- Paperback: 704 pages
- Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; 2nd edition (January 15, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804820384
- ISBN-13: 978-0804820387
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 66 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters 2nd Edition
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"This book is nothing less than an etymological kanji dictionary of all 2000+ joyo (everyday use) kanji! FOr each kanji character, it presents its history in brief, references it to associated characters, tells its story of how it has evolved into its current form, and also its readings (both kun and on readings) and three example words/compound words written using the character. Of all the Japanese learning–related books I own, this one is by far the one I've gotten the most out of. I heartily recommend this one! —Squidoo.com
"…I use it every single day, and have done for almost a year now. It is the most brilliant reference book ever for learning kanji. I use this in conjunction with a phone app for Android, Obenkyo. I use the app to learn how to write each kanji, and to study them. I consult this book daily to learn the Why of each kanji, and to figure out how to remember them. There is a story to each kanji--and when you know the story it is much easier to remember each kanji. To find a kanji, you look it up by the readings in the back. If you get one book to learn kanji, this is the one you should get." —Goodreads
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The basic modus operandi of the text is to take each of Japan's "general use" Kanji and give a brief historical-etymological essay on the character. This includes what the character looked like in its earliest forms and sometimes some intermediate forms before the modern Kanji was set. The early pictograms are great for developing visual associations that may not be obvious anymore in the modern Kanji. Plus, the historical essays make the book a language lover's paradise.
A part of the book I found less useful was the provision of a mnemonic phrase to help remember each of the Kanji. This may be of benefit if you are good at memorizing mnemonics, but I got much more out of the historical explanations and their assistance in developing visual cues.
Other reviewers have noted that the book is outdated in that it doesn't reflect the latest from the Japanese educational authorities. This may be true, but as an adult foreigner that frankly doesn't have much relevance for me. It could be important for others.
The improvement I would love to see is to have entries be one-half page for each character instead of one-third page, thus providing more space for historical usage and character forms.
The only major strike against this book is its somewhat misleading title; it really should be called "A Guide to the Origins of Japanese Characters" or something similar. While some people (including myself) will find the etymological information alone to be a major help in learning and memorizing characters, some will find it far less helpful for that purpose.
Minor strikes against this book include the lack of kana readings (the author also somewhat confusingly transliterates "ou" and "oo" in the same way, as another reviewer pointed out) and the lack of stroke order (leaving that out was probably a good decision overall, though, since adding that would make the book quite a bit bigger and it's quite sizable as it is). It's worth noting that this is neither textbook nor kanji dictionary, nor is it a substitute for either. Still, I think this book is an excellent reference for any serious student of Japanese writing, preferably as a supplement to a good kanji textbook and dictionary.
- It uses the Joyo kanji.
- It has great explanations and three example compounds for each Kanji
- It is sorted by grades.
- The memorization techniques usually work, when they don't, the explanation will.
- It helps you see Kanji in a different way.
- It explains everything in the beginning of the book, including what ON and kun are, which I didn't previously know.
- You can look up Kanji in the back of the book by ON or kun prununciation.
It's far better than a workbook, in my opinion, for starting out your Kanji journey.
If you're looking to learn how to write Kanji, this isn't your book. It includes stroke number, and basic/typical stroke order, but does not show stroke order for individual Kanji. The other downside is it doesn't include hiragana/katakana but instead uses romaji.
It's more of a beginning teaching Kanji book than anything else. You could use it as a reference, but not as easily as a dictionary or other Kanji books. It also seems to be somewhat outdated, but still a useful and important book that will last.
Most likely, you won't be able to use this book alone. I'd like to buy White Rabbit Press / Max Hodge's flash cards if I can get the money, but for now I'll be supplementing it with Crazy for Kanji, A Guide to 250 Very Basic Kanji, and Essential Kanji.
Regardless, this book has a lot of content to offer for those learning Japanese. ON and KUN readings, phrases to help you remember the meaning of the character, historical hypothesis on the use of the character. Rear look up index by stroke order. Ect.
My college Japanese teacher uses this book to teach Kanji.
I am currently in Japanese 102, grammar hasn't been my strong point, but Kanji has always interested me. Lowest grade on a kanji quiz was 86%, Kaeru and Kaku were a little difficult for me to write.
This specific book had written notes on chinese pronunciations, BONUS!