Archive for the ‘Kanji’ Category

Writing kanji: doing it the traditional way

2007 April 18

This post has been moved to “Writing kanji: doing it the traditional way”. Please visit the new server.

Song dump: Takaramono

2007 April 14

Takaramono's cover

This is the theme song of the drama Takaramono (lyrics). The story is about Sen, a girl that lived away from his hometown to forget the tragedy of eathquake that had befell it. She had left her hometown for so long that she also forgot all the sweet memories of her childhood there. The main star and the singer of the song is no other than Abe Natsumi.

Everyone knows the kanji 青 (あお, blue or green) which is taught in grade 1. However, in the song lyrics I found another あお, 蒼. According to Windows XP’s IME, 青 is for blue or green in the general sense while 蒼 is for dark or dull blue. An example is 蒼い月夜 (aoi tsukiyo, (dark) blue moonlit night).

Also, I already know the kanji 哀れむ (あわれむ, to pity). However in this song the kanji is used for かなしい (哀しい, sad) instead of the usual 悲しい. According to Windows XP’s IME, 悲しい is for sad in the general sense while 哀しい has a more painful sense. An example is 哀しい響き (kanashii hibiki, a (painful) sad sound).

There are 3 new kanji:


And 6 new words:

Kanji Kana English
贈り物 おくりもの present
くせ peculiarity
尽くす つくす to exhaust
蒼い あおい blue (dark)
哀しい かなしい sad
臆病 おくびょう cowardice

Song dump: Koko ni Iruzee!

2007 April 14

Niigaki Risa in Koko ni Iruzee

Yoshizawa Hitomi in Koko ni Iruzee

This is Morning Musume’s 16th single (lyrics). An energetic happy song that I really enjoy.

The kanji 会う (あう, to meet) is very common. In this song, I meet (no pun intended) another あう, 逢う. 会う is for meeting someone in a general sense, while according to EDICT 逢う has a more dramatic sense. An example is ここで逢った (koko de atta, I met (my girlfriend) here (for the first time)).

I also already know 超える (こえる, to exceed), but in this soung I found another こえる, 越える. According to Windows XP’s IME, 超える is for quantity or limit, while 越える is for place or time. Some examples:

  • 定員を超える (teiin wo koeru): to exceed the passenger capacity (e.g., boat)
  • 予想を超える (yosou wo koeru): to exceed expectation
  • 国境を越える (kokkyou wo koeru): to go past the country border
  • 山を越える (yama wo koeru): to go past the mountains

So, these are the 2 kanji:


which corresponds to these 2 words:

Kanji Kana English
逢う あう to meet (dramatic)
越える こえる to pass through (place, time)

Japanese kanji handwriting recognition in Windows XP’s IME

2007 March 31

This post has been moved to “Japanese kanji handwriting recognition in Windows XP’s IME”. Please visit the new server.

Am I learning Japanese or Biology?

2007 March 25

One essential aspect of learning a language is learning its vocabulary. In my Japanese study, this tranlates into learning kanji which are the building block of many words.

Most kanji are for things I am familiar with. Some examples are 人 (hito, person), 玉 (tama, ball), and 火 (hi, fire). Many are for common animals like 虫 (mushi, insect), 亀 (kame, turtle), and 猫 (neko, cat). Unexpectedly, I quite oftenly encounter kanji for an animal or plant that I have no knowledge about.

An example is 藤 (fuji, tou) which is the kanji for the plant genus Wisteria. It is found on many people’s name, such as 藤本美貴 (Fujimoto Miki), 後藤真希 (Gotou Maki), and 工藤新一 (Kudou Shin’ichi).

Using KANJIDIC or EDICT, I only get a brief description like “wisteria”. That is useless for someone with a shallow knowledge such as me, but enough as a pointer to get more information elsewhere. If I’m not online, my next stop is Stardict, which gives more detail such as “a climbing plant with purple or white flowers”. At least I could know that “Wisteria” is a plant, not something else like “hysteria”. My final stop is of course Wikipedia, which gives detailed descriptions and more importantly, images!

I’ll share some of the new living things I’ve discovered… Do you know them?



In Japanese, it is フジ (藤, fuji). And no, Mount Fuji is written differently. It is native to Japan and other countries including eastern US. It can climb by twisting itself along any available support. As I have written above, it is used on many people’s name. Anyone knows its Indonesian name?



In Japanese, it is セミ (蝉, semi). I found it on Berryz Koubou‘s song titled “Semi”. It is a family of insect that makes a lot of noise (but it’s different from Cricket). According to Wikipedia Indonesia, the Indonesian name is Tonggeret (never heard it before).



In Japanese, it is キク (菊, kiku). I found it on an author’s name (菊池, Kikuchi) at the digital library Aozora Bunko. In Japan, this plant is a symbol of death and are only used for funerals (which means, don’t give it to your Japanese girlfriend). 菊花紋章 (kikukamonshou) is the name given to the position of Japanese emperor. By the way, I recently went to Moro department store and found a Chrysanthemum product. It is a Chinese product and how happy I was to see the character 菊 written on the box :). The Indonesian name is Seruni (never heard it before too).

Manchurian Violet

Manchurian Violet, Viola mandshurica

In Japanese, it is スミレ (菫, sumire). I also found it on a writer’s name (薄田泣菫, Sasakida Kyuukin, and please don’t ask me what “sasaki” means). Is it also “Violet” in Indonesia?

Japanese Royal Fern

Japanese Royal Fern, Osmunda japonica

In Japanese, it is ゼンマイ (薇, zenmai). I knew what a fern is, but I was curious whether this fern has a striking difference (nothing striking to a layman like me). Strangely, it is the kanji used in Rose (薔薇, bara), which is where I found it. In Indonesia, ferns are called paku or pakis.

If you want to be able to read people’s name, you’ll be sure to encounter lots of these exotic kanji. It’s almost like they’re forcing us to be a botanist or zoologist. You’ll also find these kanji in songs and literatures (e.g., novels), because writers want to look cool by using obscure characters.

As a closing, note that I use katakana to write the name of the plants and animal above. This is a modern practice, which originates from the scientific community. Even in the Japanese Wikipedia, the article for dog is titled イヌ (inu) despite its kanji 犬 being taught in grade 1 elementary school. It is probably a sensible decision, considering that there are countless living things on Earth.

Kanji mnemonic: plant, fence, and bridge

2007 March 18

We will learn 3 shapes this time!

First is the plant shape. Observe the blue shapes in these kanji:

草 is the kanji for grass (kusa), 花 is the kanji for flower (hana), and 菜 is the kanji for vegetables (na). I call the blue shape the “plant” shape. Here’s an image of two plants:

For decoration, I made the flowers bloom :). Note that you can see the roots underground. The superimposed image should make it clear why it is called the plant shape:

Of course the discussion wouldn’t be complete without the stroke order:

OK, the plant shape… I’ll guarantee that you will meet it often (and many times in a plant-related kanji). The other two shapes are less common but I bring it here because they are similar to the plant shape.

Next is the bridge shape. See the blue shapes in the following kanji:

算 is the kanji for calculation (san), 鼻 is the kanji for nose (hana), and 械 is the kanji for machine (kai). This shape is devilish because it is so similar to the previous one. Having a completely different mnemonic is a must if you don’t want things mixed up. Look at the image below:

It is a nice bridge that allows you to cross the river! The image fits well with the shape:

Hence it is called the “bridge” shape. Remember, the key point is the bend on the left vertical stroke. Plant roots don’t bend sideways because, well… probably because gravity. Or is it because they can “smell” more water below and try to dig downwards as far as they could? Whatever, here’s the stroke order:

Now for the last one, the fence shape. Take a good look at the blue shapes below:

黄 means yellow (ki), 散 means to scatter (, and 昔 means olden days (mukashi). It’s the plant shape with an extra stroke! But I use a different mnemonic, not related to plants, so that those two aren’t mixed up. Look at my drawing below:

Why, it’s a nice fence that protects the garden… Focus on the two vertical woods, and superimpose the kanji shape:

It fits perfectly! Therefore I call it the “fence” shape. The stroke order:

I hope with those mnemonics, your kanji quest can be made easier. Happy kanji hunting!

HtmlKanjiMarker 0.01

2007 February 23

The first release of HtmlKanjiMarker 🙂

HtmlKanjiMarker is a program that reads a local HTML file and then marks all unknown kanji red. If you’re studying kanji, this program might be interesting and useful.

Because the program is written in C#, you first need to install .NET Framework 2.0. After that you can download HtmlKanjiMarker 0.01 (487 KB) itself. To run the program, just extract the contents somewhere and run “HtmlKanjiMarker.exe”. Instruction on using the program can be found on the included “readme.txt”

PS: If my university server borks, you can try downloading from

PS2: The program doesn’t run yet on Mono 1.2.3 because they haven’t implemented the web browser control.

Kanji Mnemonic: Hockey player

2007 February 21

This time there’s a scanner around so I can show off my Picasso-like drawing ability…

First of all, observe the kanji in these words:

  • 指 (ゆび): finger
  • 摘む (つむ): to pick
  • 抱く (だく): to hug

Notice that the left shape of all the kanji is same! It’s a shape that occurs in hundreds of kanji, so it is wothy of a name. I call it the hockey player.

This is what a hockey player looks like:

Hockey player

If we change the camera a bit, here’s what he looks like from above:

Hockey player from above

Can you see it already? The next picture should make it clear:

Hockey player and the kanji shape

Therefore, the shape is called the hockey player. QED.

As a closing, here’s the stroke order, taken from Wikimedia Commons:

Hockey player stroke order

PS: Be careful not to confuse this shape with devil’s hand. (they look kind of similar)

HtmlKanjiMarker: my red grades

2007 February 17


This program was actually made quite some time ago, but I haven’t blogged about it.

HtmlKanjiMarker reads a local HTML file and then marks all unknown kanji red. The list of known kanji is taken from two sources. First is from the “Max grade” textbox on the upper right. I entered 4 because I’ve studied all Jouyou kanji grade 4 and below. The second is from a text file, “ExtraKnownKanji.txt”. The file should contain all kanji you’ve learned, outside from the textbox range.

Using this program, I can visually see how effective my current kanji knowledge is for a certain page. It also makes hunting new kanji easy. Last, It can answer questions such as “what if I learn all grade 5 kanji?”. (just change the “Max grade” textbox)

Programming the algorithm naively yielded a very slow marking. This is because a HTML page contains tons of characters, and there are ten thousands of kanji to check againts. I actually benchmarked and overhauled the algorithm several times. I originally wanted to write about the algorithm changes, but lost the interest by now :).

So, here’s some generated Wikipedia pages viewed from my eyes of 1249 kanji: Newton, September 11 2001 attacks, Wikipedia. Rest assured, I’m still quite far for literacy…

Keep running, and if tired, walking. A small rest is also fine, just don’t surrender!