Kanji Clues: A Mnemonic Approach to Mastering Japanese Characters : Volume 1 book cover
1st Edition

Kanji Clues: A Mnemonic Approach to Mastering Japanese Characters
Volume 1

ISBN 9780367441500
Published June 15, 2020 by Routledge
374 Pages 102 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Kanji Clues: A Mnemonic Approach to Mastering Japanese Characters introduces a novel approach to character acquisition that combines the ancient practice of memory enhancement with a modern appreciation for active learning.

By placing phonology at the center of the reading-writing process, the learner establishes an essential link between sound and meaning before addressing each character’s orthography, much in the way native speakers do. Another prominent feature of these volumes is that the lessons are organized thematically according to components in order to enhance their retention and to distinguish between similar looking kanji. As a result, character order is determined by the frequency of their primary elements or components. Once a character is learned, it retains the same meaning when it appears as an element in other characters. There is thus an internal recycling of components and characters throughout the course that serves as an additional aid to their retrieval. Proceeding from components and characters, each lesson then introduces ten new compounds, half of which appear in sentences. Here again, the learner actively forges meaningful links by responding to the clues provided. Indeed, the entire learning sequence is based upon mnemonic principles, such as attention, association, and elaboration, which, when employed together, comprise a memory-enhancing network that facilitates accurate recall and retention.

Designed for students who wish to master the Japanese reading/writing system, each volume is comprised of a year’s worth of lessons, which can be used alongside a primary textbook, as well as for self-study, reference, or review. Upon completion of the course, the learner will have not only mastered all the 2,136 everyday use characters, but also be familiar with more than 1,200 kanji compounds and the most common sentence patterns in the Japanese language, thereby providing a deep understanding of the inner workings of the language and the tools to decipher new words.

Volume 1 is an ideal supplementary resource for students throughout their first year of Japanese-language study.

Table of Contents


  • Elements of a Mnemonic Network
  • From Mnemonic Principles to Practice
  • Weekly Course Outline
  • Clue Principles as Simple as ABC
  • How to Make Best Use of This Book
  • For Love of Kanji


  1. By The Numbers
  2. Water World
  3. Tree Of Life
  4. In Person
  5. Southpaw
  6. Review: Lessons 1-5

  7. Watch One’s Mouth
  8. Heart To Heart
  9. Sunshine
  10. Down To Earth
  11. Put Into Words
  12. Review: Lessons 6-10

  13. A Common Thread
  14. Plant Life
  15. On The Move
  16. In The Flesh
  17. Strike Zone
  18. Review: Lessons 11-15

  19. Under The Same Roof
  20. Women’s Lib
  21. Money Maker
  22. Under Cover
  23. Clothes Line
  24. Review: Lessons 16-20

  25. Fire Department
  26. Heavy Metal
  27. Lend A Hand
  28. Field Of Vision
  29. A Perfect Ten
  30. Review: Lessons 21-25


  31. Over The Hill
  32. Cutting Edge
  33. A Grain Of Truth
  34. At Full Strength
  35. Mountain Range
  36. Review: Lessons 26-30

  37. Watermark
  38. Tree Rings
  39. Personal Identity
  40. Hand Out
  41. Mouthful
  42. Review: Lessons 31-35

  43. From The Bottom Of One’s Heart
  44. Day After Day
  45. Ground Level
  46. Spear Carrier
  47. Building Blocks
  48. Review: Lessons 36-40

  49. Big and Small
  50. Dog Tags
  51. Steppingstones
  52. Cut From The Same Cloth
  53. Bows And Arrows
  54. Review: Lessons 41-45

  55. Bamboo Shoots
  56. Head Start
  57. Woodwork
  58. Altar Boys
  59. Anything Goes
  60. Review: Lessons 46-50

  61. Vehicle Inspection


  1. Kanji Components
  2. Secondary Pronunciations and Acronyms
  3. Secondary Meanings and Acronyms



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John Esposito is Professor in the School of Global Studies at Chukyo University, Nagoya, Japan.