Type Book
Date 1988
Pages 675
Tags nonfiction, language learning, Japanese, kanji

A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters

Teaches the 1945 jouyou kanji (before the 2010 changes).

The book begins with some brief explanation of how kanji work, where the readings come from, how they're to be written, etc., which is proably just barely enough to get by. Then, for each kanji, there's an entry containing a large version, as written with a brush, the principle readings, the stroke count, and a few common compounds.

Following this basic information is an explanation of the etymology of the character, and a suggested mnemonic, similar to Heisig's Remembering the Kanji. For example, the entry for η”Ί (town, #57) reads:

Field η”° 59 q.v. and nail 丁 346. The latter was used phonetically to express walk, and also lent its T-shape to suggest junction of paths. 57 originally meant paths through the fields, and by extension place where fields join, then area/community.


Etymology can only get you so far. Sometimes the true etymology is a matter of debate, and sometimes there's not a very good etymological reason for things–the entry for ζ₯½ is more than twice as long as most of them, and basically explains that the pop etymology for the character is wrong, and the true etymology is unclear. Given that, Henshall suggests just using the pop etymology to remember the character. But I think that's fine, too. Ultimately, remembering the kanji is just a matter of memorization, after all.

Even accepting that etymology isn't always going to do the trick, I prefer explanations like these to the totally made-up 'stories' from RtK. Knowing something of how the kanji developed is legitimately useful, since you can often then recognize why related kanji have the meanings or readings they do. The mnemonic stories from RtK don't give you that benefit, even if they may be a little easier to remember, if you're starting from zero.

Name Role
Kenneth G. Henshall Author
Tuttle Publishing Publisher