Best Way to Learn Japanese Kanji
How to Learn Japanese Kanji
Kanji are "Chinese characters" used to denote Japanese words.
Japanese Kanji for numerals:
|1 || 一
|2 || 二
|3 || 三
|4 || 四
|5 || 五
|6 || 六
|7 || 七
|8 || 八
|9 || 九
How to Learn Japanese Kana
Japanese Symbols for the five basic vowels:
The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary: Revised and Expanded [Paperback]
Jack Halpern (Editor), Y.-H. Tohsaku (Foreword) (2013, 2e; first edition was 2001)
See our web page on Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary (2e)
Essential Kanji: 2,000 Basic Japanese Characters Systematically Arranged For
Learning and Reference (2007; originally 1973)
- 2000 basic kanji characters (according to Japanese Ministry of Education).
- Equivalent to the characters prescribed by Japanese authorities for use in Japanese publications.
- Introduces the more common characters first; groups characters by sharing of
Sino-Japanese ON reading (three-quarters consist of
"a radical (indicating the general area of meaning of a character)
and a phonetic (indicating its sound or reading)".
- Indexes kanji by ON (the Sino-Japanese) and by kun (the pure Japanese) reading.
- Proposes that a conscientious university student can learn these 2,000 characters during two years' study.
- Arranged in 6 groups:
- 1-881: the 881 basic "education characters".
- 882-1822: the other 941 characters from the "current use" list of characters (proposed 1954).
- 1823-1850: the 28 characters proposed in 1954 for addition.
- 1851-1878: the 28 characters proposed in 1954 for deletion (at the same time as the additions proposed).
- 1879-1908: 30 other common-enough characters.
- 1909-2000: 92 extra characters approved for use in names.
- For each kanji, an eighth a page of material, with:
- Brush character in "stiff form (kaisho)" with numbers showing stroke order.
- Pen character "stiff form".
- Old or variant form of a character.
- Identifying number for character in this text.
- Radical and stroke number.
- ON reading.
- kun reading.
- Modern Chinese Mandarin reading with tones indicated.
- Explanation of character type.
- Compound words and phrases to illustrate the readings and show the printed form.
- Readings and meanings.
- The 4-page section of English names of radicals is particularly useful for Westerners.
- Arrangement of characters by stroke count is also shown.
The largest number of strokes is a terrifying 23.
Guide to Writing Japanese Kanji and Kana: Book 1 (2004)
by Wolfgang Hadamitzky and Mark Spahn
- A very practical book that builds upon what has been learned so as to
consolidate what has been already learned.
- Opening sections on hiragana and katakana.
- 750 of the more commonly used kanji. For each, includes:
- A large kanji in brush-stroke form, with the strokes numbered so as to be clear
on the sequence and direction of strokes.
This presentation is particularly helpful in showing where the stroke begins.
- Three smaller squares with the kanji in pen form, that one can trace over to
get the sense of the writing gestures involved.
- Grids of empty squares for writing practice.
- A unique identification number.
- Radical and grapheme (basic element) information.
- "On" (or Chinese-derived) pronunciation, which tends to be used in compound words.
- "Kun" (or native-Japanese) pronunciation, which tends to be used stand-alone.
Kanji de Manga: The Comic Book that Teaches You How to Read and Write Japanese;
Volume 1 (2004)
by Glenn Kardy; art by Chihiro Hattori
- Useful for students who already know a few hundred Japanese words and how to write them in
hiragana and katakana.
- 80 of the more commonly used kanji,
a subset of the kanji that Japanese schoolchildren learn in their first two school years.
- For each kanji, includes:
- A large kanji.
- Smaller squares showing the sequence in which the strokes of the kanji
are written (but lacking direction of stroke).
- A manga-like illustration with a brief dialog spoken by its characters;
often with sound effects in katakana.
- The kanji under study has its pronunciation written above it in furigana
- Transcription in hiragana of the spoken words.
- Sadly no romaji transcription, so no hints on how the words sound if you cannot
read the kana.
- A Kanji index using the on-yomi (derived from the Chinese) and kun-yomi (native
- At the rear, a third of the book is simply note pages with
grids of empty squares for writing practice.
Kanji Power: A Workbook For Mastering Japanese Characters (1993)
by John Millen
- 240 of the most commonly used 881 kanji characters (according to Japanese Ministry of Education).
- Equivalent to the first two years of characters studied in Japanese elementary schools:
- 80 1st-grade characters.
- 160 2nd-grade characters.
- For each kanji:
- Half a page of material.
- Stroke order, with pointers on possible errors and confusions.
- Basic meaning.
- Kana for Japanese pronunciations.
- Example sentences and meanings.
- Common compounds.
- Presupposes acquaintance with spoken Japanese and its rudimentary structures.
- Assumes mastery of reading in both of the
Japanese hiragana and katakana syllabaries.
- No romanization (romaji).
- Furigana given for kanji that have not been already introduced.
- Practice is required both of the physical writing with prescribed stroke orders and of memorizing the meanings,
particularly in context of phrases and sentences.
- Reinforcement by 30 new quizzes, one after approximately each group of 6 kanji.
- Progress check with 9 tests, one after approximately each 24 kanji.
- Fluency check with 3 review tests, one after approximately each 80 kanji.
Books to Help you Learn Japanese