The Official /int/ How to Learn A Foreign Language Guide Wiki

Kanji (漢字) are adopted Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system used alongside the kana. They are used to write most noun, adjective, and verb stems. Tens of thousands of kanji exist, but more than 99% of kanji used are among the 2,000 most common.


Unlike the kana, each kanji may be read in more than one way. For kanji with more than one reading, the readings can be classified into onyomi (音読み) or kunyomi (訓読み). In addition to onyomi and kunyomi, kanji may have special readings that are neither. Occasionally, a kanji will have its reading written in kana presented next to it to indicate its pronunciation. Kana used in this way are called furigana.


The onyomi is based on the original Chinese pronunciation of the character. Onyomi is primarily used for kanji that are combined with other kanji to form a compound word. For example, one of the onyomi of the first kanji of 人間 ("human") is にん and one of the onyomi of the second kanji is けん. Together, they form 人間, which has the reading にんげん.


The kunyomi is based on native Japanese pronunciation. Like onyomi, the kunyomi can be used in compound words, although onyomi is more common for compounds. Kanji used in the stems of words that have trailing hiragana (called okurigana) almost always use kunyomi. For example, the kanji in 食べる ("to eat") uses the kunyomi reading た. The okurigana are not considered to be part of the reading, but many resources that show the readings of kanji written in kana will display them along with the kunyomi, usually separated with a special character. While a kanji may have multiple kunyomi, a word that has its okurigana modified due to inflection will have its kanji read the same. For example, 食 also has the kunyomi く, but it will have the same た reading in the words 食べた ("ate") and 食べたい ("want to eat") as it did in 食べる as only the okurigana changed pronunciation.


A component is a meaningful graphic piece of a kanji. The component that is used to organize kanji in dictionaries is called the radical. Some refer to all components as radicals. The components used in a kanji may indicate the meaning or the onyomi of the kanji.

Kanji Lists[]

The Japanese Ministry of Education maintains two lists of common kanji that learners are recommended to learn. One of them is the kyouiku kanji (教育漢字). This is a list of 1,006 kanji developed for primary school students to learn and it is organized by grade. A larger list is the jouyou kanji (常用漢字), which consists of the kyouiku kanji plus the 1,130 kanji learned in secondary school for a total of 2,136 kanji.

Look up vocabulary in Japanese, kanji, romaji, hiragana  at Mazii Japanese English dictionary


Japanese Kana Kanji