The Most Complicated and Interesting Part of Japanese

In the Japanese language, there is a separate alphabet called 漢字 (Kanji), or Chinese characters.  As explained by the name, Kanji are words borrowed from the Chinese language, but the pronunciation, sometimes the meaning, and the way it’s drawn have changed to fit the Japanese language.  Without a doubt Kanji are the hardest part of the Japanese language, especially for English speakers.  To us, Kanji just look like pictures or symbols, not letters or words.  When I first started learning Japanese, I hated Kanji the most out of anything else.  However, now that I’m more advanced in this language and am actually in Japan seeing these characters everyday, I’ve come to realize how important and convenient they are.  So, I’ve decided to explain why Kanji are to interesting.  Since there are thousands of Kanji in the Japanese language, I’m only going to explain the meaning of a few.

To be honest, I didn’t realize at first that each Kanji has its own meaning, and when put together with other Kanji make an entirely different meaning.  So, each Kanji is actually its own word, and can make an entire phrase, or even sentence, when put together with other Kanji.  Also, understanding the separate meaning of each Kanji can also help one understand the way Japanese think, or rather thought.  Although I don’t know all of the Kanji yet, I have come to understand over 700, which is quite a few.  Each time I master a new one, I understand more about the Japanese language.  I hope this will help you understand Japan’s culture and way of thinking a little bit more.

Since there are so many Kanji, let’s just start with some of the basics.  I will put the pronunciation of each Kanji after it in paranthesis.  Some of my favorites are 無茶 (Mucha), 写真 (Shashin), 弓道 (Kyudou), 復習 (Fukushu), and 目的 (Mokuteki).  As I said before, each Kanji has its own meaning or is its own word, and I chose two meaning Kanjis that make a different word when put together.  The first is 無茶.  The first Kanji is 無い (Nai) which means to not exist or to not have, and the second Kanji 茶 (Cha) means tea.  When these two are put together it means unreasonable, but literally means without tea, or tea doesn’t exist.  Therefore, for Japanese, tea is so important, that if it didn’t exist it would be unreasonable.  The second Kanji is my favorite which is 写真.  The first Kanji is 写す (Utsusu) which means to copy, and the second is 真 (Ma, or Shin) which means truth or reality.  When put together it means picture, so something that copies reality.  The third is 弓道.  The first Kanji, 弓 (Yumi) means bow, and the second is 道 (Michi) which is path, way, or road.  Together they mean Japanese archery.  So the path, or way of the bow is archery.  The fourth is 復習 which means to review, or practice after class.  The first Kanji is 復 (Fuku) which is to repeat or do again, and the second is 習う (Narau) which is to learn.  So to learn again, or to repeat learning is to review.  The last, and maybe most interesting, is 目的.  The first Kanji is 目 (Me, pronounced mae) means eye, and the second is 的 (Mato) which means target.  So your eye’s target, or the target you have in your eye means purpose or goal.

These are just a few of the hundreds of interesting Kanji that are used daily in the Japanese language.  You might have also noticed that Kanji even change how they’re pronounced depending on if they’re with other Kanji, and even what other Kanji are next to them.  So, not only is the stroke order of Kanji really complicated, even reading them takes a lot of effort to master.  However, sometimes you can understand what the Kanji means even if you don’t know how to read it.  I hope this was just as interesting for you as it is for me, and I hope you’ve gained more interest in the Japanese language.  Thank you for reading my blog, and if you would like to learn more about Japan, you can watch my youtube videos by searching my name.