Learn Basic Japanese Kanji
The ancient characters adopted from the Chinese Hanzhi writing. They each convey an idea, and are used for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. This collection of more than 7,000 characters usually has double meanings for each one, depending on the context and position in the sentence.
The third alphabet, kanji, was imported over the centuries from China. These pictograms are typically (much) more complex than kana (remember, “kana” refers collectively to hiragana and katakana). And they have different readings and meanings depending on how they’re combined with other kanji.
Kanji represent ideas or words rather than syllables, although of course hiragana or katakana could be used to spell out the pronunciation.
Kanji have two sorts of readings, i.e. ways of being pronounced: “on” readings and “kun” readings.
The “on” readings are based loosely on the original Chinese pronunciation of the kanji, and are typically used when a kanji is part of a compound, i.e. written with at least one other kanji to form a word.
The “kun” reading is used when kanji are used on their own, either as complete nouns in their own right or as adjective and verb stems.
On-readings are typically used when a kanji forms part of a compound word (usually a noun); kun-readings are normally used for single kanji, either as words in their own right, or as the stems of adjectives or verbs. Adjectives and verbs typically consist of a kanji followed by a hiragana suffix.
Take Note: There are exceptions to this rule. Most kanji have at least one on-reading and one kun-reading each, but plenty have no kun-reading and a few have no on-reading. Some use kun-readings, not on-readings, to make compounds. You just have to learn them case by case.
When I’m not sure, I like to refer to Jisho, an online dictionary that has a number of nifty functions. If you want to refresh your memory of hiragana, you can do so by playing a hiragana game.
|Kanji||Romaji + Hiragana||English|
|Shita/Ka した/か||low, inferior, come down, go down|
|Ue/Jou うえ/じょう||high, highest, top, best, superior|
|Naka/Chu なか/ちゅう||center, middle, middle of three|
|Hito/Jin ひと/じん||man, person, people|
|Yasu/Kyuu やす/きゅう||rest, sleep, retire|
|Saki/Sen さき/せん||former, previous, the other side/party|
|Hai/Nyuu はい/にゅう||enter, go into|
|Maru/En まる/えん||circle, yen|
|De/Shutsu で/しゅつ||coming/going out, originating from|
|Chi/Sen ち/せん||thousand, many|
|Kuchi/Ku くち/く||mouth, speech, words, lips|
|Migi/U みぎ/う||right, right hand|
|Na/Mei な/めい||name, famous|
|Oo/Dai おお/だい||big, great, elder, huge, grand, very|
|Ten てん||sky, air, heavens, god|
|Onna/Jyo おんな/じょ||woman, female, girl|
|Ko/Shi こ/し||child, offspring, seed|
|Ji じ||character, letter, word|
|Mana/Gaku まな/がく||learning, scholar, scholarship, science|
|Chi/Shou ち/しょう||small, tiny, little|
|Kawa/Sen かわ/せん||river, stream, brook|
|Te/Shu て/しゅ||arm, hand|
|Bun ぶん||literature, civil affairs, art, writing, text, composition|
|Haya/Sou はや/そう||fast, quick|
|Mori/Shin もり/しん||woods, grove|
|Tada/Sei ただ/せい||right, justice, correct|
|Iki/Ki いき/き||mind, spirit, soul|
|Sui/Mizu すい/みず||water, ice water|
|Oo おお||king, rule|
|Tama/Gyoku たま/ぎょく||gem, jewel, jade|
|Iki/Sei いき/せい||life, birth, existence|
|Ta/Den た/でん||rice field, paddy|
|Machi/Chou まち/ちょう||town, block, street|
|Otoko/Dan おとこ/だん||man, male|
|Hyaku ひゃく||hundred, many|
|Ishi/Seki いし/せき||stone, pebble|
|Ito/Shi いと/し||string, thread|
|Mushi/Chuu むし/ちゅう||bug, insect|
|Mi/Ken み/けん||see, look at|
|Kai/Bai かい/ばい||shell, shellfish|
|Ashi/Soku あし/そく||foot, leg|
|Ao/Sei あお/せい||Blue or green|
|Oto/On おと/おん||sound, noise|