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日本語 Japanese Kanji and Kana: A Complete Guide to the Japanese Writing System

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Japanese Kanji and Kana is a book that is great for those that have just started to learn the language and its writing system as well as those that need to refresh their knowledge of Japanese writing.

Writing however is just one aspect of a language; so if you want to learn Japanese this book it will be very useful, but won’t lead you far without any knowledge of grammar.

The book contains about 35 pages on romanization, the kana syllabaries (history, order, writing, orthography, and usage), punctuation as well as almost 400 pages dedicated to kanji. It consists of 19 tables each of which presents plentiful information on the Japanese writing system, for example Table 1 (“The syllabaries” Hiragana, Katakana), Table 9 (“How to write Hiragana”) and Table 10 (“How to write Katakana”).

There are another 16 tables full of useful information, and it wouldn't be Tuttle without some interesting facts about Japanese writing system, such as:

  • Basic Rules for Writing By Hand
  • Transliteration (Hepburn)
  • Hiragana and Katakana derivations
  • The Iroha Syllable Order
  • Punctuation Marks
  • the Radicals
  • the Graphemes

Probably the most important part of the book are the 2136 official Joyo Kanji which are the kanji in daily use. Each kanji in this book is represented in nine parts
  1. Kanji in its brush form
  2. the number that shows position of kanji in this book
  3. descripton of the kanji
  4. structure of the kanji
  5. graphemes of the kanji
  6. kanji in its pen form
  7. variants of the kanji (usually an obsolete form)
  8. readings and meanings of the kanji
  9. words and sentences in which kanji can be used
Magazines, newspapers and television are supposed to use only these 2136 kanji.

Kanji in this book are very well organized starting from easy and very common Kanji as 一 (ichi) 二 (ni) 三 (san) 日 (nichi) 月 (tsuki) and ending with kanji that have as much as 29 strokes for example 鬱 (utsu) 麺 (men) 膝 (hiza). Even if it may be overwhelming the book will show that all kanji in this book can be written using 79 radicals, and if you have interest in 214 original radicals they are in this book as well.

Of course no book is perfect, and this one is no exception as it contains few misspelled words.There are websites mentioned in texts which in my opinion aren't necessary since there are the commercials of their sites at beginning of book. The kanji index by reading is useful, but can be little confusing since the ON and KUN readings are mixed together. Probably would be more practical, if there would be index by ON reading and index by KUN reading. Also, the tables are in a somehow strange order.
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Wolfgang Hadamitzky and Mark Spahn
Tuttle Publishing
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