What Are Kanji Radicals?

If you’ve been following along in our Joyo Kanji Challenge, or even just learning kanji on your own, you have surely come across kanji radicals. What are radicals, exactly? Radicals in kanji, 部首 (bushu, ぶしゅ), are similar to roots of words in English. For instance, the root “bene” in English, means “good.” So when you see the word benefactor, or benevolent, you know each of those words are related to the root word.

Kanji radicals are similar to this, but they aren’t always as straightforward as the Latin and Greek roots we are used to learning. More often than not, you will not be able to figure out the meaning of a kanji by knowing its radical. Bummer, I know! But a radical can help you to remember different kanji and to tell them apart.

One of the most important functions of radicals is to categorize kanji and make them easier to look up. If you need to find a particular kanji but don’t know the meaning or pronunciation, knowing its radical will save you LOTS of time. Most kanji dictionaries are listed by radical in order of stroke number. So kanji with a radical with one stroke would come first. Kanji radicals go all the way from one stroke up to 17 strokes! Most online dictionaries will also be organized this way, letting you pick which radicals you recognize from the kanji you want to find!
You can try it out here at our free kanji dictionary.

Can you show me a radical already???

OKOK, let’s look at an example with the radical 日:
You may recognize this as the kanji for sun, or day—which is correct—but it is also a radical. While some radicals are also standalone kanji, other radicals (such as ⻌) can only be used as part of a kanji and don’t mean anything on their own.

So by itself, 日 means sun or day. Then we can look at the kanji 明 which means ‘bright light.’ The radical of 明 is 日. In this case, the kanji is related to the meaning of the radical, but that won’t always happen. While 月 is part of the kanji, and is also a radical, there is only ONE true radical per kanji!

Now let’s look at an example with the radical: 水

水 is both the kanji for water and the water radical. So by itself, 水 means water. Then we see the kanji 氷 is verrry similar, but has one extra stroke. This is the kanji for ‘freeze.’ So here is another case where the radical is related to the meaning of a kanji.

Now let’s look at the kanji for ‘to cry:’ 泣

What is the radical here? 氵…Surprise! It is ALSO water! Some radicals have multiple forms depending on where they can be found in a kanji. Water itself has three forms: 水, 氵, and 氺. These are known as modified radicals or radical variants. When 水 is on the left, it becomes 氵. When it is on the bottom, it becomes 氺. Altogether, there are 46 radicals with variations.

If we look closer at this kanji we can see it is the water radical 氵 + 立 which is the radical for ‘stand up.’ So the kanji for ‘cry’ means ‘water stand up?’ Like we said, adding together meanings of different radicals won’t always help. But at least here there is a semantic connection. Consider the kanji 職 which means ’employment.’ The radical for this kanji is 耳…or ear! I have no idea what ears have to do with getting a job, but it seems important!

So now that we know what kanji are, let’s answer a few questions you probably have.

How Many Kanji Radicals Are There?

In total, there are 214 historical kanji radicals used in Japanese kanji. While there are 214 radicals, some radicals are far more common than others, and some are no longer used at all! But 214 is the number most commonly used as radicals from the original KangXi dictionary.

You will often see all the kanji radicals arranged in a chart by ascending stroke order such as this one:
kanji radicals

How Do I Know Which Part Is the Radical?

This is an excellent question, and a very hard one to answer. While the first letter of a word is easy to find (duh!) the radical of a kanji can be in many different places. While kanji are “built” from many different radicals and parts, again, each kanji has only ONE radical! It is important to remember this, because even though a kanji may have three parts you recognize, only one of those parts is its radical. A kanji can also have some extra “parts” that aren’t radicals at all! Oh Japanese, you always keep us on our toes!

In order to find a radical, of course you must know where to look! So let’s review the different positions of radicals in a kanji:

へん (hen) radical left position へん Left-side radicals
left kanji radical
つくり (tsukuri) radical right position つくり Right-side radicals
right kanji radical
かんむり (kanmuri) radical top position かんむり Radicals on toptop kanji radical
あし (ashi) radical bottom position あし Radicals on the bottombottom kanji radical
かまえ (kamae) radical enclosed position くにがまえ radical enclosed position ぎょうがまえ
radical enclosed position けいがまえ radical enclosed position はこがまえ
radical enclosed position つつみがまえ radical enclosed position きがまえ
radical enclosed position もんがまえ
Enclosure radicals
enclosure kanji radical
たれ (tare) radical top-left position たれ Radicals that hang down
hanging kanji radical
にょう (nyou) radical bottom-left position にょう Radicals that wrap around the bottombottom wrap kanji radical

For a much more exhaustive guide on how to find the radical of a kanji, you can check out this guide from Tofugu.

Which Kanji Radicals Are Most Common?

This is a very important question to ask because, while there are 214 radicals, some are MUCH more common than others. In fact, of the 2,136 joyo kanji, 75% of them share the same 50 radicals, and 25% of joyo kanji share the same 6! As we said before, recognizing a radical doesn’t mean you can guess a kanji’s meaning, but it can certainly help give you some direction and will allow your brain to better categorize kanji when you see them. Let’s take a look at the most common kanji radicals:

6 Most Common Kanji Radicals: Top 25% of Jōyō Kanji

くち mouth

水 (氵, 氺)

みず water

tree

人 (亻)

ひと person

手 (扌)

hand

心 (忄, ⺗)

こころ heart

 

Radicals for Top 50% of Jōyō Kanji

こと word

ひ / にち

sun / day

いと

silk

thread radical

にく

meat / organ

つき

moon

つち

ground

go / road radical

grass / plant radical

roof / crown radical

かい

shell

おんな woman

wall (left) / village (right) radical

きん

gold / metal

Knowing those 20 radicals means you can learn 50% of all the Joyo kanji–that’s over 1,000 different kanji! But let’s learn 30 more and we will have covered over 1,600 of the 2,136 kanji needed to be fluent in Japanese.

Radicals for Top 75% of Joyo Kanji

いち one

刀 (刂 )

かたな sword

じゅう ten

rice field

火 (灬)

ひ / か fire

おお big

やま mountain

食 ( 飠)

しょく eat / food

くるま vehicle

walking person radical

eye

あめ rain

犬 ( 犭)

いぬ dog

玉(王)

たま / おう king / ball jewel

いし stone

ちから power

衣 ( 衤)

ころも garment

ゆみ bow

竹 (⺮)

たけ bamboo

また again

攵 (夂)

action radical

示 ( 礻)

しめす show on an altar radical

とり alcohol

くにがまえ enclosure radical

grain radical

广

building on a cliff radical

sickness radical

きん / はば cloth

corpse radical

すん thumb / inch

Of course, you want to learn ALL 2,136 of the Joyo kanji, and so you will learn the rest of your radicals as well! Here are the remaining 164 ‘rarer’ radicals that make up just 25% of the Joyo kanji:

 むし insect 蚯 蚓 強 触 蟻 蟹
 とり bird 鳫 鳮 鳱 鳳 鳴 鳿 雞 鳴 鴻 鴛
足 (⻊)  あし foot 跑 跨 跟 跪 路
 うお fish 鯉 鮑 魛 魜 魝 魞 魟 魠
 うま horse
馮 馴 馳 駐 驚
 おおがい big shell 頃 項 順 須 領 頭 頩 頂
 こめ rice
料 断 奥 糊 麟
 かくのかわ leather, rawhide 靴 鞍 鞅 鞍 鞭
 あな cave 空 突 窅 窘 窩 窶 竇
走 (赱)  はしる run 赴 起 超
 もん gate 間 閑 関 闘 閉 開 閏 間
 かみがしら hair 髮 鬚 鬆 鬍 髦
 あくび yawn, lack 欣 欽 欧 欲 歌
牛 (牜, ⺧)  うし cow 告 牟 牧 物 特 解
 ふるとり old bird 雀 集 雁 难 雀 雅
歹 (歺)  がつへん death, decay 死 列 殕
 はね feather, wing 習 翀 翁 翔
 け fur, hair 毟 毡 毦 毫 毳 耗
 ふね boat 航 船 艦
 ほね bone 骼 髒 髀 骿 骾
風 (𠘨)  かぜ wind 風 颱 飄 颿 颪
 かわら tile 瓧 瓮 甄
 みみ ear 取 聞 職 叢
黒 (黑)  くろ black 點 黛 黱 黨
罒 (网,罓,⺲,⺳)  あみがしら net 買 罪 置 羅
歯 (齒)  は tooth, molar 齡 齠 齗
 みる see 規 親 覺 觀
 つの horn 觚 解 觕 觥 觸
羊 (⺶,⺷)  ひつじ sheep 着 羚 翔 着
 いのこ pig 豕 豚 象
 おに ghost, demon 魂 魁 鬽 魄
 むじな cat, badger 豹 貌 貓 貉
麦 (麥)  むぎ wheat 麴 麵 麱 麨 麺
 がんだれ cliff 厚原
 さら dish 盂 盉 盍 監 蘯
 かのほこ spear, halberd 成式弐戦
 にすい ice, 2-stroke water 冬冶冷凍
 とらかんむり tiger stripes 虎 虐 彪 虒
 しろ white 皃 的 皆 皇
鹿  しか deer 塵 麃 麋 麉 麟
 たつ stand, erect 立 音 産 翌 意 新 端 親 競
 なめしがわ tanned leather 韋 韓 韜
 とめる stop 正 歩 此 步 武 歪 歲
 み body 躬 躲 軀
 けがわ skin 披 彼 波
 ほこつくり weapon, lance 役 投 殴 殷
 ほう way, square, raft 方 放 旅 族
 とぶ fly 飜 飝
 ねずみ rat, mouse 鼢 鼣 鼤
 らいすき plow 耔 耝 耨 耰
 こ ko?) child, seed 子孔字學
 かた (a) slice 版 牌 牒
 かん can, earthenware jar 缶 缸 窑 陶
 かなえ tripod, cauldron 鬶 鬷 鬸
 うす mortar 桕 舅 舂 鼠 插
 まめ bean 豈 豐 豎
尢 (尤,尣)  まげあし lame
面 (靣)  めん face 靦 靨
 むのほこ spear, pike 茅 矜
 つつみがまえ embrace, wrap frame 勾包
 はこがまえ box frame
 や arrow 医 族 矩
 さんづくり hair, bristle, stubble, beard 形彦
 ち blood 洫 衁 衅 衆
 おの axe 斦 斧 新 斥 斬 斷
 うり melon 呱 瓞
長 (镸)  ながい- long, grow; leader
 たに valley 谿 豀 谸
 ぎょう go, do 行 衍 術 衝
 にんにょう legs, human underneath 兄元
 まきがまえ inverted box, window frame 内再
 にじゅうあし two hands, twenty
 はな nose 鼼 鼽 鼿
爿 (丬)  しょうへん split wood 牀 奘 牃
 きび kibi?) millet 黏 黎
 つづみ drum 鼗 鼘
卜 (⼘,⺊)  ぼくのと divination to 占卦
八 (ハ)  はちがしら eight, eight-head 公六共兵
戸 (戶,户)  とびらのと door, house 戸戻所
 ろ salt 鹹 鹼 鹽
 おと oto?) sound 韶 韻 韾
乙 (乚)  おつ second, latter 九也
黄 (黃)  きいろ yellow 黊 黌
小 (⺌, ⺍)  ちいさい small, insignificant 小少
卩 (㔾)  ふしづくり seal 印危卵
 む private 去參
 べん frog, amphibian 黿 鼈
 なべぶた pot lid 亡交京
 つくえ desk
 てつ sprout
 いわく say 書 最 晉 曷 曹 曾
 においこう fragrant
爪 (爫,⺥,⺤)  つめ claw, nail, talon 爬 爯 爭 爰 爲
 からい spicy, bitter 辜 辟 辣 辦 辨
 ふゆがしら winter 夏 夆
 ゆうべ evening, sunset 夕外多夜
 みずから oneself 自 臫 臬 臲
高 (髙)  たかい tall, high 髚 髛
 あさ hemp, flax 麼 魔
丿  の , ノ) bend, possessive particle no 久之乎
 とます dipper, measuring scoop 料 斡
 した tongue 乱 适 話 舍
 あか red, bare 赫 赭
 わかんむり cover, wa crown 冗冠
 に two 五井些亞
西 (襾,覀)  にし west 西 要 覊
入 (𠆢)  いる enter 入全兩
巛 (川,巜)  かわ river 川州巡
 しにょう branch 攱攲
 ぶん script, literature 文 斊 斈 斌 斐 斑 斕
彐 (彑)  けいがしら pig’s head
 あらず wrong 靠 靠 靟
 さむらい scholar, bachelor 士壹
 いたる arrive 致 臸 臺
亀 (龜)  かめ turtle, tortoise
 うけばこ container, inbox 凶出函
 とうがまえ fight 鬧 鬪
 あまい sweet 柑 甜 酣
 うまれる life 牲 笙 甥
耂 (老,⺹)  ろう old 耆孝耋
 しかして rake, beard 耎耐耑
 ぼう line, stick
 くらべる compare, compete 皆 批 毕 毖 毘 毚
 いろ colour, prettiness 色 艴 艷
已 (己,巳)  おのれ oneself 己巳
 にら leek 韱 韲
 くび neck, head 馗 馘
 はねぼう hook, hooked stick 了事
 さじのひ spoon hi 化北
聿 (⺻)  ふでづくり brush 律 書 建
 やく flute
 せい even, uniformly 齋 齏 齏
亡 (匸)  かくしがまえ dead, hiding frame 亡 妄 忙 忘 盲 荒 望 慌 網
 たくみ t work 工左巫差
 きがまえ steam, breath 気 汽 氧
青 (靑)  あお green, blue 靕 靖 靜
毋 (母,⺟)  なかれ- do not; mother 毋 母 毎 姆 梅
 こう mix, twine, cross 爼 爽 爾
 しん minister, official 臥 宦 蔵
 しきがまえ ceremony, shoot, arrow 式弑
疋 (⺪)  ひき bolt of cloth 疏 楚 胥 延
 はつがしら footsteps 発 登
 しんのたつ morning 辱 農
 のごめ divide, distinguish, choose 釉 釋
 さと village, mile 野 野
 かなえ sacrificial tripod 鼏 鼒
竜 (龍)  りゅう dragon 龖 龘
无 (旡)  むにょう have not 无 旡 既 旣
 ぐうのあし track 禹 禺 禽
 れいづくり slave, capture 隸 隺
 てん dot 丸主
 うじ clan 氏 民 紙 婚 氓
 ちち father 斧 釜
用 (甩)  もちいる use; (throw) 佣 甬 甯
 ます opposite 舛 舜 舞
 ほし dry 平年
 いんにょう long stride
 きばへん fang 芽 呀 牚
 ちょう herbs, sacrificial wine 鬰 鬱
 ふつ embroidery, needlework 黼 黻
 げん dark, profound 弦玆
 うしとら stopping 良 飲 很
 すいにょう winter variant

 

What Is Kanji?

If you’re just starting to learn Japanese, congratulations! You may have already learned hiragana and katakana, and if you’re reading this it means you’ve probably come across your first kanji. But what IS kanji exactly? Is it Chinese? Is it Japanese? How do I pronounce kanji? How do I remember kanji? How many kanji ARE there? How many kanji do I have to learn? Why are there so many strokes???

These are all excellent questions, and ones we are about to answer for you!

What IS Kanji, exactly?

Kanji is one of three Japanese writing systems along with hiragana and katakana. Both hiragana and katakana are phonetic, meaning that each character represents a single syllable, and that character will never be pronounced any other way. Kanji is a system of symbols that represent words or ideas, and that can have different meanings and pronunciations depending on their context. A kanji can be a word all by itself, like (which means tree) or a kanji can be part of another word like 木造 (which means ‘wooden, or made of wood’).

Are Kanji Chinese or Japanese?

what is kanji
Kanji are believed to have originated in China, though it is not certain exactly when they were first written. Some believe the first writings appeared in 4500 BC, and the oldest known modern kanji is dated to 1600 BC. The original kanji are meant to be pictograms, that is, they express an idea through a picture. Over time, those representations evolved into the characters written today. In many kanji you can still see the original picture quite easily, others, not so much. Here are a few examples of the evolution of kanji:

While kanji existed in China for many centuries, it didn’t reach Japan until 57 AD and still wasn’t adopted by the Japanese until the early 5th century AD. At the time kanji came to Japan, the Japanese had no written language of their own. Everything was written and read in Chinese. By the 8th century AD, the Japanese began to annotate the Chinese characters in order to mark pronunciation and to change them to make sense with existing Japanese grammar. And so, katakana and hiragana were born!

Are Kanji the Same in All Asian Languages?

Kanji have been used by the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, but they aren’t called kanji in every language. In Chinese, it is 汉字, the literal meaning is “han characters” and will be pronounced like something close to hàn-jī depending on where you are. In Korean, kanji are known as hanja (한자, 漢字) and in Vietnamese, chữ Hán (𡨸漢). In Japanese, of course, they are called kanji (漢字, かんじ)! Both Korea and Vietnam have stopped using them in daily life, instead moving to completely phonetic alphabets.

Since one must be educated in order to learn how to pronounce Han characters (汉字), many people thought it was a way to keep the poorer classes from becoming literate and rising up. While Chinese characters are still taught in schools in Korea, their use is highly debated as many think they should be abandoned altogether. Japan and China are the last two countries who rely on kanji for literacy. The argument to get rid of kanji exists in Japan too, but it is not very popular.

So How Do I Pronounce Kanji?

OK, this is a tough one, and we have another post that covers this more fully. But basically, there are multiple ways to pronounce almost every kanji. These are known as “readings.” There are readings that came from the original Chinese and then readings that came from the original Japanese. The Chinese readings are known as On’Yomi and the Japanese are Kun’Yomi. You should check out this blog post on the difference between on’yomi and kun’yomi when you’re ready to learn more about that.

How Do I Remember Kanji?

Another excellent question! Memorizing kanji is hands-down the hardest part about learning Japanese, but luckily kanji aren’t as confusing as they look at first glance. The kanji “alphabet” is actually made up of a system of 216 radicals. These radicals are the building blocks of every single kanji. The radical of a kanji will usually (not always) carry some semantic meaning to the kanji itself. Let’s look at our previous example of: 木造. We know that 木 means “tree” and 造 means “create or make” we can see that word means “made of wood.” While this will work for many simple kanji, it often won’t. Kanji like to be tricky that way.

How Many Kanji Are There?

The real answer: nobody knows! Kanji are so old and have changed forms so many times that there is no definitive count of all the kanji in existence. That being said, the most reliable number out there is between 50,000-85,000. Hey, don’t freak out! You definitely don’t have to learn 50,000 kanji, we promise! There are 2,136 kanji considered common in daily use, and these are known as the joyo kanji. If you learn all those (and the grammar, of course) you will be considered literate in Japanese. While 2,136 sure seems like a lot, there are lots of different tools and tricks out there to help you out.

What is with all these strokes?

highest stroke count kanji
While many kanji can be very simple to write, the most complicated kanji can have 10, 20, even 30 or more strokes! Of course, most the kanji you need to know will be below 25 strokes and many will be below 20. The highest stroke count ever is 84…but when you look at it, it’s really just the same strokes repeated a bunch of times. And that is the real trick to learning kanji! Once you learn the radicals and how those usually work and where they usually go, building more complicated kanji isnt that hard at all. OK, it’s still hard, but not AS hard as you thought it was!

If you’re struggling with your stroke order, head over to our learning tools and check out our printable writing sheets. You can add ANY kanji you want to learn to a sheet, print it out, and we will help you perfect each and every stroke. Writing is also proven to increase retention so you can be committing the kanji to memory at the same time!

Want to learn all the joyo kanji, but don’t know where to start? You should join our Daily Kanji Challenge!

Join the Kanji Challenge
 

国: Names of Countries in Japanese with Audio!

Do you know how to say names of countries in japanese? Luckily, most country names are pretty easy to say in Japanese. They are just an approximate translation that is written out in katakana such as カナダ – Kanada or ルーマニア – Rūmania. Of course, some are a little different such as モンゴル – Mongoru (Mongolia) and some such as えいこく – Eikoku (Great Britain) don’t sound anything alike!

Many names of countries in Japanese can also be written with kanji, but whether the kanji pronunciation or the katakana reading will be used just depends on which country we’re talking about. In addition, all country names in Japanese DO have a kanji you can use instead of the katakana, but many of these are ateji (当て字; 宛字, lit. “assigned characters”) which means they are kanji being “borrowed” since they sound like the phonetic pronunciation of the katakana. These kanji names are marked with a * in the chart.

 

You can also describe country names with a single kanji + 国 based on ateji. For example, 米国 is from 亜米利加 (アメリカ), 仏国 is from 仏蘭西(フランス), 独国 is from 独逸(ドイツ) and so on. These expressions are often used in newspapers because they are shorter. Furthermore, country names are sometimes written by a kanji like 日(日本) and 米 (アメリカ). For instance, 日米会議 means the Japanese – America conference. OK, let’s see how many names of countries in Japanese you can learn!

*Remember some countries may have multiple names, but the audio we’ve provided is the MOST COMMON usage.

Learn Country Names in Japanese

Country Kanji Kana – Romaji Country
 names of countries in japanese australia 豪州

濠洲

オーストラリア – Gōshō or Osutraria Australia
 austria in japanese 墺太利* オーストリア – Osutoria Austria
 belgium in japanese 白耳義* ベルギー – Berugī Belgium
 brazil in japanese 伯剌西爾* ブラジル – Burajiru Brazil
 bulgaria in japanese 勃牙利* ブルガリア – Burugaria Bulgaria
 cambodia in japanese 柬埔寨

柬蒲寨*

カンボジア – Kanbojia Cambodia
 canada in japanese 加奈陀* カナダ – Kanada Canada
 china in japanese 中国 ちゅうごく – Chūgoku China
 denmark in japanese 丁抹* デンマーク – Denmāku Denmark
 egypt in japanese 埃及* エジプト – Ejiputo Egypt
 france in japanese 仏国

仏蘭西

ふっこく – Fukkoku

フランス (Furansu)

France
 germany in japanese 独国

独逸

どくこく – Dokukoku

ドイツ (Doitsu)

Germany
 england in japanese 英国

英吉利

えいこく – Eikoku

大ブリテン – daiburiten

Great Britain

 

 scotland in japanese 蘇格蘭 スコットランド - 
Sukottorando
 

Scotland

wales in japanese 威勒士 ウェールズ –
Uēruzu
 

Wales

 ireland in japanese

愛蘭

北愛蘭

アイルランド – 
Airurando

北アイルランド – 
Kita Airurando

 

Ireland and Northern Ireland (yes, we know Ireland is not part of the UK)

 england in japanese 英吉利 イギリス – Igirisu England
 greece in japanese 希臘* ギリシャ – Girisha Greece
 india in japanese 印度* インド – Indo India
 iran in japanese 衣蘭*

伊蘭

イラン – Iran Iran
 italy in japanese 伊太利亜* イタリヤ – Itaria Italy
 japan in japanese 日本 にほん; にっぽん – Nihon; Nippon Japan
 south korea in japanese 韓国 かんこく – Kankoku Korea
 mexico in japanese 墨西哥* メキシコ – Mekishiko Mexico
 mongolia in japanese 蒙古

 

モンゴル国

もうこ – Mōko

モンゴル – Mongoru

モンゴルこく – mongorukoku

Mongolia
 nepal in japanese 捏巴爾* ネパール – Nepāru Nepal
 netherlands holland in japanese 和蘭* オランダ – Oranda Netherlands
 peru in japanese 秘露 ペルー – Peru Peru
 poland in japanese 波蘭* ポーランド – Pōranda Poland
 portugal in japanese 葡萄牙* ポルトガル – Porutogaru

ぽ – Po

Portugal
 romania in japanese 羅馬尼亜* ルーマニア – Rūmania Romania
 russia in japanese 露西亜

魯西亜*

ロシア – Rossia Russia
 south africa in japanese 南阿弗利加 みなみアフリカ-  minamiafurika South Africa
 spain in japanese 西班牙* スペイン – Supain Spain
 switzerland in japanese 瑞西* スイス – Suisu Switzerland
 sweden in japanese 瑞典* スウェーデン – Suēden Sweden
 thailand in japanese 泰国

 

たいこく – Taikoku

タイ – Tai

Thailand
 turkey in japanese 土国

 

土耳古

どこく – Dokoku

トルコ – toruko

Turkey
 america in japanese 米国*

亜米利加

べいこく – Beigoku

アメリカ (Amerika)

United States of America
 vietnam in japanese 越南* えつなん – Etsunan

ベトナム Betonamu

Vietnam

To help you learn all the names, we’ve created a handy study list so you can add each country to your drills on Nihongo Master and track your progress!

See the Study List

 

The Complete Guide to Japanese Counter Words

Last week we learned how to count to 100 in Japanese. Actually, we learned how to count to 1 trillion! But there is another critical part in learning how to count in Japanese and that is Japanese Counter Words. Japanese counters (助数詞, josūshi) are kanji (with the exception of つ, tsu) that tell you what kind of item is being counted. There are hundreds of Japanese counter words, most of which are used for counting several different things. Also, some counter words are pronounced differently depending on the number in front of them; e.g. 一杯 (i-ppai), 二杯 (ni-hai).

Japanese counter words can be very confusing, and sometimes, depending on the context, a different counter word might be used for the same object! Not even Japanese speakers always remember every counter word, and so there are also generic counter words that can be used in their place.

There is no question you will make some mistakes when you first start using Japanese counter words, but the best way to learn them is over time and by practicing as much with native Japanese speakers as possible!

Where Does the Counter Word Go?

Generally speaking, the counter will come after the noun it is modifying, which is the opposite of how we usually speak in English. So we would say “Two glasses of milk.” But in Japanese, it would be ミルク二杯 or milk-two-[counter for cups and glasses of drink]. You can see, we have counter words in English too! Like pieces of bread or glasses of milk!

Depending on the counter word, you need to use traditional Japanese numbers or sino-Japanese numbers. Generally, in the case of counter words with Kun’yomi, you use traditional Japanese numbers (up to 10), otherwise, you use sino-Japanese numbers. You can see some examples of when to use which one in the list below.

So let’s start by learning some of the most common Japanese counter words and the things they are sometimes used for:

Guide to Japanese Counter Words

common japanese counter words

まい mai

Counter for Thin, flat objects
Examples: sheets of paper, photographs, plates, articles of clothing (see also: chaku)
 

個, 箇, 个, or ヶ

こ ko

Implies that the item is small and/or round. 個 is also used for military units.
 

ほん hon, ぽん pon, ぼん bon

Counter long, thin objects
Examples: rivers, roads, train tracks, ties, pencils, bottles, guitars; also, metaphorically, telephone calls, train or bus routes, movies, points or bounds in sports events. Although 本 also means “book”, the counter for books is 冊 (satsu).
 

かい kai

Counter for Occurrences, number of times
 

ど do, also たび tabi

Counter for Occurrences, number of times**, degrees of temperature or angle
**たび – for number of times use traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一度 (hito-tabi)
 

つ tsu

General-purpose counter, used as part of the indigenous Japanese numbers 一つ (“one thing”), 二つ (“two things”), 三つ (“three things”), etc.
 

japanese counters for objects

ぶ bu

Counter for Copies of a magazine or newspaper, or other packets of papers
Examples: Music Score, Catalog, Back Room, Closet, Storage Room, Book, Publication, Documents, Official Papers, Newspaper,
 

はり hari

Counter for Umbrellas, parasols, tents
*Use traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一張り(hito-hari)
Examples: Paper Lantern, Drum, Tent, Curtain, Pavilion, Curtain, Umbrella, Mosquito Net, Sign Curtain, Koto Instrument, Bow (and arrow), Bamboo Screen
 

はい hai, ぱい pai, ばい bai

Counter for Cups and glasses of drink, spoonfuls, cuttlefish, octopuses, crabs, squid, abalone, boats (slang)
 

さつ satsu

Counter for Books
Examples: Book Collection, Albums, Notebook, Memo Pad, Musical Score, Catalog, Notebook, Dictionary, Book, Publication, Documents,
 

だい dai

Counter for cars, bicycles, machines, mechanical devices, household appliances
 

めん men

Counter for mirrors, boards for board games (chess, igo, shogi), stages of computer games, walls of a room, tennis courts
 

はつ hatsu, ぱつ patsu

Counter for Gunshots, bullets, aerial fireworks; orgasms, sex acts
Examples: Wind, Gas, Fart, Horse-riding, Fist, Bomb
 

はこ hako

Counter for Boxes
*Use Traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一箱 (hito-hako)
Examples: Tea Leaves, Snacks, Sweet Bean Jelly (Youkan), Box
 

ちゃく chaku

Counter for Suits of clothing, orders of arrival (in a competition)
Examples: Raincoat, Clothes, Garment, Overcoat, Cloak, Kimono, Yukata, Suit, Business Suit
 

ちょう chō

Counter for Guns, sticks of ink, palanquins, rickshaws, violins
Examples: Electric Iron, Axe, Palanquin, Sickle, Razor, Woodworking Plane, Abacus, Guitars, Pistol/Handgun, Shamisen, Ink, Saw, Chisel, Violin, Scissors, Ice Axe, Kitchen Knife, Carving Knife, Portable Shrine, File, Rifle, Wrench, Cello, Nail Clippers, Gun, Candle.
 

ちょう chō

Counter for Tools, scissors, saws, trousers, pistols, cakes of tofu, town blocks, servings at a restaurant (Soba, Udon, Tofu, Ramen)
 

き ki

Counter for Aircraft, machines
Examples: Airplane, Airship, Blimp, Balloon, Blimp, Hot-Air Balloon
 

き ki

Counter for machines, graves, wreaths, CPUs, reactors, elevators, dams
Examples: Water Well, Fireplace, Hearth, Mill-stone, Mortar, Carving, Air Conditioner, Bank, Elevator, Chimney, Smokestack, Pylon, Cage, Toilet, Lighthouse, Stupa, Pagoda, Street Light, Garden Lantern, Bonfire, Shinto Shrine Archway, Gas Tank, Coffin, Casket, Machine, Gravesite, Tomb, Bridge, Wreath, Atomic Reactor, Stone Monument Bearing An Inscription, Incense Burner, Kotatsu Table, Pyramid, Windmill, Pinwheel, Buddhist Alter, Pillow, Portable Shrine, Moai Statue, Motor, Satellite, Water Wheel, Water Gate, Lamp, Lift, Sprinkler, Playground Slide, Radar, Stone Hut, Hearth, Stone Monument, Pagoda, Potter’s Wheel,
 

きゃく kyaku

Counter for Desks, chairs, long-stemmed glasses
 

きゃく kyaku

Counter for Pairs of cup and saucer
Examples: Rice Bowl, Tea Cup, Plate, Wine Glass, Japanese Soup Bowl
 

きょく kyoku

Counter for Board game matches (chess, igo, shogi, mahjong); radio stations, television stations
 

そく soku

Counter for Pairs of footwear, pairs of socks, stockings, tabi
Examples: Stirrup, Japanese Sandals (zori), Japanese Socks (tabi), Gloves, Mittens, Shoes, Socks, Stockings, Wooden Clogs (geta), Slippers, Roller skate
 

そう sou

Counter for Pairs
 

たば taba

Counter for Bundles (of banknotes), bunches (of flowers, vegetables), sheaves
Examples: Asparagus, Rice Plant, Soba, Firewood, Seedling, Scallion, Shallot, Green Onion, Rope, Konbu, Noodles, Incense Stick
*Use Traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一束(hito-taba)
 

たい tai

Counter for Images, statues, person’s remains, dolls
 

しき shiki

Sets of things, such as documents or furniture
 

さお sao

Counter for Chests of drawers, flags
*Use Traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一棹・竿(hito-sao)
 

りん rin

Counter for Wheels, Flowers
 

りょう ryō

Counter for Railway cars
 

せき seki

Counter for Ships, half of a pair (e.g., half of a folding screen), item carried in a bundle (fish, birds, arrows etc.)
 

てん ten

Counter for Points, dots, pieces of a set
Examples: Accessory, Carving, Alcohol Vase, Picture, Drawing, Horse Picture, Raindrops, Drops Of Water, Curtain, Pottery, Earthenware, Portrait, Cloth, Article, Book, Stuffed Animal, Stuffed Object, Lacquer Ware, Ring
 

わ wa

Counter for Bundles
Examples: Soba, Firewood, Noodles, Incense Stick
 

かぶ kabu

Counter for Stocks and Small Plants
Examples: Rice Plant, Garden Shrub, Persimmon, Seedling, Stock Certificate, Tree, Mushroom, Cabbage, Herb, Chinese Cabbage, Lettuce
*Uses traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一株(hito-kabu)
 

もん mon

Counter for Cannons
 

おり ori

Counter for Boxes made of folded paper (compare to hako above, which refers to boxes in general)
Examples: Station Bento, Bento, Folded Paper Crane
*Uses traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一折(hito-ori)
 

くち kuchi

Counter for Bank Accounts, donations (口 means “opening” or “entrance”)
Examples: Teakettle, Alcohol Vase, Application, Sword, Bell, Razor, Contribution, Donation, Contract, Bank Account, Insurance, Financing, Loan, Japanese Soup Bowl
*Uses traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一口(hito-kuchi)
 

はしら hashira

Counter for Pillars, gods, memorial tablets
*Use Traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一柱(hito-hashira)
 

ぐ gu

Counter for Armor, suits, sets of furniture
 

ふく fuku, ぷく puku

Hanging scrolls (kakejiku)
 

ふり furi

Swords
*Use Traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一振り(hito-furi)
 

かん kan

Warships
 

か ka

Frames
 

こま koma, コマ

Frames, panels. 齣 is virtually unused nowadays
**Sino-Japanese numbers and Traditional Japanese numbers are both used: e.g. 一齣(ichi-koma /hito-koma)
 

japanese counter for people

にん nin

Counter for People (but note exceptions below)
 

り or 人

り ri

Counter for People, used in the words 一人 (ひとり) and 二人 (ふたり)
 

めい mei

Counter for People (polite) (名 means “name”)
 

じ ji

Counter for Children. As in “father of two (children)”, etc.
 

くみ kumi

Counter for Groups, a pair of people (twins, a husband and a wife, dancers, etc.)
**Both Sino-Japanese numbers and Traditional Japanese numbers are used: e.g. 一組(ichi-kumi / hito-kumi)
 

japanese counters for places

かい kai, がい gai

Counter for Number of floors, stories
 

ばん ban

Counter for Position, platform for a train line, turn, sports matches
 

系統

けいとう keitou

Counter for Bus routes
 

ちょう chō

Counter for Town blocks
 

だん dan

Counter for levels, ranks, steps (of stairs).
 

ヶ国, 箇国

かこく kakoku

Counter for Countries
 

ひつ hitsu, ぴつ pitsu

Counter for Pieces of land
 

く ku

Counter for Sections, city districts
 

こ ko

Counter for Houses (戸 means “door”)
 

けん ken, げん gen

Counter for Houses and Buildings
Examples: Apartment Building, Apartment, House, Hermitage, Tenement, Warehouse, Factory
 

こう kō

Counter for Schools
 

こう kō

Counter for Banks
 

japanese counter words for animals

 

ひき hiki, ぴき piki, びき biki

Counter for Small animals, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, oni (demons/ogres)
Examples: Devil, Cuttlefish, Squid, Dog, Rabbit, Cow, Eel, Sea Urchin, Horse, Prawn, Shrimp, Lobster, Trophy, Wolf, Mosquito, Shellfish, Silkworm, Frog, Oyster, Snail, Crab, Tortoise, Turtle, Octopus, Animal, Dragonfly, Sea Otter
 

び bi

Counter for Small fish and shrimps (used in the fish trade; most people say hiki instead)
 

とう tō

Counter for Large animals, cattle, elephants, whales, dolphins, butterflies (頭 means “head”)
Examples: Elephant, Large Dog Breed, Seeing Eye Dog, Dolphin, Cow, Horse, Trophy, Monster, Whale, Bear, Large Stuffed Animal, Gorilla, Monkey, Camel, Donkey
 

わ wa, ば ba, ぱ pa

Counter for Birds, rabbits 羽 means “feather” or “wing.”
 

種類 or 種

しゅるい shurui or しゅ shu

Counter for Kinds, species
 

japanese counter words for food

ひん hin, ぴん pin

Counter for Parts of a meal, courses
 

ふく fuku, ぷく puku

Counter for Bowls of Medicine
Examples: Matcha (powdered green tea); packets or doses of powdered medicine; puffs (of, e.g., a cigarette); rests or breaks
 

きん kin

Counter Loaves of bread
 

切れ

きれ kire

Counter for Slices of Things
Examples: Sashimi, Pizza, Mochi, Meat, Bread, Cake
*Use traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一切れ(hito-kire)
 

人前

にんまえ ninmae

Counter for Food portions (without exceptions, unlike nin above)
 

こん kon

Counter for Shots (of drink)
 

じょう jō

Counter for Pills/capsules
 

ひょう tawara

Counter for Bags of rice
 

つぶ tsubu

Counter for Tiny Particles
Examples: Almonds, Grain, Sweat, Umeboshi, Tears, Teardrop, Caviar, Medicine, Rice, Ruby, Raisin
Use traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一粒(hito-tsubu)
 

ぜん zen

Counter for Pairs of chopsticks; bowls of rice
 

かん kan

Counter for Pieces of Nigiri-sushi
 

Japanese counters for time

びょう byō

Counter for Seconds
 

ふん fun, ぷん pun

Counter for Minutes
 

がつ gatsu, also つき tsuki

Counter for Months of the year. Month-long periods when read tsuki
 

はく haku, ぱく paku

Counter for Nights of a stay
 

じ ji

Counter for Hours of the day
 

時間

じかん jikan

Counter for Hour-long periods
 

か ka

Counter for Day of the month
*E.g. 二日(futsu-ka) 三日(mi-kka) 四日(yo-kka)
 

にち nichi

Counter for Days of the month
 

ヶ月, 箇月

かげつ kagetsu

Counter for Month-long periods (see also: gatsu)
**箇 is normally abbreviated using a small katakana ヶ in modern Japanese. Alternatively, 個, hiragana か, small katakana ヵ and full-size katakana カ & ケ can also be seen, although only か is similarly frequent.
 

ねん nen

Counter for Years, school years (grades); not years of age
 

歳(or 才)

さい sai

Counter for Years of age (才 is used informally as a shorthand)
 

しゅう shū

Counter for Weeks
 

ばん ban

Counter for Nights
Use traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一晩(hito-ban)
 

だい dai

Counter for Generations, historical periods, reigns
 

とき toki

Counter for Time periods, a sixth of either day or night (in the traditional, obsolete way of telling time).
 

japanese counters for literature and the arts

ご go

Counter for Words
 

ごん gon, げん gen, こと koto

Words
**Use both Sino-Japanese numbers and Traditional Japanese numbers depending: e.g. 一言(ichi-gon / ichi-gen /hito-koto)
 

ぶん bun

Counter for Sentences
 

段落

だんらく danraku

Counter for Paragraphs
 

ぎょう gyō

Counter for Lines of text
 

じ ji

Counter for Letters, kanji, kana
 

つう tsū

Counter for Letters
Examples: Draft, Note, Telegram, Letter, Postcard, Written Contract, Email, Excerpt, Book, Volume, Bond, Documents, Official Papers, Bill, Job Invoice
 

かく kaku

Counter for Strokes in kanji
 

ふで fude

Counter for Sequences of letters or drawings that you write or draw without removing your pen off the paper. Not to be confused with “hitsu” (筆) below.
*Use traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一筆(hito-fude)
 

まき maki or かん kan

Counter for Rolls, scrolls, kan for volumes of book
Examples: Thread, Movie, Film, Cloth, Cigar, Bandage, Hose, Scroll, Rolled Sheet, Dictionary, Book, Publication, Documents, Official Papers, Rope
*For まき use traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一巻き(hito-maki)
 

わ wa

Counter for Stories, episodes of TV series, etc.
 

稿

こう kō

Counter for Drafts of a manuscript
 

きょく kyoku

Counter for Pieces of music
 

ば ba

Counter for Scenes of a play
**Uses both Sino-Japanese numbers and Traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一幕(ichi-maku/ hito-maku )
 

まく maku

Counter for Theatrical acts
 

く ku

Counter for Haiku, senryū
 

ぺーじ pēji     ページ

Counter for Pages
 

拍子

ひょうし hyōshi, びょうし byōshi

Counter for Musical beats
 

japanese counter words for intangible things

ばい bai

Counter for Multiples, -fold as in “twofold”
 

けん ken

Counter for Abstract matters and cases
Examples: Addressee’s name, Recipient’s name and address, Proposal, Suggestion, Marriage Proposal, Engagement, Legislative Bill, Agenda Item, Project, Plan, Complaint, Objection, Contract, Agreement, Mail, Financing, Loan
 

はい hai

Counter for Losses (sports bouts)
 

しょう shō

Counter for Wins (sports bouts)
 

ほ ho, ぽ po

Counter for Number of (foot)steps
 

学級

がっきゅう gakkyū

Counter for Classes (in pre-university education)
 

クラス

くらす kurasu

Counter for School classes
 

か ka

Counter for Lessons
 

せき seki

Counter for Sitting Occassions
Examples: Party, Banquet, Entertainment, Performance, Drinking Parties, Seats, Rakugo shows,
 

じょう jō

Counter for Articles of law, thin objects, rays or streams of light, streaks of smoke or lightning
 

ひょう hyō, ぴょう pyō

Counter for Votes
 

ヶ国語, 箇国語

かこくご kakokugo

Counter for (National) languages
 

もん mon

Counter for Questions
 

れい rei

Counter for Cases, Examples
 

通り

とおり tori

Counter for Combinations, puzzle solutions
**Uses both Sino-Japanese numbers and Traditional Japanese numbersh: e.g. 二通り(ni-tōri / futa-tōri)
 

れい rei

Counter for Bows during worship at a shrine
 

しゃ sha

Counter for businesses, i.e. 会社
 

つぼ tsubo

Counter for Commonly used unit of area equal to 3.3 square metres.
*Uses traditional Japanese numbers: e.g. 一坪 (hito-tsubo)
 

通話

つうわ tsūwa

Counter for Telephone calls (obsolete)

Learning Japanese Numbers: 1-100 to 1 Trillion

Counting is one of the first things you learn in any language, but Japanese numbers are a little bit different. Numbers in Japanese are so different, in fact, that we’re going to take TWO POSTS to tell you everything about counting in Japanese. If you’re already a little more advanced, you may already be aware of the Japanese counting system. But if not, then let’s start with Japanese numbers and we can learn more from there!

japanese numbers 1-100
Continue reading Learning Japanese Numbers: 1-100 to 1 Trillion

Learn the Days of the Week: Japanese

If you want to learn the days of the week Japanese, you’ve come to the right place! Before modern times, Japan didn’t use a seven day calendar. Starting around 800 AD, a seven-day calendar was brought by Buddhists from India, but it was mostly used for astrological purposes. Japan originally worked on a lunar calendar that had no weeks, and each month had a different name. But once they adopted a weekly calendar, they had to give names to the days of the week in Japanese. Where did they get them? Since the days of the week were named after the planets in ancient Greece and Rome, that system was somehow spread all over the world! In 1876, the Japanese days of the week were adopted to officially align with the Western system. But you might say, Hey! These days of the week are named after elements, not planets! But you can read on to find out why… and help you learn the days of the week Japanese, as well as where all the names came from!

Japanese Days of the Week Infographic!

days of the week japanese

Each of the days of the week Japanese corresponds to an element name from the ancient Chinese. Each of those elements is also the name for a planet. It’s important to remember that 土 is the kanji for “earth/soil” and NOT the kanji for the planet Earth. is actually the kanji for the planet Saturn! Also refers to the kanji for metal/gold. Don’t think of it as gold in terms of money, but rather gold or metal as an element from the earth!

Here are links to the full dictionary entries for every day of the week in Japanese:

Sunday in Japanese: 日曜日 (にちようび)
Monday in Japanese: 月曜日 (げつようび)
Tuesday in Japanese: 火曜日 (かようび)
Wednesday in Japanese: 水曜日 (すいようび)
Thursday in Japanese: 木曜日 (もくようび)
Friday in Japanese: 金曜日 (きんようび)
Saturday in Japanese: 土曜日 (どようび)

The Most Confusing Japanese Kanji (and how to tell the difference)

We’re talking a lot about Japanese kanji lately and how to learn them. Obviously, learning kanji takes a lot of rote memorization. You have to keep revisiting the kanji to remember the shapes, the strokes, the meaning, and how to pronounce it (which can be different depending on what word it’s in)! While some Japanese kanji may seem easy to learn like 人 (person) what about when you find 入 (to enter)??? They look so similar! So today we’re going to review a lot of kanji that can be confusing, and help you remember how to tell them apart! Learning confusing kanji together is the best way to remember their differences and stop yourself from getting all mixed up!

Don’t forget to utilize our stroke animation feature to help you visualize the differences in strokes. Just click the pencil button up at the top of any dictionary entry!
stroke order image
Also, printing out practice sheets is a great way to learn! We’ve created a printable practice sheet of all the kanji on this list to help you learn the difference!

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At first glance these two kanji might seem impossible to tell apart! But if you look closely you can see the kanji for “soil” has a shorter horizontal line than the kanji for “gentleman.” In 士 the middle stroke is longer than the bottom stroke and in 土 it is shorter. Now you have to be careful when you are reading, but remember context can always help you as well!

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The kanji for “thousand” is one of the first kanji you will learn and it’s clear to see that the top stroke comes up. In the kanji for “to dry” the stroke is flat.

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The kanji for “day” or “sun” is one of the most common ones out there and I’m sure you already know it! But don’t get it confused with the kanji for “say” or “reason.” The center stroke in this kanji doesn’t touch the other side!

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Can you see the difference between the kanji for “un-” and the kanji for “end?” That’s right, the two horizontal strokes are switched! In 未 the first stroke is short and the second stroke is long. But in 末 the first stroke is long and the second stroke is short! Practicing writing and watching our stroke order animation can really help you to learn these subtle differences!

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While “fur” and “hand” are very similar, you can see that “fur” has lines at a slight angle and a stroke that hooks up to the right. “Hand” has more horizontal strokes and a smaller hook that faces the left. I like to think the angled lines of “fur” are more like hair, and the straight lines of “hand” are more like fingers!

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We mentioned this in the opening, but the kanji for “person” and for “enter” are separated but just one small stroke at the top! Remember also that some kanji will look different in handwriting than when typed.

stroke animation for 入

人

The following are kanji with strokes sticking out or not:

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The kanji for “power” has the extra stroke sticking out at the top, and the kanji for “sword” does not.

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The kanji for “stone” doesn’t have the stroke sticking out, and the kanji for “right” does!

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“Cow” has a longer stroke that sticks out, where “noon” has a flat top instead!

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The kanji for “friend” has a stroke sticking out, and the kanji for “anti-” doesn’t.

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The kanji for “name” doesn’t have a stroke sticking out, and the kanji for “each” does!

These kanji are different with just one more line (一)!

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The kanji for “tree” doesn’t have the extra stroke here. And everyone should know the kanji for book, as it’s part of the word for Japanese, 日本語!

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The kanji for “white” has just two strokes inside, and the kanji for “oneself” has three!

These next kanji are separated by a single dot (、)!

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The kanji for “gem” has an extra stroke added to the kanji for “king.” I like to remember this by thinking that the king will wear a gem!

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The kanji for “dog” has one extra stroke than the kanji for “big.” How can you remember this? I like to think that the big dog has a spot!

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The kanji for “direction” or “method” has an extra stroke on top than the kanji for “ten-thousand.” I think 方 looks like a man pointing in a direction, so this one is easy to remember. 万 has no head so he doesn’t look like a man!

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It’s no surprise that the kanji for “water” and the kanji for “ice” are similar! Just remember that ice is like water with a little something extra.

These kanji are different, but they’re made up of the same parts!

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The kanji for “elder” and “consider” both start with the same four strokes, but the kanji for “consider” ends with a sharp hook down and the kanji for “elder” ends with a smooth hook up.

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“Compare” and “north” are easy to tell apart, you just have to remember which one is which! In “compare,” the parts of the kanji are facing the same direction. In “north” the two halves of the kanji are facing in opposite directions. You can remember this by thinking, “people will run away from the north!.” Or that you can compare two things that are side by side.

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The kanji for “know” and the kanji for “harmony” or “Japanese style” are very similar. Just remember 禾 is the radical for “two tree branch” and 矢 is the radical for “arrow.” Knowing your radicals can often help in figuring out which kanji is which!

And here are some other kanji that also happen to look similar!

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The problem with these kanji is that not only do they look similar, but they have similar meanings! While “obey” is the primary meaning of 従, it can also mean “subordinate.” 徒 also has several meanings, and one of them is “junior” which is similar to subordinate! So how can you tell them apart? Unfortunately, sometimes with kanji you just have to memorize them!

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While these two kanji don’t look exactly alike, they have very similar meanings, which means it can be difficult to remember which is which! 験 means “verification” or “testing” and 検 is the kanji for “examination” or “investigate.” The way you can tell these apart is that 験 uses the kanji for horse (馬) as its radical and 検 uses the radical for tree (木). So you must remember to test a horse and investigate a tree.

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惑 is the kanji for “beguile” or “perplex” and 感 is the kanji for “emotion.” So these have very different meanings, but very similar structures. “Emotion” is inside the radical and “perplex” is open on the outside. Because when you feel perplexed you are lost out in the open and emotions are things we keep inside.

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These are really similar and especially troublesome because 拾 means “pick up” and 捨 means “discard” or “throw away.” The meanings are literally the opposite of one another! The only difference in strokes are two perpendicular lines under the roof in “discard.” It’s like a plus sign because you have too many things and you need to get rid of them! “Pick up” has only one line under the roof because there is room to pick up more things!

Do you have any similar or confusing kanji you want to add to this list? Let us know so we can add them to our practice sheet to help you learn!

Here is a link to a printable practice sheet with all of these confusing kanji added to it!

The Difference Between On’Yomi and Kun’Yomi

When you start learning Japanese, you first learn hiragana, and then you learn katakana, and then– the dreaded KANJI! While hiragana and katakana can both be sounded out by syllable, kanji must simply be memorized. And as soon as you start memorizing kanji, you realize that there is MORE THAN ONE WAY to say almost all of them! Some have even more than 10 pronunciations! WHAAAA? So what’s the difference between On’Yomi and Kun’Yomi? And how do you know which to use when, and WHY???

on'yomi vs kun'yomi

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Weird Japanese Body Parts

Don’t worry! Japanese body parts are the same as everyone else’s 😉 But one of the first things you’re taught when you learn a language as a child is all the parts of the body. In America, we even have a song for it: “Head, shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes…” You know how it goes! Of course those are important body parts to learn (along with eyes and ears and mouth and nose) but what about all the other body parts? Those weird things with very specific names like your belly button or your pinky finger? Or what about the space of skin in between your eyebrows?? Today we thought we’d talk about the human body and all those weird parts it has– in Japanese!
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10 Tricky Japanese Tongue Twisters (早口言葉) with audio!

Japanese tongue twisters (早口言葉, hayakuchi kotoba) are sayings that are meant to make you stumble over your words. Just like an English tongue twister, a Japanese tongue twister has no real meaning and is meant to be spoken as fast as possible. In fact, 早口言葉 literally means, “fast-mouthed words.” A famous English tongue twister is “Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Another good (but long) one is “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?”

Tongue twisters are hard enough to say in your native language, so you can bet they are even harder in a foreign language! Our native Japanese teacher, Masako, has made a recording of each one to help you practice. But don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right away, even Masako had to try them a few times!
Continue reading 10 Tricky Japanese Tongue Twisters (早口言葉) with audio!