Kanji 141-158. Core kanji with one or two strokes

The following core kanji have just one or two strokes. Most of them have been met in earlier lessons. The last four, ‘power’, ‘sword’, ‘fist’ and ‘street’, will be the focus of the next lesson. This lesson will deal with ‘mata’ () and ‘spoon’ (), and the kanji that can be made by combining and with other familiar elements.

1 one
2 hook
3 seven
4 eight
5 nine
6 ten
7 person
8 mata
9 spoon
10 power
11 sword
12 fist
13 street


#141. In Japanese, this kanji has the meaning of ‘again’, usually pronounced ‘mata’, as used in the phrase ‘jya mata’ じゃ又 – a farewell expression similar in meaning to ’till we meet again’. It also appears in ‘mata ne’, 又ね, and mata ashita (again tomorrow) 又明日。

In most cases, ‘mata’ is spelled out with hiragana, and the actual kanji is rarely used, though it usually does appear in ‘mata ashita’… 又明日.

This kanji would have acquired the keyword ‘again’, but this word was already reserved for another character (). It could have called ‘and’ but that is a very bland word and doesn’t quite match the Japanese meaning. Thus, this kanji became one of very few kanji in the KSP sequence that has been given a Japanese keyword.

The stroke pattern can be easy to forget, even though it consists of just two strokes, and when I learned it the first time, using an early version of the Kanji Sketch Pad, I found it useful to remember it as ’71’, with a very sloped ‘1’.

This kanji also appears as an element in several other kanji, so it is worth giving it a more concrete meaning to assist the creation of mnemonic images. As a radical, the element was originally used to represent a hand, but this is not very useful for making mnemonics given that there are other ‘hand’ radicals – and it doesn’t look much like a hand. (The 7 could be palm and fingers, with the \ slope as the thumb, but it takes some imagination).


Many people have noted that the kanji looks like a cartoon close-up of a crotch, perhaps in bikinis, so it is often known as the ‘crotch’ radical. This is a much more useful image for the purposes of making up images, but it can be difficult to keep the images G-rated.

You’re not looking at that bikini poster of Martha again are you?



If you let someone’s hand touch your bikini, they have to be quite a good friend.


#143. The upper part of this kanji resembles the kanji for ten.

Picture ten bikini-clad ladies sitting in the branch of a tree.



The animals boarded Noah’s Ark in pairs – but Noah had to check their crotches to make sure he had one of each gender.


#145. Picture this kanji as a small tent made from a pelt that has been hooked on a branch. The first stroke is the hanging pelt on the left. The rest of the kanji is very similar to the ‘branch’ kanji () but there is an extra hook at the end of the second stroke.

branch off

#146. The ‘branch off’ kanji is one of a short series that employ the ‘branch’ element on the right, with an extra contextual clue on the left. This particular kanji mostly refers to branches or forks in the road. Picture a mountain road approaching three peaks, with the road branching off at different points as each peak is approached.


#147. Another kanji in the ‘branch’ series. The context is now the ‘tree, and the tree’s primary branch is known as a bough. Don’t confuse it with ‘branch’ (), which is a smaller part of the tree, and can also refer to non-tree branches, like the branch of a store (支店).


#148. The third and final kanji in the ‘branch’ series. The context here is the ‘meat’ radical on the left (which looks identical to the ‘moon’ radical, but ‘meat’ is a more appropriate meaning in this case).

Our bodies are made of meat, and have limbs as branches.


#149. Imagine three bikini-clad ladies, singing ‘Round and round the mulberry tree’ as they dance around a tree.


#150. This radical means ‘spoon’ but it doesn’t look much like a spoon. Possibly the straight stroke could be a handle and the curved part could be the bowl of the spoon, but the shape is badly distorted. You could picture someone sitting on the ground performing Seppuku with a spoon, and that will give you a better sense of the shape.

The kanji is similar in many ways to ‘seven’ (), and like seven it starts with a short straight stroke followed by an inverted J. The difference is that the short straight stroke of ‘spoon’ slopes right to left in a downward flick, whereas in ‘seven’ it is a strong straight line from left to right.

Fonts vary on whether the diagonal crosses the J or stops short, and the same font may have the diagonal cross the J in ‘spoon’, but stop short of the J when the ‘spoon’ radical is part of another kanji.



Compare the two spoons… the one on the left looks bent, and they have different stroke directions.



Picture a person who can change spoons (bending them) with mental powers.

Note that this kanji sometimes appears within other kanji, and it is usually easier to use the idea of ‘change’ than to use both ‘person’ and ‘spoon’. (It may be hard to find a good picture for ‘change’ as it is somewhat abstract, but Google Images will bring up some reasonable hits.)



If you like puns, think of the bottom element as sun/day (), and then use a spoon to eat a delicious sundae.

If puns don’t appeal, just think of something so delicious that you keep spooning it for a whole day.

old man


The old man fell on the dirt (soil, ) when he had a stroke (the diagonal), and after that he could not manage a knife and fork and could only eat soft foods with a spoon ().


#155. The ‘descendants’ kanji combines ‘sun’ () with ‘compare’ ().

Grandparents spend all day comparing photos of their descendents.


#156. The keyword associated with this kanji is a little abstract, and easily confused with ‘person’ or ‘somebody’, so it would be worth coming up with a specific image. The kanji appears in the Japanese compound for ninja, 忍者, where it means ‘someone who endures’.

Try to build up a back-story for the poor old man () who had a stroke… As he lies there on the dirt, he recalls that, back in the day (), he used to be someone – a mighty ninja.

When we meet the top half of old man () in future kanji, we shall add to this story.


#157. Some people use ‘all’ as the keyword for this kanji, but it is closer in meaning to ‘everyone’.

Picture a racist dictatorship, something like the former South African apartheid government, that obsessively compares () everyone on the basis of how white () they are.


#158. Recall from above that the combination of spoon and sun means delicious, and treat the moon-like element as ‘meat’.

Unfortunately, it is the fat that makes meat taste delicious.