I love calligraphy. It’s fun to do, aesthetically pleasing, and in my case utterly impractical, one of the few things I do just for their own sake. I started playing around with calligraphy when I lived in Korea, so now that I’m in Japan I couldn’t miss the opportunity to learn a bit about the differences between hiragana, katakana, and kanji, and put this knowledge into practice.

What shocked me most is that kids get to learn 1,000 kanji characters by 6th grade. To read a newspaper, you need to memorize at least 2,000. I always assumed that you only learn to read once, and then you’re able to read pretty much everything. Some books might be full of sophisticated words you don’t understand, but you can always look these up in a dictionary, or memorize the word and ask someone later.

But if you only know half the characters required to read a newspaper, you can’t really learn from an “adult” book, can you? Or how can you google for something if you don’t even know how to write it? Or look up a word in a dictionary?

I never thought about this before, but now I’m not jealous of Japanese and Chinese students at all. They seem to have so much extra work on top of what everyone else does at school.

Anyway, here’s my best take at kanji today. It was super fun, and I’d love to learn more at some point.

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