Lesson 07 – Kanji 1


Now that you have gotten a few of the more basic lessons out of the way, let’s move on to something more complicated (and sometimes more frustrating): kanji. Actually, in Lesson 4, you were taught the Japanese numbers along with their kanji. If you have not yet memorized the kanji from that lesson, it is probably best if you backtrack and learn this kanji completely first. Once you have that kanji under your belt, you should move on to this lesson.

In this lesson

  • Basic Kanji
  • Tips for learning kanji
  • Homework
  • Answer Key

Basic Kanji

To get started with some kanji unrelated to numbers, let’s take a look at these 15 symbols. Remember that kanji is the third system of writing in Japanese (hiragana and katakana are the two alphabets). Kanji is not an alphabet. These symbols were borrowed from Chinese but given Japanese pronunciations, and sometimes the meanings were changed. Each kanji symbol can stand for a word, a phrase, or an idea. This is why kanji can be really complicated. Kanji is further complicated by the fact that the symbols themselves can be made up of many, many strokes. Also, one kanji can sometimes have multiple meanings and translations.

Below are some kanji that are good for beginners to learn (in fact, all of the kanji below are taught to Japanese students in first grade). The best way to learn these is to practice writing them over and over again.

Kanji Hiragana English
みぎ right (as in direction)
あめ rain
まる / えん yen, circle, round
おら sky
おう king
spirit, vitality
はな flower
おと / ね sound, noise, tone
きん / かね / かな gold, money, metal
した below, under
やす to rest
かい shell, shellfish
がく student, place of education
たま / ぎょく gem, jewel


That’s it for the kanji list this time! There are more kanji that are taught to Japanese students in grade 1, so look for them in the next Kanji lesson! In the meantime, memorize the kanji for the numbers you have already learned and work on this kanji. Use the chart for as long as you need to before you move on to the next lesson!

Tips for Learning Kanji

1. First off, as stated above, take your time with the chart above. Kanji is very complicated, and it is often very hard for native speakers of Western languages to learn because these symbols are so much different than any of our languages. If you are a native speaker of another Asian language, you may have an easier time learning these kanji. No matter what your background is, kanji can still be complicated and difficult to learn because the only way to learn them is to memorize them. (If you don’t practice them after you learn them, you will quickly forget them!)

2. Make flashcards. Some people learn and memorize better this way. Write the kanji on one side and the English on the other. Quiz yourself by looking at the kanji symbols, saying the hiragana pronunciation and the English translation, and then checking your accuracy by looking at the back. Then try going the opposite way and look at the English translation first. You may also want to write the hiragana on the English translation side.

3. Write the symbols many times. It may help you to write the above symbols down in a vertical column on a sheet of paper. Then, start with the first symbol and write it over and over again in a row until you reach the end of the page. Move down to the next line and repeat.

4. Learn kanji over a period of time and review frequently. It may benefit you to take a few symbols at a time and study them intensively before moving on to a new small set. This first lesson has 15 symbols, but you could easily divide them up into groups of 5 or less and learn in increments. After you have learned them all, review them at least once a week by writing them out to make sure you don’t forget them.

5. Always write the kanji instead of the hiragana when you know it. This will help you remember which kanji is associated with which word instead of having just a bunch of random kanji floating around in your head!

6. Finally, persevere! You can do it!


Section 1: Look at each picture below. Write the kanji from this lesson that best corresponds to each picture.


















Section 2: Write the English translation for the kanji below.


Answer Key

Section 1

Section 2 (if you have an alternate translation that is in the above chart, that is okay too!)

  1. king
  2. spirit
  3. money
  4. fire
  5. flower
  6. to rest
  7. rain
  8. gem
  9. shell
  10. yen
  11. student
  12. right
  13. under
  14. sky
  15. sound

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