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Kodansha's Essential Kanji Dictionary (Kodansha Dictionary) (Kodansha Dictionaries) Paperback – 9 Apr 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; Rep Blg edition (9 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568363974
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568363974
  • Product Dimensions: 18.3 x 4.3 x 13.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 674,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lilith on 3 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a great kanji dictionary, it has different systems to find the kanji you're looking for. You can find them by stroke count, On/Kun reading, or by radical. I have been using it for a couple of months now, and up until now I've always been able to quickly find the kanji I was looking for. It has a lot of compound words for every kanji that is listed and of course the stroke order is displayed as well. Like the title states, this dictionary contains all (1945) the essential kanji.

Beware, there's no romaji in this dictionary, you have to be able to read hiragana and katakana in order to use it.

This is definitely worth the money!
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By Rebecca Roberts on 9 April 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great buy
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
93 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Advice for those not sure about this 1 Nov. 2004
By Miguel Lescano Cornejo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why do you need a kanji dictionary? What is your particular situation?

1) You are in Japan and you need to decipher the sounds and meanings of signs around you, but aren't really interested in the written language, since all you need is conversational abilities.

Then Kodansha's Kanji Lerner's Dictionary (not this one) will be fine fot you, since it writes japanese words in romaji, that is, you don't need to know how to read hiragana or katakana. Also, get a romanized dictionary (for deciphering what other people are saying).

2) You are studying Japanese to read manga, or text from the Internet, but not to write.

First of all, learn the kana. All manga onomatopeias and a high percent of all japanese script is in kana.Then you might consider either a free electronic dictionary, like Jim Breen's database together with Kanjibrowze, or this one along with Kodansha's furigana Japanese-English dictionary. Anyway, if you really want to become proficient at recognizing/searching kanji, buy Heisig's Remembering the Kanji 1. It can be the most rewarding and entertaining learning experience of your life. Once you know the meaning and correct stroke order of all the general-use kanji (will take you just a couple of months if you're motivated, and one month if you have all day), you can use Microsoft Japanese IME (can be easily installed under XP) facilities to input kanji to an electronic dictionary by means of hand-drawing. This is far swifter than searching by radical or stroke count in a paper dictionary. And with the Japanese IME you can also do these kind of searches. Also, an electronic dictionary is by far more complete than a paper one.

3) You want to read/write anything in Japanese and you really want to master the kanji.

In that case, get this one + Kodansha's furigana Japanese-English/English-Japanese. An electronic dictionary can't be enjoyed as much as a printed one, and you can't "wander" over it just for fun. However, get the electronic one for more complete reference. As before, first learn both kana and get Heisig's book along with this dictionary. It will help you a lot in your understanding of kanji composition, and both books complement each other very well.

4) You want to understand what you hear, either in anime or real conversation, and want to practice your kana knowledge, but don't feel prepared to start with the Kanji.

Get Kodansha's furigana Japanese-English dictionary, not this one.

5) You want to read and write Japanese, either on a computer or in paper, and master the kanji.

Do everything in point 3. Kanji dictionaries are Japanese-English only, not English-Japanese (at least none I know). Kodansha's furigana dic is phonetically ordered by kana traditional ordering, and it uses no romanization. It also contains useful examples of word usage.


Unless you're reading material targeted for Japanese children, you will always need to face kanji in printed Japanese. If you want to read anywhere away from you computer (where you can easily use an electronic dic), you need a printed kanji dic, either one with kana readings (this one) or one with romanji readings (Kanji learner's dic)

Kanji dictionaries contain only words written in kanji. In ANY printed or written Japanese text there are words in kana, too, and they're not covered by kanji dictionaries, so you'll need a phonetically-ordered (kana or romanji, depending on learning goals) dictionary along with a kanji dic.

Kanji dictionaries are not phonetically-ordered, so if you want to search words you hear, you'll need either a kana-ordered dic (like Kodansha's Furigana dic) or a romanized Japanese dic (depending on your learning goals).

-First conclusion: You will always need at least:

2 dictionaries if you want to read

1 dic if all you need is to understand what is said

If you're serious about learning Japanese (not just a tourist) and want to develop writing abilities, avoid romanji (Japanese written in English letters) at all costs. Learn the kana.

This particular kanji dictionary uses kana readings and has no romanization. This is good but learners who want to develop the ability to write in Japanese, but is unnecessary for those who want to master conversational abilities only and don't want to bother themselves with serious writing/reading.

-Second conclusion: This dictionary is better than Kodansha's Kanji learner's dictionary for serious learners of Japanese, because it contains no romanji.

This dictionary covers only the 1,945 official kanji. In real Japanese about 2,500-3,000 kanji are actually used. Some publications restrict themselves to the official 1,945 list, but most don't. Then, if you can't afford a more complete dictionary, get yourself a free electronic one to complement this one.

A kanji dictionary can't teach you kanji by itself, not even the Kanji learner's dictionary (despite it's name). It must complement a dedicated kanji course. I believe Heisig's is the best way, since I'm using it and It's giving good results.

Kanji flashcards, even used with a kanji dic, can't teach you kanji. They're for review only. Same as above.

No dictionary can substitute a language course, unless you're an absolute genius and have the ability to decipher completely unknown grammar patterns and verb/adjective inflections. Also take into account that unlike european languages, Japanese usually has no space between words, so you really need to know at least the basics of grammar in order to be able to use any dictionary.

-Third conclusion: No matter what you want to read/listen to/learn, no dictionary is sufficient.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Easy to use (LONG review) 31 Aug. 2003
By Web.Terrestrial - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The preface part of the book tells you what all the symbols used in the book mean, and how to read the definitions (e.g., this one [%] is for business terms). It also explains KUN and ON readings (that helps me every time), Jukugo compounds, statistical hints (not a cut and dry formula, because one doesn't exist) about when a kanji is being used for its ON/KUN reading. Furthermore, the terms Gojuon-jun, Joyo kanji, Okurigana, and Ateji are defined. Lastly, it gives a light treatment of radicals, phonetic and non-phonetic compounds, and a kanji learning strategy.
It’s not a very long preface, though. It is, however, concise, and prepares you for learning Kanji, and becoming literate - not just for using the book. After reading the preface to this book I knew without doubt that i wanted to use this one.
The fat part of the book is straight forward. Occasionally I need to read up on a symbol or convention of the book. However, its extremely delightful to use.
The dictionary is divided into 14 sections. Section 1 has all the kanji with radicals of 1 stroke, section 2 has all the kanji with radicals of 2 strokes,... and section 14 has kanji whose radicals have a stroke count of 14. Within each radical set in each section the kanji are ordered by increasing stroke count. So section 3 starts off with a radical with a stroke count of 3, then the all the kanji that use that radical are listed under it. The stroke count for the first Kanji can be as low as 3 (or stroke count of the radical) and go as high as 23 (I haven't seen one yet, but it says so in the preface - which i just referred to find out - see how easy it is to use?), then the next radical is introduced (stroke count of 3) and it begins again.
All the radicals for a section are listed in a smaller font size down the outer edge of the pages, and the radical whose set (all the kanji that use this radical) you're in has a visible dot next to it. This is a great feature that makes looking up a kanji by radical (or just the radical) much, much faster. Other wise a student (beginner like me) would have to deduce which radical section they're in by looking at a kanji on the page that may contain 2 radicals of equal stroke count. This way also enables an animated like search. If you're in section 4, which is probably the 2nd largest section, you can flick through pages rapidly while following the moving dot down to the radical you know you want.
Or if you're at either end of the book you can flick through hundreds of pages until you see the stroke count of the radical your looking for that is listed in the upper outer corner in big bold font and then slow your rate down to comb more carefully. That’s nice.
Under the kanji are the readings and, usually, loads of compounds to help you get a grip on the meaning, and exposes you to some common compounds for kanji, plus kanji period. All the pronunciations or readings are written in Kana exclusively. The Kana are listed in the preface without pronunciations. The book requires you know the Kana â€" it’s a dictionary not a Kana book! You can still use this dictionary if you just want to know the meaning of the kanji in question.
However, you may lose one of the most powerful features of the book if you don’t know a kanji’s reading at least: Kanji look up by reading or pronunciation. If you’ve seen the pronunciation of a Kanji though (maybe the furigana for it) then you’ll still get this feature. You can also look up Kanji by stroke count, though honestly, it should be used as a last resort, unless the kanji you’re looking for is simple. I don’t use it much. Except for when I’m trying to find Kanji that I’ve seen on my favorite cartoons like YYH, RK, DB/Z. I find all the ones I can decipher correctly from a paused video screen. My favorite feature of the book, though not one I use a whole lot right now, is the Radical table on the back cover.
Looking up Hard Kanji
If you see a kanji whose strokes are hard to count (so you cant look it up that way) guess what the radical may be for it, then look in the Radical Appendix. If what you guessed wasnt a radical, use another piece of the Kanji as the radical you look for. Say you found one thats listed (there are 214 radicals in this table and the book). Underneath it will be a list of all the kanji that use it AS THE RADICAL (not just a part of the kanji). Look for you kanji in this list. If youre guess wasnt right you may still see it there because there are plenty of kanji listed under a radical section that it is commonly mistaken for. In this case, the correct radical is note to the right of the kanji. If youre not so luck, then pick a different part as the radical and start again. In your search though, youll likely see an interesting looking kanji that you’ll want to read â€" you’ve just learned a new Kanji!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Really helpful for looking up Kanji 12 Feb. 2003
By "hikoseijuurou" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is possibly the most useful Japanese dictionary. It allows lookup of Kanji by Radical, on/kun readings (kana), or total stroke number. It gives numerous compounds for each kanji, and includes rarely used kana readings. It shows the stroke order. It also has Business usage for each character. There is no romanji, so that is definitely a plus. And since it contains the Jouyou Kanji, most Kanji that you encounter will be in this dictionary. I highly recommend it to intermediate-advanced students of Japanese, or if you just wanna read some stuff, or build up your vocabulary. Looks nice as well.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Just what I was looking for. 30 Sept. 2002
By Rich R. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Seems to be essentially an updated version of "Kodansha's Compact Kanji Guide: A New Character Dictionary for Students and Professionals"
Just what I was looking for. The 1,945 common kanji in a compact dictionary that I can use for school.
Has kanji with kana for pronouciations and English meaning. No messing around with Romanji. This is a blessing for me as my classes are using very little Romanji and it helps to just stay clear of it and get used to reading things in kanji/kana.
Very happy with it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
There are better options 23 Oct. 2011
By Makkusu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While this is not a terrible dictionary, it has two major flaws:

First, for each kanji it only lists compounds that begin with the given kanji. If the kanji happens to be an affix (attached to the ends of words), then no compounds will be listed.

Second, it does not give all the connotations that a single kanji will have. Why is the kanji for 'north' used in the word for 'defeat'? This dictionary won't tell you.

For these reasons I would recommend instead The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary

It uses romaji instead of kana, but don't let that deter you; you'll get plenty of practice reading kana outside of your kanji dictionary. It's learning kanji that's the hard part.
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