Artemis Learns Kanji (1)

There is now a Google Speadsheet that you can view my progress in total. It’s being updated as I study

Impromptu weekend post. I’d like to do one of these every Sunday or Monday but since I literally write most of my blog posts and schedule them weeks later, we’ll see how this goes.

Anyway, my New Year’s resolution was to learn Japanese like the weeaboo I am. And apparently ‘weeaboo’ is a word accepted by Google. No red underline. Gee, what a time to be alive. So I learned the hiragana and katakana alphabets in like a day or two each. Now I need to face… the wall of kanji. I spent like a month avoiding it in fear but I gotta learn one way or another if I plan to ever learn Japanese. Here goes nothin’.

So this post is very informal and it’s not meant to be an instructional guide. This is just me writing about stuff I learned during the week very casually.

The format will be:

  • Kanji : broad definition
    • onyomi | kunyomi [For those wondering, these are separate pronunciations of the SAME kanji. I won’t go into detail because I don’t know jack. I’m learning it. To my understanding the pronunciation varies based on context.]
    • As a side note, I’ll be using romaji for pronunciation mostly for the reader’s sake.


Okay? Let’s get started.

  • 一 : one, the best
    • ichi | hito

So I obviously learned the numbers first. This is the number one and it will be followed by several other numerical kanji. As a weeaboo, I knew this one already but I figured it should make the list. It’s easy enough to remember, one straight line. Now where I might get confused is that a similar straight line is also used to indicate a long vowel sound.

  • 二 : two
    • ni | futa

Not much to say here. This one’s easy to remember because: A. two strokes. B. the it’s similar to hiragana に which is pronounced ‘ni’.

  • 三 : three
    • san | mi

Three lines, easy to remember.

  • 四 : four
    • shi |  yon

This is where my difficulties start to come in when it comes to the numbers. Because in so many of my practice reading it’s read as yon but then a shi slips in there and ahh. I’ve memorized it as a number, not as a separate kanji. So I don’t really have much of a method for it.

  • 五 : five
    • go | itsu

I tend to want to pronounce 五つ as ichi(tsu) instead of itsu(tsu). But I recognize this as being five so ehhh. Close enough?

  • 六 : six
    • roku | mu, mui

  • 七 : seven
    • shichi | nana

Looks like an upside-down 7

  •  八 : eight
    • hachi | yo

This one looks like the katakana ハ (pronounced ha).

  • 九 : nine
    • kyuu | kokono

I think nine completes the gamut of numbers that can be a pain to deal with. There are three (4,7,9) which have specific interactions within phrases that you have to remember. I don’t have a method for remembering it, I just memorize that it’s nine.

  • 十 : ten
    • jyuu | too (toe-o)

  • 百 : 100
    • hyaku | momo

  • 千 : 1000
    • sen | chi

Again, just know your numbers. But this ends the number list I have.

On Counting:

Counting seems to be pretty easy in Japanese. After 十 you tack on smaller numbers. The pattern I see is that you can’t get confused because the smaller numbers seem to act as spacers. For example, 223 is 二百二十三。The ‘single digit’ numbers act as a ‘lead’ for each number. I don’t know any other way to say it.

Moving on:

We now get to the ‘more fun’ kanji. As we move past the ones I just memorize, we get into ones I create little tricks to remembering how to read them.

  • 日 : sun, day
    • nichi | -hi, -ka

This one shows up very frequently. It’s not hard for me to remember especially when it shows up all of the time. It shows up in today (今日) , Friday (金曜日), it’s all over the place. I often leap to read this as ‘ni’ at the beginning of a word and ‘ka’ at the end of one.

  • 時 : time, hour
    • ji | tochi

It has the sun kanji on the side. Whenever you mention the time of day, this kanji is used. 一時 – One o’clock. Has the one kanji, has the hour kanji. Easy enough to read. I always want to read this as ji and in my early stages of learning materials I do not find the kun reading very often. As such, I use the sun kanji in it to remember that it’s related to time and then I see a little J at the bottom, so I pronounce it ji.

  • 人 : human
    • jin, nin | hito

Looks like a dude walking (sorta). I have a terrible habit of reading this as shin instead of jin because I’m trying to read furigana faster than I should. My default reading is jin.

  • 今 : now
    • kon, kin | ima

This one is just fun for me to look at. The kanji for man is at the top of it with what looks like the katakana ra. So I… I think of a man atop a roof saying “RA! I AM GOING TO JUMP OFF THIS ROOF”.

  • 男 : male
    • dan | otoko

My default reading is dan, and I remember it because it looks like a man holding a scythe. I imagine the women stayed indoors cooking all day while the manly men worked the fields. Historical accuracy may differ, but that’s unimportant for memorization!

  • 木 : tree
    • moku, boku | chi

It… looks like a tree. Though one of my video resources says that the bottom things are the roots, I like to think it looks like a christmas tree. So there.

  • 本 : book, origin
    • hon | mato

I default to reading this as hon. It looks like the tree kanji but with a cut at the bottom. I suspect the ‘origin’ definition comes from that line being through one of the ‘roots’ of the tree. I prefer to think of it as the tree being cut down for paper to be made into books.

  • 学 : study
    • gaku | mana

This one is a bit of an odd one out. Up until now most of the kanji I noted were ones I knew piece by piece. I know this one as gaku because the kanji for various school levels have it in them. Daigaku (大学) meaning ‘university’ for example. I know it has the kanji for child in it (子) but I don’t know it well enough to say that I know it. But since I know that kanji for child is in it… to me this looks like a child with a crown of light. So to me, the learning (or studying) is the significance of that light.

I’ve only ever seen the mana(bu) reading in one other kanji, and it means to study intently.

  • 口 : mouth
    • kou | kuchi

It looks like a mouth. And I remember it as kuchi because… kuchi kuchi kou. Christ that’s embarrassing to say aloud.

  • 国 : country
    • koku | kuni

To me this looks like an enclosed palace, so…  a symbol for a country. I remember it as koku because I remember a Bill Wurtz video where ‘sakoku’ (鎖国) showed up meaning ‘closed country’ or something like that. And I just attribute the koku to the country part.

  • 何 : what
    • ka | nani, nan

I readily read this as nan or nani. To me this looks like a man that is very wide-eyed about WHAT has just been said so he says WHAT? And I associate the word what with both nani (thanks anime) and ka (the question marking particle). So it’s not difficult to remember the pronunciation out of context.

  • 月 : month, moon
    • gatsu, getsu | tsuki

So the meaning is pretty easy to remember because we see a full moon cycle about once a month. Most of the readings I’ve come into contact with are number + month which often uses a gatsu or getsu reading. More of a practice than a memorization trick.

  • 土 : soil, earth, ground
    • do | tsuchi

Looks like something is coming out of the ground.

I am by no means competent at reading any of these kanji, and I’m learning vocab side-by-side with it so it’s a bit of struggle. But these are the ones that I understand the meaning of most readily and can pick A pronunciation out very quickly (even if it’s not always the correct one). Again, I’m just learning and if anyone wants to comment on corrections, tips, etc. on what I’ve posted above, please do so. I’m very much interested in any advice. My current methods are reading newspapers and using flashcard quizzes. But that’ll be it from me for today. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Artemis Learns Kanji (1)

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