1st Edition

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

By John Esposito Copyright 2020
    374 Pages 102 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    374 Pages 102 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    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.


    • 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




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