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Learn Kanji Fast – Beginners Guide

Do I Really Need To Learn Kanji?

After visiting Japan multiple times, I have concluded that a little bit is needed in order to function in Japan. Here’s a perfect example of an experience I hope you can avoid…

After excitingly waking up early to soak in an onsen to watch the sunrise. I ended up outside in my robe confused on which entrance was the men’s (男性) or women’s (女性). . .

It was a 50 / 50 chance to enter into a room I could safely bathe in. Or end up in a room full of women preparing to bathe. At this point, my excitement was instantly replaced with FEAR and ANXIETY.


Benefits of Learning Kanji

  • Find and use a Japanese Toilet.
  • Find the exit and entrance.
  • Recognize when shops are open or closed.
  • Help you order off a Japanese menu.
  • Understand the difference between the men’s or women’s room…

How Much Kanji Do I Need To Learn?

NOT MUCH! Below is a small list of essential Kanji everyone traveling to Japan should learn.

  1. 入口 – entrance
  2. 出口 – exit
  3. 営業中 – open business
  4. 休業 – closed business
  5. 駅 – station
  6. 便所 – toilet
  7. 女性 – female
  8. 男性 – male
  9. 水 – water
  10. 洗 – flush
  11. 禁止 – banned, forbidden
  12. 止 – stop

How To Read Kanji

Imagine you are Indiana Jones discovering thousands of ancient Japanese symbols! This may sound exaggerated, but this is essentially what you are doing when reading Kanji. Unlike the English language that combines a series of letters to spell out W-O-R-D-S. Kanji uses symbols to represent meanings.

See the example below on how combining symbols works.

  • 緑 – green
  • 茶 – tea
  • 緑 + 茶 – green tea

Reading Kanji by Meaning

Each Kanji has a direct meaning. Such as mountain, book, meat, and so on. Often you will even find a character to have multiple meanings! Let’s look at “book” as an example.

本 – Book, Origin, Truth…

When reading Kanji it’s best to take into account the context of what you are reading. Take a look at the following example. Guess which Kanji means book and which one does not…

  • A – Sign at a book store reading “本”
  • B – Sign below the flag of Japan reading “日本”

I bet you guessed example B does not mean book. In this case, 本 actually means “origin.” So keep this in mind. Also, in case you’re wondering how to translate the Kanji for Japan “日本.”

(日 – SUN) + (本 – ORIGIN) = 日本 – Land of the Rising Sun.

These two characters can also be read as (ni 日) + (hon 本). Directly translating to Japan.

Reading Kanji By Sound

As Kanji came from China, each Kanji may have a Chinese reading (onyomi) and a Japanese reading (kunyomi). Take a look at this example to get a general idea of what I mean here…


  •  Onyomi reading (Chinese) – San.
  •  Kunyomi reading (Japanese) – Yama.

Depending how this character is used it could be read as mountain (yama) or (san). Good luck…

What Is Furigana?

If you read manga, you probably have seen this method used quite often. Furigana is when right beside the Kanji characters used, you will notice small hiragana or katakana characters placed next to it. These are used to directly explain what word the Kanji character used actually represents. This is very helpful!

How Common Is Kanji In Japan?

In case you are still wondering, is it really worth the time and effort to learn basic Kanji? Again my answer is YES! Kanji is used all over Japan, on Street signs, menus, store signs, hotels, business cards, television, books, and so on. I highly recommend getting familiar with the basics to avoid any confusion and truly enjoy your experience in Japan. See the comics below to get a fun reference of why learning kanji is probably a good idea…

How To Learn Beginner Kanji – Series Available

At this point, you may be asking. How do I get started learning Kanji? Lucky for you I have created a Beginners series for essential Kanji. Within this series, you will learn the following…

  • The History of Kanji.
  • How To Read Kanji.
  • Common and Essential Kanji.
  • How To Write Your Name in Kanji.
  • Plus a Bonus PDF Workbook with Puzzles.


Download your Kanji workbook along with fun puzzles and games.

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