Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters

Kenneth Henshall

This book is a really interesting exploration into the origins of the 2000 most common kanji in Japanese. It gives a lot of information about where each kanji comes from — like most writing systems, the characters were once pictures, and this book shows where they came from and how they came to be as they are now.

The rest of the information supplied is not as satisfactory. There’s no stroke order. Pronunciations are given, but they are in Roman letters instead of Japanese kana. There’s also a mnemonic phrase to help remember each character, but these are mostly useless — they’re often quite arbitrary and thus hard to remember. And even if you do remember them, they’re not much help in actually writing or recognizing the kanji!

As a fascinating sourcebook of historical information about the kanji, this is an excellent book. But as a “guide to remembering Japanese characters” it falls well short. Learn the kanji with Heisig’s book instead, and then get this book for background.

Again, you can get this book from If you’re in Europe, go to

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