On Kanji 2

Nichi Bei Times:
Review of Crazy for Kanji

Reviewed by Sarah Yuen in the summer 2009 book review issue of this San Francisco–based newspaper

This is no kanji workbook, nor is it a textbook, nor is it simply a games book… It’s a fun and informative read for people who are interested in the origins of language or simply want to learn ways to make kanji easier.

Crazy for Kanji explains the meaning behind individual characters, radicals (the particular components that a character can be broken into), and combinations of words and phrases in a fairly enjoyable way. It’s not necessarily the best tool for learning kanji right off the bat, but for someone who wants to have a deeper knowledge of the nuances of characters and combinations as they pertain to Japanese society and history.

There is a lot packed into this book. There are features for all difficulty levels, ranging from distinguishing o from ou to a list of situations in which certain kanji occur. There are features such as brand name explanations—did you know that “Nintendo” combines characters for “leave it to,” “heaven” and “hall,” resulting in something along the lines of “heaven blesses hard work” or “work hard but it’s all in heaven’s hands”? There are games such as combining radicals to form kanji and surmise their meanings and “word find.” There’s advice on buying kanji dictionaries, etc., etc.

It’s almost overwhelming, the amount of information in this volume, but it makes the experience fun and surprising to see what kinds of games and facts one can discover about a language that is indeed steeped in history; where every character has a history and each piece has a meaning.

Great gift idea for the student studying Japanese or the lover of languages.