A Japan Guy 15 Kanji Quiz

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I remember eating out with my friend Abasa in the early part of my Japan stay and was so impressed by this guy. I knew so little Japanese, but he was speaking fluently, effortlessly. We talked about life in Japan and how he didn’t follow the normal teaching route. Abasa went the business route, instead. He’d lived in Japan for quite some time, and life seemed so good for him. Running into people like him who were so positive about being here, really had a big influence on me.

I wanted to be able to experience Japan the way Abasa was. I wanted to be able to converse easily with the people around me. I wanted to understand the Japanese I saw on the train everyday, heard around me everyday. I picked his brain on how he was able to learn speak Japanese, namely the kanji side of things. Just how he was able to learn, recognize and use so many kanji? His response really downplayed his skills: “Kanji are just pictures, that’s all.” That seemed simple enough. I was still learning my hiragana and katakana then, so I those words didn’t really sink in until I actually started studying the kanji for myself.

Was Abasa right? Absolutely. Kanji are pictures. Now, the only problem is that sometimes the picture may be harder to see and recognize than you think. Why aren’t the pictures simpler? Well, kanji is one of the oldest writing systems on the planet (originating in China), and the kanji have undergone some pretty significant changes throughout the years. So with many characters, you might not look at a kanji picture right away and say “OH I SEE IT.”

Learning kanji can be frustrating for a number of different reasons: there are so many to learn, many kanji look similar, the stroke order can be confusing, there are so many different ways to read different kanji.

But for today…FORGET ABOUT ALL THAT. Today, kanji easy. We’re going to keep it simple, light, and fun! I’m going to show you fifteen different kanji and whether you know the kanji or not, I want you to see if you can guess meanings. For those who already know these, please don’t give away the answers just yet. In the chart below there are 15 different kanji pictures, I want you to match the kanji with one of the 15 words (also listed below) it most resembles. There is only one answer per kanji character.


1. One

2. Two

3. Three 

4. River

5. Mountain

6. Car 

7. Forest

8. Mother 

9. Rain

10. Middle

11. Rice Field 

12. Goods

13. Dish, Plate 

14. Sake, Alcohol 

15. Fire

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the answers to today’s quiz!!

See you then,

Donald Ash

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  • Matthew Wallace

    I know all of these, but I have been studying Kanji for about six months now (And Japanese for two years). Very few are “intuitive”, where the image actually represents the thing in question.

    I still can’t understand spoken sentence in Japanese, so I guess I will need some more time to work on that.

    Those interested can download a program called Anki (http://ankisrs.net/) it is a free flashcard / memory program that has many Kanji packs you can download.

  • http://japan-australia.blogspot.com/ Japan Australia

    I hope I got most of these, but it was a lot of fun. I love how most of them do look like a picture and if you think about them carefully it is pretty easy to choose the correct word.

    Japan Australia

    • Donald Ash

      Nice work! I’m glad to hear you had fun with it :D

  • theOtherJapanGuy

    Ew, your handwriting is horrrrrible.
    Love Peter.

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