Japanese for Busy People covers a lot and is a great book. It also comes with a CD but be careful, there are two versions – Romanised and Kana (Japanese alphabets).

      The Kana version uses English for explanations and Hiragana and Katakana extensively for sentence examples. It’s not impossible to use but if you can’t read Kana and you’re learning by yourself, you might find it tough going (I speak from experience). After a while I found it helped because it forced me to read and understand Kana but if you’re starting out by yourself it can seem very daunting (translating everything into western letters). I didn’t use the romanised version but it uses the roman alphabet in the conversation/sentence examples and it looked easier. You can move onto Kana after it. The cover of the book will let you know which one is which. They also have work books with extra examples.

      I think it’s a very good idea that you’re starting out early because if you can hit the ground running (being able to read Kana) then you’ll be at an advantage.

      That was longer than expected 😉 but I’m glad I’m able to help.

  2. Vashdaman

    Thats great, thank you, I’m gonna try and get ahold of some these as soon a I can.

    It’s daunting starting out learning a new language(especially as japanese is considered one of the hardest) but I’m really excited about it and looking forward to the challenge.

    Your help is much appreciated!!

  3. Jesse

    Hey! I loved the way you explained the kanji, by both giving the meaning in English and the hiragana used in context.

    I have been trying to find a book that does the same… but it seems that what you would think is very logical is absent from any publication I’ve yet seen. I have found some that will show you a Kanji and give you both the kun and on hiragana but do not tell you when to use which of those, or if there are multiple of either when to use any of them. I am just starting to learn, but I assume that for each specific use, the Kanji has a specific pronunciation.

    For example, you use the sun/day kanji here twice, one for each meaning. As sun, you pronounce it “ni”, and as day it is now “nichi”.

    Are there no books that lay this out for you? I just think it would be so much more helpful to be able to follow the hiragana of the kanji and know which meaning they take on…

    Secondly!… are there any manga or childrens books or anything of the like you’d recommend for starting to learn kanji through reading? And as a hinge question to this, is there a dictionary you’d recommend for when I needed to look something up?

    Thanks, I hope you see this… very simple but well written post!

    -Jesse

    1. Hey Jesse,

      Thanks for the reply to my post. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I hope I can help you (to be honest I was recently wondering if my posts were more confusing than elucidating). I assume you know your kana because that’s essential for kanji… regardless, let’s get to work!

      1. I have found some that will show you a Kanji and give you both the kun and on hiragana but do not tell you when to use which of those, or if there are multiple of either when to use any of them. I am just starting to learn, but I assume that for each specific use, the Kanji has a specific pronunciation.

      You’re on the right track. I’ll start off with a quick explanation about the readings which will hopefully build up into an explanation of sorts.

      On-yomi developed from the original Chinese pronunciation which has been adapted for Japan whilst Kun-yomi is the native Japanese word.

      Let’s look at the different readings for mountain: 山

      Kun-yomi – Japanese
      や ま
      Ya ma

      On-yomi – Chinese
      サン
      San

      (I’ve used katakana for on-yomi to differentiate the readings)

      There is a general rule which dictates how you read/pronounce a kanji:

      If a kanji character is by itself, use the kun-yomi reading:

      それ は   です。
      それ は やま です。
      Sore wa ya ma desu.
      That is a mountain.

      The kanji character for mountain is in the middle by itself on the first line. If you track back to when I defined the readings you can see yama is the kun-yomi reading.

      If a kanji character is part of a compound word (two or more kanji stuck together), then use the on-yomi reading:

      それ は  富士山 です。
      それ は  フジサン です。
      Sore wa fujisan desu.
      That is Mount Fuji.

      There are three kanji together in the middle so you would use the on-yomi reading for each character and combine them into one word:

      富 -フ Fu
      士 -シ/ ジ shi/ji
      山 -サン san

      This makes the word Fujisan.

      2. Are there no books that lay this out for you? I just think it would be so much more helpful to be able to follow the hiragana of the kanji and know which meaning they take on…
      Secondly!… are there any manga or childrens books or anything of the like you’d recommend for starting to learn kanji through reading? And as a hinge question to this, is there a dictionary you’d recommend for when I needed to look something up?

      Hinge question first… Sorry to disappoint you but I have never found a perfect dictionary. I have had to use a combination of books to get the meanings. I’ll e-mail my teacher to see if she can recommend any books (there are probably some).

      For a word index, you can visit this site.

      http://www.japanesecalligrapher.com/bjc/

      They cover the art of calligraphy and explain kanji at the same time. It’s pretty informative and well laid out.

      A great book for learning kanji is this one:

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Basic-Kanji-Book-v-1/dp/4893580914/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1298663501&sr=1-1

      It’s simple but requires a knowledge of hiragana and katakana. That said, I use it constantly because it is clear and concise and features plenty of examples.

      As far as learning kanji through manga goes, there is the Kanji de Manga series or you could try Japanese the Manga Way:

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Japanese-Manga-Way-Illustrated-Structure/dp/1880656906/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1298664747&sr=1-1

      I looked into this area myself but found it hard to find Japanese language manga in the UK. I did buy the first ten issues of Captain Harlock from a friend who had lived in Japan and found it full of kanji and quite interesting. I’ll look into importing some and give an update.

      I’m going to start a new thread of posts detailing learning Japanese from scratch just to keep myself motivated and maybe help others. I hope you found this helpful. Any questions, just ask.

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