Saturday, January 8, 2011

Learn Japanese Kanji 常用漢字 with Microsoft Pivot Viewer

As a lifetime student of Japanese, I have always been interested in different ways to study and learn Japanese Kanji. Through the years the Japanese Ministry of Education has maintained a list of "jōyō kanji" or standard Chinese characters that were expected for students to learn through the years. Since 1981 this list was 1,945 characters, but in 2009 they added more characters and they now total a whopping 2,136.

Needless to say, learning these is is a huge undertaking and is especially daunting to non-native speakers. Although some characters can be easily identified as more ideographical in nature and contain concrete meanings (木 for tree), most characters are not and contain more abstract ideas or are only used in names. Unlike Chinese character readings, Japanese characters can also have multiple readings and maintain a separate reading called "on" (音) for the Chinese historical reading and "kun" (訓) for the Japanese reading . These readings can also change based on where they are used within a character compound or historical context. In fact, there are some characters that are not Chinese and were invented natively by the Japanese. One interesting example is the word "work" (働く). Besides all of this, there is also number of strokes and stroke order to worry about. Characters are written in a particular way and there are things like trailing strokes that must adhere to specific tools.

The beauty of the PivotViewer tool is that it allows you to slice and dice these characters in different ways. From an academic perspective it can be interesting to see things like how many characters contain a certain amount of strokes or how many are learned in the 3rd grade. Keep in mind takes a little time to load the tool the first time. Once you start using it, it will speed up.

  • 学年 - Scholastic year or year that the character is learned in school. 中高 means that the character is learned in middle or high school.
  • 画 - Number of strokes
  • 英語 - English description
  • 音読み - Onyomi or Chinese reading.
  • 訓読み - Kunyomi or Japanese reading.
  • 音読みローマ字 - Romanized onyomi rendering.
  • 訓読みローマ字 - Romanized kunyomi rendering
  • 音読み印引き - Onyomi index
  • 訓読み印引き - Kunyomi index

Pivot Viewer

Jōyō Kanji
- All of the information was taken from Wikipedia. I had to do some serious formatting to create a Pivot Collection.

Epson Fonts - I used EPSON太行書体B

Fun Fact
I use Microsoft, Google, and Amazon technologies for this page. Microsoft for PivotViewer, Google for Blogspot, and Amazon for hosting the xap and cxml files (DropBox uses Amazon cloud services).



  1. would be great to add tags for the 編 so you can search it like a dictionary.