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Ultimate Guide to Japanese Kanji

By Yuria Hoshmand | April 8th, 2022

Are you a complete beginner to learning Japanese kanji or do you already know some kanji but you are looking to  improve your kanji? Learning kanji may sound difficult and time consuming but once you  learn the basics you’ll find that it’s not too hard. Test your understanding about kanji or improve your kanji by  learning the  basics of kanji structures, readings, and writing. 

This article is a part of our extensive series on learning about Japanese Culture through Online Japanese Lessons at Japan Switch. 

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    Do I really need to learn 2000 kanji? Learning kanji from scratch

    If you can read and write 2000 kanji that’s great but you don’t really need to know how to both read and write 2000 kanji in 2022. However, daily use kanji which can be used  to read most books and newspapers, is estimated to be around 2000. That means if you know these kanji you will be able to read and write most daily use kanji. Plus, there is an estimated 863 kanji that  can  be used for Japanese names. If you know these kanji, you will be able to read people's names in the newspapers, on the news, or in books/textbooks, which will be  important because Japanese people's names mostly consist  of kanji. 

    Do you want  to master  Japanese or just the bare minimum? 

    Whether you need to learn 2000 kanji or not depends on your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish in Japanese. there is a decreasing need to hand write Kanji in everyday life compared to before the emergence of smartphones. If you just want to get around Japan with no problems (shopping malls, restaurants, train stations, etc.) and you don't read the book or the newspapers, you would just want to know how to read the basic kanji.   

    Writing kanji is not as necessary unless you actually have to write it, which is not that often. Japanese people today can write fewer kanji thanks to technology. The  keyboard automatically  finds the matching kanji for you. However, you  will still be expected to know the vocabulary words and have the ability to know the appropriate kanji for your sentences. 

    To conclude, if you learn about 2000 kanji (of which 1000 are taught in elementary school and the other half in middle school), you can live in Japan with no problems, and if you learn the extra 863 kanji for names you would be  able to read and write most kanji.

    Check out this article to learn 2000 kanji in 3 months: Writing Japanese: How to Learn 2000 Kanji in 3 Months 

    Learning kanji from scratch

    If you have no prior knowledge of Japanese kanji and are looking for steps to start learning, the first thing you should do is to start with kanji from the first grade level. There are about 80 simple kanji for the first grade, which sounds like a lot but it’s not, since they are all simple and basic kanji. The best way to start learning Japanese kanji is to first study how to write the kanji with the correct stroke order, memorize all the pronunciations, and the associated words/vocabularies for each pronunciation. The stroke order is important if you want to write the kanji beautifully. It’s also equally important to know all the pronunciations for the kanji because most kanji have two or more  ways to read it  and they are all used in the Japanese language.

    How to memorize kanji?

    The best way to remember how to write kanji is to practice writing the kanji over and over until you can write the kanji without looking at anything. Learning kanji is all about practicing and memorizing. I have  studied kanji throughout my elementary school years and I used to be able to  write more kanji, but because I stopped using kanji as much, I can’t remember how to write complex kanji off the top of my head. But since I actually studied the kanji and the memory is still somewhere there, I would be able to write them if I look them up. Even as a Japanese native speaker it’s still hard to keep remembering all the kanji  I studied  in the past, so being able to continuously write kanji takes consistent practice. On the other hand, reading kanji  is easier than writing kanji. For me, learning kanji for the first time is enough to remember how  to read kanji. To conclude, if you want  to excel at learning kanji, you need to surround and familiarize yourself with reading and writing kanji on a daily basis.

    If you want to find out  more about learning basic Japanese, also check out on BFF  Tokyo:  Ultimate Guide to Beginner Japanese

    If you want to  start taking Japanese lessons, check out: How to Prepare for Private Japanese Lessons

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    History and the forming of kanji

    Kanji is the only ancient writing that’s still being used to this day. It is estimated that it was created about  3500 years ago in China. The oldest  form of Kanji based on archaeological records was found in a Chinese ruin from B.C.16 to B.C. 14 but it is said that the older ancestor of Kanji existed even before that. The Oracle bone script is the oldest type of kKanji found  and considered to be an ancestor of Chinese characters engraved on bones. 

    Do you want to  learn more about the history of Japanese kanji? Check out this article: Kanji History - The Origins of Japan's Writing System

    What is Rikusho? (六書)

    There are 6 principles of the forming of Kanji called 六書 (rikusho)

    • Shokei moji are kanji characters formed from the shape of an object in real life. For example, kanji 山 (mountains) was created from the shape of the mountains, 人 (people) from two people leaning on each other, and 門 (gate) from the shape of the gate. 
    • Shiji moji are characters that represent abstract concepts using diagrams and symbols. For example the kanji 本 (root) represents the root of the tree (木) by adding a line at the base of the character tree. Other examples include 一 (one), 二 (two), 三 (three), 上 (top), and 下 (bottom). 
    • Kaii moji is a combination of shokei and shiji moji to give it a new meaning. For example, 林 (forest) is a combination of two trees (木), indicating a place with many trees. 休 (rest) is a combination of a person (人) and a tree (木), indicating a person leaning on the tree and resting. Other examples include 北 (north), 炎 (flame), 明 (bright), 見 (see), 祭 (festival), and 進 (enter). 
    • Keisei moji is a combination of shokei and shiji moji using the meaning of the radicals as well as the reading, and it is said that more than 80% of kanji are this type. For example, 湖 (lake) shows the radical on the left which represents water and 胡 represents the sound. Other examples include 清 (clean), 菓 (candy), 酒 (alcohol), 抱 (hug), and 校 (school). 
    • Tenchu is said to be a combination of two or  more kanji to give it a new meaning but the exact meaning is still not known. For example, 薬 (medicine) is a combination of 楽 (comfort) and 草 (grass). 
    • Kasha is a borrowing of a character  to make a new word of the same sound without  paying attention to its meaning. For example, 北 (north) meant back and away but since it has the same sound it came to mean north. 

    If you want to read more about the 6 principles, check out this article: Rikusho: 六書 (The 6th Principle of Kanji)

    Stroke orders and how to identify the structure of kanji and radicals?

    Like I explained above, kanji consists of different parts. Kanji usually consists of two or more kanji with radicals. Radicals are called 部首 (bushu) in Japanese and it is a  part of kanji divided in 7 different groups. Radicals contain from one stroke to seventeen strokes. There are thousands of kanjis but if you remember the 7 groups of radicals it would be a lot easier to understand. 

    The seven groups of radicals

    The radicals

    Where?

    Example kanji

    Hen

    Left side of kanji

    駅 → 馬

    Tsukuri

    Right side of kanji

    状 → 犬

    Kanmuri

    At the top

    全 → 人

    Ashi

    At the bottom

    思 → 心

    Tare

    Encircles the top and left

    屋 or 広

    Nyo

    Encircles the bottom and left

    建 or 処

    Kamae

    Encircles anything else

    間 → 門

    If you want to see more radicals, check out:  The 214 traditional kanji radicals and their meanings

    Some examples of the radicals

    The radical ninben (people radical) can be seen in kanji  such as 体 (body), 作 (make), 使 (use) which was derived from 人 (people), therefore these kanji relates to people. The radical tehen (hand radical) is used in kanji such as 投 (throw), 指  (finger), and 技 (skill) and shows the movement of the hand. The radical ritto originates from the kanji 刀 which  means a sword, and is used in kanji that express cutting such as 割 (split), 刻 (carve), and 別 (separate). Lastly, the radical ukanmuri means the roof, therefore used in kanji such as 家 (house), 安, and 室 (room). The radicals can look similar to one another but the meaning would be completely different just from an added dot or a line. For example, the radical gyoninben used in kanji such as 行 (go) and 往 (switch to), was  created from the meaning of the roads splitting, and even though it looks similar to the ninben radical explained above, they both have a complete different meaning. 

    If you want to improve your understanding of the radicals, check out this article: What Are Kanji Radicals?

    Stroke orders and counts

    Knowing the correct stroke orders is important when it comes to writing kanji. Learning the correct stroke orders helps you to  be able to write the kanji rapidly without pausing to think about the next stroke. It might seem like a time consuming step but it actually helps you to learn kanji faster. Skipping the stroke orders is not recommended since you won’t be able to read cursive kanji and it will be more difficult to learn kanji. It’s only complicated at first, but with practice you will be able to automatically write kanji. The stroke orders do follow a consistent pattern so once you learn a stroke order you can apply the same rule for kanji that have the same shape. Kanji is also usually divided by stroke order counts. When you first learn kanji, you will most likely start with kanji that have the least stroke order counts. Basic kanji taught in first grade level has  the least stroke order counts  and gradually increases  as the grade increases. 

    Do you want to find out  more tips about learning Japanese? Also check out on BFF  Tokyo: Top 15 Japanese Kanji Tips

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    Chinese and Japanese readings and how to know the difference

    In Japanese kanji, there are two types of ways to read the  kanji; Japanese pronunciation (kun-yomi)  and the original Chinese pronunciation (on-yomi). When it comes to reading Japanese kanji, there is no way to determine 100% which pronunciation is On reading or  Kun reading. There are always exceptions and it’s something you just have to memorize and know. However, there are some basic rules of thumb to differentiate the two. 

    Kun reading vs On reading

    The first basic rule is if the pronunciation describes a word or if  you can understand the meaning it’s Kun reading and if the pronunciation doesn’t mean anything it’s On  reading. For example, the original Chinese pronunciation of  山 is shan. In this case, the On reading is san which doesn’t really have a meaning, and the Kun  reading is yama, which means mountain in Japanese. In the dictionary, the On reading is written in Katakana since the pronunciation is derived from Chinese which is a foreign language, and the Kun reading is written in Hiragana since it’s a Japanese pronunciation. Other examples are the kanji 海 (ocean), we know umi is Kun reading since it means ocean in Japanese, and kai is On reading since it doesn’t mean anything.

    How is the Kanji read?

    The second rule is that if the kanji has okurigana, which uses hiragana after kanji in Japanese words. Some kanji need  hiragana after the kanji so the word makes  sense in Japanese. However, this rule doesn’t always apply. 

    • If the word ends in __ suru or __ jiru it would be On reading, such as 接する (sessuru) which means to interact or 生じる (shojiru) which means to arise. 
    • If the pronunciation has more than 4 letters it’s Kun reading, which means if it’s On reading the pronunciation always has 3 or less letters. For example, the kanji 志 (kokorozashi), 公 (ooyake), 詔  (mikotonori), and 私 (watakushi) are all Kun reading since they all have 4 or more letters. 
    • If the pronunciation starts with voiced  sounds or ra ri  ru re ro, that would be On reading  with the exception of 辞 (ji) and 場 (ba). For example, 合 (go), 残 (zan), 字 (ji) are all On reading. 

    Do you want to improve your  Japanese reading skills? Also check out on Japan Switch: Top 15 Tips to Improve Japanese Reading

    How many kanji are there and when do they start teaching kanji?

    It’s a simple question but nobody really knows the exact number of kanji. Officially, the Chinese dictionary of kanji records 85,568 kanji. There are about 11,233 kanji registered in the JIS kanji code, and in the Great Chinese-Japanese Dictionary there are over 50,000  kanji. According to Dr. Shirakawa almost ⅔ of the kanji in the dictionary is useless and concludes that only about 8000 kanji are actually being used. This is why I always have a hard time explaining kanji to my non-Japanese friends. How do you explain to someone that you have a few thousand characters in kanji on top of hiragana and katakana? I speak Japanese but I still feel like Japanese is one of the hardest languages to master.

    Japanese people start learning kanji from the first grade. We learn simple and complex kanji during first grade until middle school. When you learn a new kanji you learn On and Kun readings, the stroke orders to write the kanji, and example words that use the kanji. Over 1000 kanji are taught in elementary school. We learn 80  kanji in first grade, 160 kanji in second grade, 200 kanji in third grade, and so on. We learn the most kanji in fourth grade (202) and the kanji taught becomes more and more complex with more strokes. Japanese  kanji taught in elementary school are called educational kanji. 

    Are you   curious about how long it takes to learn Japanese? Also check out on Japan Switch: How long does it take to learn Japanese?

    Resources for learning Japanese kanji and how to improve

    Books

    • Remembering the Kanji  1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters

    Remembering the Kanji  1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters is one of the most popular books to learn the 2000 kanji you need. It proposes  how easy it actually is to learn kanji if you memorize the  different elements. It breaks down different elements of kanji and talks about how learning different ways of combining them can improve your kanji. It teaches the correct stroke order and the meanings  of kanji. 

    • Learning Japanese Kanji Practice Book Volume 1: (JLPT Level N5 & AP Exam) The Quick and Easy Way to Learn the Basic Japanese Kanji

    Learning Japanese Kanji Practice Book Volume 1: (JLPT Level N5 & AP Exam) The Quick and Easy Way to Learn the Basic Japanese Kanji has one of the highest ratings  on Amazon and is suitable for both beginners and advanced level. It teaches the most basic kanji and all  the kanji and vocabularies shown in this book cover what you need to pass the N5 level of the JLPT. It also teaches the correct stroke order with practice boxes with extra free boxes so it has lots of spaces to practice your kanji. 

    • The Complete Guide to Japanese Kanji: (JLPT All Levels) Remembering and Understanding the 2,136 Standard Characters

    The Complete Guide to Japanese Kanji: (JLPT All Levels) Remembering and Understanding the 2,136 Standard Characters also teaches you the 2000 kanji you need. It covers all the General Use kanji determined by the Japanese Ministry of Education and not only does it teach you how to read and write kanji, it also gives you the historical development of each kanji. This book is ideal for those who wish to take the JLPT, as well as beginners. 

    Apps - Google Play

    • Japanese Kanji Study by Chase Colburn

    Japanese Kanji Study by Chase Colburn lets you study kanji and also lets you track your progress. You can memorize kanji with flashcards, test your knowledge with multiple  choice questions, learn the correct stroke order with animated strokes, master kanji with writing, as well as flexible kanji search. It’s not completely free but it offers ad-free unlimited study of beginner kanji, radicals, hiragana, and katakana. 

    • Japanese Kanji Study by Poro Nihongo

    Japanese Kanji Study by Poro Nihongo breaks down kanji study with different levels and themes like numbers, radicals, verbs, adjectives, time, etc. The kanji shown in this app cover all levels of JLPT and have detailed information of the kanji’s meanings, pronunciations (on reading and kun reading), and example words. It also includes flashcards, customized practice tests, kanji challenges, and practice JLPT tests. 

    Apps - App Store

    • Learn Japanese! - Kanji

    Learn Japanese! - Kanji provides a fast and easy way to learn kanji and you don’t need the internet to access the app. It teaches 2000 kanji characters and some features include On and Kun readings, JLPT kanji lists, show and quiz style teaching method, both Japanese-English and English-Japanese translation, and audio pronunciation. 

    • Japanese-kanji (18-kanjis)

    Japanese-kanji (18-kanjis) is more suitable for beginners as it only teaches the most simple 18 kanji out of the 80 first grade level kanji. The kanji are categorized into different sections and the app shows the stroke orders, easy quizzes, and mini games with audio pronunciations. 

    If you want to seek more options for kanji learning apps, also check out on BFF Tokyo: Guide to Japanese Learning Apps 

    How to improve your kanji

    Kanji is one of those things where you easily forget how to write if you’re not using it. Many Japanese adults don’t know how to write difficult kanji but most people know how to read them. Basically there’s no way to know how much someone knows Kanji since there are way too many. But usually it’s easier to read it than to actually write it, which is more complex. Learning kanji is not hard, it just takes consistent practice. It’s like memorizing. If you actually write down kanji on a piece of paper it helps stick more. The only way to improve your kanji is by writing it over and over again until you master it. Surrounding yourself with kanji such as reading books and textbooks, watching tv in Japanese, and using Japanese subtitles also help improve your kanji. 

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    Calligraphy for kanji practice

    Kanji in JLPT and calligraphy

    What is JLPT?

    JLPT is taken by students of Japanese around the world. Having a certificate of proficiency is ideal to have when applying for jobs, since it shows how much you can speak and understand Japanese. Having at least N3 is recommended for jobs. Although there is no complete list of kanji for each level of JLPT, there is a list of kanji that are likely to be on the test for each level. It’s still possible to estimate what kanji are going to be on the test if you’re thinking about taking the JLPT. There are five levels from N5 to N1, N5 being the easiest. 

    What to expect for each JLPT level?

    For each level, you need to know about 80 kanji and 800 vocabulary words for N5, 167 kanji and 1500 vocabulary words for N4, 370 kanji and 3700 vocabulary words for N3, 368 kanji and 6000  vocabulary words for N2, and 1235 kanji and 10000 vocabulary words for N1. This may sound like a lot, but you don’t need to know how to handwrite the kanji, as there is no form of writing in the JLPT. The test comes in multiple choice questions, so you only need to be able to identify the kanji. The sections of the test include vocabulary, grammar, reading, and listening. N5 takes the least time to complete while N1 takes the most time. 

    The levels N5 and N4 are considered to be beginner JLPT levels and the kanji are equivalent to early elementary school level. N3 is considered to be intermediate level and your Japanese language level is equivalent to middle school students. The kanji in this level includes kanji  taught during late elementary. N2 and N1 are considered to be the most difficult to pass  and are equivalent to high school level. With these levels, you need to have an advanced understanding and comprehension of the Japanese language including sophisticated topics. Some tips to pass the JLPT include practicing reading kanji and the vocabulary words, as well as putting yourself in an environment where you only hear and speak Japanese. 

    Download Hacking the JLPT ebook to get some free genkou youshi (sheets of paper to practice writing kanji) to practice your writing.

    Are you looking to  improve your Japanese listening skills for JLPT? Also check out: Top 15 Japanese Listening Tips

    Calligraphy

    Calligraphy (書道, shodo) is one of the  oldest  forms of art in Japan and written in Kanji translates to the way of writing. Using brush, ink, and a special piece of paper, calligraphy is an artistic  expression of writing beautifully in Japanese and is taught in schools as well as in individual lessons. Taking calligraphy lessons is a common activity in Japan among both students and professionals.  You can also get a certificate depending on the level.

    Two styles of calligraphy

    Two different styles of calligraphy  are taught which are the traditional calligraphy using brush and ink and calligraphy using pens and pencils. The latter requires less skill  because using hard point pens and pencils the strokes are a lot more stable in terms of thickness and darkness. It’s often practiced to learn the shape and the structure  of Kanji parts rather than the actual writing skills. On the other hand using a brush requires more skills because you can control how much pressure you apply to the brush like how thick you draw the strokes or how dark the color  gets. Pens capture the characteristics of Kanji and traditional  calligraphy captures the movement of the brush when writing Kanji. It is both  an art and a skill  you can develop by practicing. 

    Where can I learn calligraphy and what are the materials used? 

    You can learn calligraphy on YouTube or by going to in-person classes. Going to in-person classes is recommended if you have time, since the instructor can teach you one on one how  to hold the brush, show you the right angles, and give you direct feedback on your work. In the lesson, you will most likely start with 硬筆 (kouhitsu) which translates to hard brush. It doesn’t require  the use of an actual brush, it just refers  to a hard point. Kohitsu is writing using pen/pencils. This is to learn the correct stroke order and the structure of the kanji. It’s like a preparation before you can move on to writing with an actual brush with ink, which is called 毛筆 (mouhitsu). Mouhitsu is  the typical calligraphy you are probably thinking of, and it requires writing on a special piece of paper called 半紙 (hanshi). Hanshi is different from a normal piece of paper in that it’s thinner and it contains more fiber. With mouhitsu, you usually buy your own set of brush, ink, and the papers which you bring to the lesson every time.

    You start by preparing the ink by pouring the liquid ink, adjusting  its thickness  with the ink. The instructor will give you a sample piece of paper so you can see how to  write it. It sounds  easy to just copy the sample paper, but you’ll see  that it’s actually hard to make it look the same. The most important aspect to  writing beautifully in mouhitsu is tome (stop), hane (upward stroke), and harai (sweeping) of the strokes. How much pressure you apply and the way you stroke make a huge difference  when writing in mouhitsu. The materials used in Japanese are 紙 (kami) paper, 墨 (sumi) ink, 墨液 (bokueki) liquid ink, and 筆 (fude) brush.  

    If you also want  to experience different part  of Japanese culture, check out: Ultimate Guide to Japanese Yukata vs. Kimono 

    Learning kanji for everyday use

    Japanese kanji you encounter in daily life and important kanji you need to know

    If you live in Japan, chances are you see kanji everywhere you go, from shopping malls, parking lots, convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, train stations, airports, on tv, shrines, hot springs, etc. Since kanji are everywhere and there is no reading aid, even if you know how to read and write hiragana and katakana, it will be hard to get around if you have no prior knowledge of kanji. Here are some important kanji to know based on different public places.

    Restaurants/shopping malls

    Kanji

    Pronunciation

    Translation

    営業中

    Eigyo-chu

    Open for business

    準備中

    Junbi-chu

    In preparation - closed

    休止中

    Kyushi-chu

    Temporarily closed

    本日休業

    Honjitsu-kyugyo

    Closed today

    定休日

    Teikyu-bi

    Closed days

    営業時間

    Eigyou-jikan

    Business hours

    お手洗い/化粧室

    Otearai/Keshou-shitsu

    Bathroom/powder room 

    駐車場

    Chuusha-jo 

    Parking lot

    階段

    Kaidan

    Stairs 

    試着室

    Shichaku-shitsu

    Fitting room

    割引

    Waribiki

    Discount 

    半額

    Hangaku

    Half price

    全品

    Zenpin 

    All items

    無料

    Muryou  

    Free 

    完売/売り切れ

    Kanbai/Urikire 

    Sold out

    定食

    Teishoku 

    Set meals

    ご返却口

    Gohenkyaku-guchi 

    Return window

    日本料理

    Nihon-ryouri 

    Japanese food

    中華料理

    Chuuka-ryouri  

    Chinese food

    韓国料理

    Kankoku-ryouri 

    Korean food

    食堂

    Shokudo 

    Dining hall/cafeteria 

    居酒屋

    Izakaya 

    Izakaya: casual Japanese bar that serves drinks and snacks

    焼酎

    Shochu 

    Distilled spirits

    酎ハイ

    Chuhi 

    Shochu highball

    日本酒

    Nihon-shu 

    Japanese sake

    玉露茶

    Gyokuro-cha 

    Green tea

    梅酒

    Ume-shu 

    Plum sake

    喫茶店

    Kissa-ten 

    Cafe/coffee shop

    お水/お冷

    Omizu/Ohiya

    Water, usually self-served

     

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    Convenience stores/supermarket

    野菜

    Yasai

    Vegetables 

    果物

    Kudamono 

    Fruits 

    青果

    Seika 

    Vegetables and fruits

    鮮魚

    Sengyo 

    Fresh seasfood

    Sakana 

    Fish 

    精肉/肉

    Seiniku/niku 

    Meat 

    豚肉

    Butaniku 

    Pork 

    鶏肉/胸肉

    Toriniku/muneniku  

    Chicken/breast 

    牛肉

    Gyuniku 

    Beef 

    竹の子

    Takenoko 

    Bamboo shoots

    南瓜

    Kabocha 

    Pumpkin 

    玉葱

    Tamanegi 

    Onion 

    胡瓜

    Kyuri 

    Cucumber 

    豆腐

    Tofu 

    Tofu 

    納豆

    Natto 

    Natto, fermented beans 

    乳製品

    Nyu-seihin 

    Dairy products

    牛乳

    Gyunyu 

    Milk 

    日用品

    Nichiyo-hin 

    Household items 

    雑貨

    Zakka 

    Miscellaneous items

    お菓子

    Okashi 

    Snacks 

    惣菜

    Souzai 

    Ready-made side dish

    弁当

    Bento 

    Bento, ready-made meals

    飲料類

    Inryo-rui 

    Beverages 

    お酒

    Osake 

    Alcohol 

    Tamago

    Eggs 

    小麦

    Komugi 

    Wheat/gluten 

    落花生

    Rakkasei 

    Peanuts 

    Kani

    Crab 

    海老

    Ebi 

    Shrimp 

    蕎麦

    Soba 

    Wheat 

    大豆

    Daizu 

    Soy 

    味噌

    Miso 

    Miso 

    醤油

    Shoyu 

    Soy sauce 

    Abura 

    Oil 

    Shio 

    Salt 

    砂糖

    Sato 

    Sugar 

    胡椒

    Kosho 

    Pepper 

    Su 

    Vinegar 

    現金

    Genkin 

    Cash 

    お買い得商品

    Okaidoku-shohin 

    Clearance items 

    消費期限/賞味期限

    Shouhi-kigen/shoumi-kigen

    Expiration date 

    加工日

    Kakoubi 

    Processed date 

    内容量

    Naiyo-ryo 

    Net quantity

    保存温度

    Hozon-ondo 

    Storage temperature

    Train stations/airports

    空港

    Kuuko 

    Airport 

    到着

    Tochaku 

    Arrival 

    出発

    Shuppatsu 

    Departure 

    時刻

    Jikoku 

    Time 

    国内線

    Kokunai-sen 

    Domestic flight 

    国際線

    Kokusai-sen 

    International flight 

    乗り継ぎ

    Noritsugi 

    Connecting flight

    便名

    Binmei 

    Flight number 

    手荷物

    Tenimotsu 

    Luggage 

    受取所

    Uketori-jo 

    Receive 

    検疫

    Keneki 

    Quarantine 

    税関

    Zeikan 

    Customs 

    申告

    Shinkoku 

    Declaration 

    入り口

    Iriguchi 

    Entrance 

    出口

    Deguchi 

    Exit 

    出国審査

    Shukkoku-shinsa 

    Immigration for departure

    入国審査

    Nyukoku-shinsa 

    Immigration for arrival

    航空機

    Kouku-ki 

    Airplane 

    航空会社

    Kouku-gaisha 

    Airlines 

    情報

    Jouho 

    Information  

    切符

    Kippu 

    Ticket 

    地下鉄

    Chikatetsu 

    Subway 

    電車

    Densha 

    Train 

    Sen 

    Line 

    急行

    Kyuko 

    Express 

    準特急

    Jun-kyuko 

    Semi-express 

    特急

    Tokkyu 

    Limited express 

    快速

    Kaisoku 

    Rapid 

    普通列車/各駅停車

    Futsu-ressha/kakueki-teisha 

    Local train 

    新幹線

    Shinkansen 

    Shinkansen 

    自由席

    Jiyu-seki 

    Non-reserved seat

    指定席

    Shitei-seki 

    Reserved seat 

    女性専用車両

    Josei-senyou-sharyou 

    Women-only car

    優先席

    Yusen-guchi 

    Priority seat

    西口

    Nishiguchi 

    West exit 

    東口

    Higashiguchi 

    East exit 

    北口

    Kitaguchi 

    North exit

    南口

    Minamiguchi 

    South exit 

    Eki 

    Station 

    Do you want to further improve your vocabulary words? Check out  on BFF tokyo:  Guide to Japanese Verbs 

    Important kanji you need to know

    For the kanji with two or more pronunciations, the first pronunciation is the correct translation.

    En 

    Yen 

    Sen 

    Thousand 

    Man 

    Ten thousand

    Onna/jo

    Women 

    Otoko/dan

    Men 

    Ichi 

    One 

    Ni 

    Two 

    San 

    Three 

    Shi/yon

    Four 

    Go 

    Five 

    Roku 

    Six 

    Nana 

    Seven 

    Hachi 

    Eight 

    Kyuu/ku 

    Nine 

    Juu

    Ten 

    Ue/jo

    Up/top 

    Shita/ge

    Down/bottom 

    Sho

    Small 

    Naka/chu 

    Middle 

    Migi/u

    Right 

    Hidari/sa

    Left 

    Hito/jin 

    People/human/man 

    Me 

    Eyes 

    Hana 

    Nose 

    Kuchi/ko 

    Mouth 

    Mimi 

    Ears 

    Kao 

    Face 

    Te/shu 

    Hands 

    Ashi 

    Legs 

    Karada/tai 

    Body 

    Ame/u 

    Rain 

    Hare/sei 

    Sunny 

    Ko/shi 

    Child 

    Do  you have trouble counting in Japanese?  Also check out: Ultimate Guide to Counting in Japanese 

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    From Beginner to Pro

    Our bi-weekly emails for beginners to low intermediate students will give you the tips and motivation to self-study Japanese your way to Japanese fluency.

    Learning to read different groupings/compounds of Japanese kanji

    Many Japanese words consist of two or more kanji. 熟語 (jukugo) usually means compound kanji words that make one meaning, although it is a broad term. When we say jukugo there are 2 main meanings. The first one is the forming of two or more kanji that make a phrase with one meaning. For example, idioms such as 気がきく (kigakiku) (to be considerate), proverbs such as 急がば回れ (isogaba-maware) (haste makes waste), or compound words with two or more vocabularies such as 年越し (toshikoshi) (new year). Another meaning is the forming of two or more kanji that make a vocabulary with one meaning. For example, 美女 (beautiful woman) and 幸福 (happiness). In this case, they’re both vocabularies and words. On top of that, there are 5 types of compound kanji in Japanese. 

    • The first type is that the kanji forming a word have the same or similar meanings, for example 永久 (eternal) have the similar meanings, 永 meaning forever and 久 meaning long. 
    • The second type is the kanji forming a word have different meanings, for example 異同 (differences) have the opposite meanings, 異 means difference whereas 同 means the same. 
    • The third type is the first kanji modifies the second kanji, for example 青空 (aozora) means blue sky, with the first kanji 青 (blue) modifying the second kanji 空 (sky) to indicate blue sky. 
    • The fourth type is the first kanji being the subject and the second kanji being the predicate, for example 地震 (jishin) means earthquake, with the first kanji 地 meaning the earth or the ground and the second kanji meaning 震 which means to shake. 
    • The last type is the first kanji being the verb and the second kanji being the object, for example 洗顔 (sengan) means washing face, the first kanji is 洗 means to wash and the second kanji translates to face. 

    Do you want to  learn more about  Japanese grammar? Also check out on BFF Tokyo: Guide to Japanese Conjugation 

    Final thoughts: Why you don’t need to worry about Kanji

    Unless you want to master Japanese and learn 2000 kanji that’s considered to be literate in Japanese, you don’t need to worry too much about reading and writing Japanese kanji. Like I explained at the beginning, there is a decreasing need to hand write kanji in everyday situations.  You can use the keyboard to type, or use the internet to look up kanji in case you need to hand write kanji. Being able to read kanji  is always more useful than being able to write them, as there are more opportunities to read kanji, such as when in public places or reading books/textbooks/newspapers.

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