To a native speaker, kanji can appear organized and structured, delivering maximum meaning for minimum space. To the rest of us, they often just look like
To make things worse, characters can look nearly identical, but have an entirely different meaning depending on their radical. All this can lead to a lot of confusion – fast. This site emphasizes usability and visual organization to help keep kanji in check. The dictionary is divided up into three major areas:
|The Menu Area||Menu buttons for searching.|
|The List Area||Lists and secondary information.|
|The Info Area||Detailed information and other functions.|
Other functions make intuitive use of these three areas. See below for more detailed information.
This site makes a few assumptions about you that you should know to get the most out of it.
First and foremost, it assumes that you have Asian fonts installed on your computer. If you do not, the site will be of very little use to you. If you need to install these fonts, but don't know how, please see the FAQ.
Second, it assumes that you can read and understand hiragana. If you are serious about learning kanji, then you pretty much need to start by learning hiragana first, and it is quite simple to pick up. Many good learning tools exist, and Wikipedia provides a good place to start.
Last, this site assumes that you are using a modern web browser.
The Menu Area
This is where the hunt for kanji begins. Each button on the menu bar is a method of searching for kanji.
The List Area
The list area is used for two purposes:
1. Clickable lists that allow you to narrow down and select the kanji you're looking for. Once you have refined your search, you will finally end up with a list of just kanji. Clicking on the kanji will bring up its information in the info panel.
2. Information about compounds, or words and phrases in which kanji occur. This information can be accessed by clicking on a kanji compound from within the info panel.
The Info Area
The info area provides two panels that can be toggled on and off using the tabs below it.
The contribute panel allows you to add your own kanji or compounds to the dictionary.
Additionally, you can access the chat application from here.
Looking Up Kanji
Finding a particular kanji begins by clicking on a button or entering text in the menu bar. The following methods can be used:
|All||Display all kanji in the database.|
|Radical||Search for a kanji based on its radical. Radicals are organized by the number of strokes they have. Be aware that this number is based on the radical's original form, and in a few cases may not be intuitive.|
|Strokes||Search for a kanji based on its total number of strokes.|
|Level||Search for a kanji based on its educational level, as defined by the Japanese Ministry of Education. Levels include grades 1-6, "common use" (常用) kanji, and all others (常用外).|
|On||Search for a kanji based on its "on" or Chinese reading.|
|Kun||Search for a kanji based on its "kun" or native Japanese reading.|
|Text Search||Provides a shortcut to the other functions, as well as allowing you to search the English meaning. Enter an english phrase here, or if you have Japanese input enabled you can enter a kanji reading or directly enter the kanji itself.|
|Vocab||This button lets you access your vocab list.|
Using the Info Panel
Once you have found the kanji you're looking for, clicking on it will bring it up in the info area. Here you will have access to the following information and functions:
|Add Vocab||This button adds the current kanji to your vocab list.|
|Kanji||Here it is, nice and large. No more squinting.|
|Radical||The radical of the current kanji.|
|Strokes||The total number of strokes in the kanji.|
|On Reading||The Chinese reading of the kanji. Also known as on-yomi.|
|Kun Reading||The native Japanese reading of the kanji. Also known as kun-yomi.|
|Level||The educational level of the kanji. Possible levels are grades 1-6, "general use" (常用), and others outside general use (常用外).|
|Meaning||The meaning of the kanji in English. Any given kanji may have meanings that vary wildly depending on context.|
|Compounds+||A list of compounds in which this kanji occurs. If you have a compound of your own that you would like to share, you can click on the word "compounds+" to add it.|
|Rating||The kanji's current rating. This panel appears for kanji that have been contributed by other users, and allows you to vote on its accuracy.|
|Dock Button||This button docks or undocks the info panel. When undocked, it will follow you as you scroll. This is useful for long lists of kanji where you don't want to scroll all the way back to the top to view the panel. Be sure to give it a few seconds – don't worry, it will follow you.|
|Roll Up||This button rolls up the info panel to get it out of your way. Useful if you're trying to use the chat application, and the info panel is in the way.|
If the kanji in the info panel has any associated compounds (words or phrases in which the kanji occurs), they will show up at the bottom of the info panel. Hovering over the compounds will give the reading, and clicking on them will bring up the following information in the list area:
|Add Compound||This button adds the current compound to your vocab list.|
|Usefulness||Is this compound useful? Does it appear often in modern Japanese? If you vote the kanji up, it will appear higher in the compounds list on the info panel. Of course, also consider rating it based on its accuracy as well.|
|Compound||The full compound written out. Hint: You can click on any kanji within the compound to jump to it in the info panel.|
|Examples||Example sentences using this compound are listed here. You can vote on each example sentence for its usefulness and accuracy. Higher votes will push the sentence higher in the list.|
|Add an Example Sentence||Here you can add examples of your own. Please try to include the reading in hiragana just as it would be sounded out (not just the individual kanji readings).|
Any time you see a plus/minus symbol , it means that you can cast a vote. You can vote on user entered kanji, compounds, and example sentences.
You should cast your vote based not only on accuracy, but also usefulness as the word/sentence applies in modern Japanese. This is especially true for compounds and example sentences, as voting will affect their order in the lists they appear in.
If the vote count falls below -5, the word/sentence will no longer appear. For compounds and example sentences, this means that they will eventually be deleted. For kanji, it means that any user can enter new information for a kanji, and it will overwrite the previous information. This is true as only one table of information can exist in the database for a given kanji.
As an expandable dictionary, users are allowed to enter new kanji, compounds, and example sentences. Kanji and compounds can be added in the info panel. Example sentences can be added for a given compound in the list area. The following fields must be filled out:
|Kanji||The kanji to be added.|
|Radical||The radical of the kanji to be added. Click on the text to bring up a list of radicals that you can click on.|
|Strokes||The total number of strokes in the kanji. Don't assume – this can sometimes be tricky!|
|On Reading||A list of "on" readings for the kanji, separated by commas. The kanji must have at least one "on" or one "kun" reading.|
|Kun Reading||A list of "kun" readings, separated by commas. Put okurigana in parentheses like this: はたら（く）. The kanji must have at least one "on" or one "kun" reading.|
|Meaning||The meaning of the kanji in English. It's helpful to follow a few rules here for consistency. Try to think from the perspective of a learner seeing the kanji for the first time. If the meaning is "right", does that mean "correct" or "the opposite of left"? Synonyms are good, but try not to go too crazy. However, try to include all meanings when a character has different meanings in different contexts. For example "bright" is enough to get a sense of the meaning of the kanji 明, but adding "clear" and "next" lets you know the special meanings it has in certain compounds.|
|Notes||Here you can add "meta-information" for the kanji that would waste space as part of the meaning. For example, it would be helpful to explain here that 壱 is an older character for "one", and is synonymous with 一. The information will appear when you hover the mouse over the kanji. This field probably isn't necessary for the majority of characters.|
|Compound||The compound to be added. This site defines "compound" to mean "a phrase consisting of one or more kanji or okurigana". It does not mean phrases that include other parts of speech. This may be a bit confusing, but in practice it basically means that any hiragana that is not considered okurigana should not be included. Compounds should usually be either one or two characters, as larger compounds can often be broken down. Four letter compounds common to Japanese such as 一所懸命 can be a point of contention, but a good rule of thumb for these phrases is: if the words make sense when broken down into two words of two characters each, they should be considered separate. Also, a kanji appearing on its own in modern Japanese can be entered as its own compound. For example, the kanji 品 in the phrase 品がある has a meaning on its own. Therefore, 品 should be entered as a compound, and 品がある as an example sentence. 品がある should not be entered as a compound.|
|Reading||The reading of the compound in hiragana. If there is ever more than one reading (should be quite rare), the most common reading is acceptable, or parentheses can be used.|
|Meaning||The meaning of the compound in English.|
Contributing Example Sentences
|Sentence||The sentence to be entered. This can be a full sentence or just a phrase. Using periods is at your discretion, but probably not necessary for the Japanese.|
|Reading||The full reading of the sentence written out in hiragana. Please try to include all parts of the sentence, just as it would be spoken.|
|Meaning||The meaning of the sentence in English.|
One of the nicer functions of this site is the ability to store kanji or compounds you come across into a vocab list, and call them up later. The vocab list effectively allows you to test yourself by clicking on a vocab item and going through the list. Hint: In addition to clicking with the mouse, you can also use the left and right arrow keys to cycle through the list.
To add a word, click on the "add vocab" button whenever you see a kanji or compound. To see your list, click on the "vocab list" button on the far right of the menu bar. Hint: Hold "ctrl" when clicking to jump directly to your compounds list.
The chat feature allows you to chat with other users currently accessing the site. To open the application, click on the "chat" tab at the bottom of the info panel and choose a username. If the info panel is getting in your way, you can click on the "roll up" button to shrink it.