Kanji 81-110. Tree and Moon

The last few lessons covered 80 kanji in total. First we covered the numbers one to ten, and three simple pictographs: mouth, sun and eye. Next we looked at combinations of those kanji, and then we added nine new elements – drop, walking stick, hook, oracle, person, umbrella, hand, human legs, animal legs – which led us to new kanji, and new combinations. Three of the elements we introduced, hook, person and hand, are themselves kanji. The other elements are stroke combinations that appear within kanji, but not by themselves. We could call these ‘primitives’, and in many cases this will overlap the concept of a ‘radical’ – but for now the exact terminology does not matter.

This lesson will add two new kanji, tree () and moon (), giving access to 30 new kanji in total.

At this point, it might be useful to outline where all this is leading. The KSP lesson series will eventually introduce 80 core kanji, which we’ll define as kanji that cannot easily or usefully be derived from other kanji by combining elements. In some cases, these core kanji could have been derived from other kanji, but the derivation would not be particularly helpful. For instance, the ‘sun’ kanji () could be considered to be the kanji for mouth () plus the kanji for one (), but the ‘sun’ element is so common within other kanji that it is worth treating it as its own element. Also, the ‘sun’ element can be read in a single visual gulp, so it is not particularly useful to see it as ‘mouth’ plus ‘one’. (There are kanji, though, that contain a sun-like element because they were originally drawn as a mouth with a tongue in it. This is interesting, but not all that helpful unless your main interest is the history of each kanji.)

This notion of ‘core kanji’ is specific to the KSP lesson series, and it solely relates to how the kanji are drawn and how they can best be remembered. It is not a reflection of how useful or common a kanji is within the Japanese language – although many of the core kanji are quite common, some are oddities that only ended up on the list because they cannot be made from other kanji. Furthermore, the distinction between core kanji and non-core kanji is somewhat arbitrary, so you might construct the list differently. With those qualifications in mind, here is the list of KSP core kanji, ranked by stroke count, with kanji we’ve covered in red:

1 one {1}
2 hook {1}
3 seven {2}
4 eight {2}
5 nine {2}
6 ten {2}
7 person {2}
8 and {2}
9 spoon {2}
10 power {2}
11 sword {2}
12 fist {2}
13 street {2}
14 mouth {3}
15 soil {3}
16 genius {3}
17 craft {3}
18 self {3}
19 stream {3}
20 mountain {3}
21 small {3}
22 of {3}
23 long time {3}
24 bow {3}
25 dry {3}
26 large {3}
27 evening {3}
28 woman {3}
29 child {3}
30 inch {3}
31 sun {4}
32 hand {4}
33 tree {4}
34 moon {4}
35 water {4}
36 fire {4}
37 writing {4}
38 axe {4}
39 one-sided {4}
40 cow {4}

41 tusk (fang) {4}
42 claw {4}
43 father {4}
44 shaku {4}
45 family name {4}
46 heart {4}
47 lack {4}
48 beforehand {4}
49 measuring cup {4}
50 well {4}
51 mutually {4}
52 sign of the cow {4}
53 fur {4}
54 circle {4}
55 eye {5}
56 rice paddy {5}
57 stand {5}
58 mother {5}
59 dish {5}
60 sweet {5}
61 gigantic {5}
62 moreover {5}
63 tome {5}
64 concave {5}
65 convex {5}
66 bend {6}
67 garment {6}
68 sheep {6}
69 ear {6}
70 spirit {6}
71 boat {6}
72 rice {6}
73 feathers {6}
74 bamboo {6}
75 say {7}
76 Asia {7}
77 row {8}
78 gates {8}
79 un- {8}
80 do {9}


#81. This is a simple pictograph.

Kanji for Tree

When used in other kanji, this combination can be read as ‘wood’.


#82. From one () tree (), you can make many books.

An axe cutting a tree to make books.

not yet

#83. This kanji is one of a series that will require special care so as to avoid confusion: tree (), not yet (), extremity (),vermilion (). You can remember the series (but not which is which) by reciting the expression:

The tree () does not yet () have extremities () of vermilion ().

If you look carefully, you will see that the lower horizontal stroke of ‘not yet’ is the longer one, but the higher horizontal stroke of ‘extremity’ is the longer one. If you imagine the horizontal strokes as rungs on a ladder leading up to a tree-house or viewing platform, and assume that the longer stroke has been lengthened for emphasis, then you’ll notice that ‘not yet’ emphasises the rung that is ‘not yet’ at the top, whereas as ‘extremity’ emphasises the extremity of the ladder – the very top rung. ‘Vermilion’ is the one with the single vermilion leaf on the tree, and it is drawn with a short upper horizontal to make room for the leaf.


#84. See the description for ‘not yet’.


#85. See the description for ‘not yet’.


#86. Botanists identify trees () by hooking () tags on them.


#87. Think of ‘crude’ as in simple and rough, so as not to confuse this with ‘vulgar’ ().

A novice magician starts with a crude wooden () wand (ト), planning to upgrade later.


#88. This is one of few kanji that combines two pictographs with an obvious, logical interpretation.

A person rests by a tree.


#89. Learn this kanji together with the next one. Both combine tree () and mouth (), but the position of the mouth is different.

The best way to eat an apricot is straight from the tree down to the mouth.

The position is important. Picture the mouth below the tree, waiting for the apricot to fall.


#90. Can’t be bothered waiting for single apricots to fall into your mouth? Climb halfway up the tree and swallow them in bundles.



#91. This kanji combines ‘person’ () with ‘book’ ().

Combine these ideas however you like. Imagine a book full of images of the body of your ‘person’ character, or your person character reading a book about bodies – or perhaps body-building, using books as weights to build up their body…


#92. grove () is a small stand of trees () – at least two.

Don’t confuse it with the ‘forest’ kanji, which has three trees. When you draw this kanji, note that the lower right-hand branch of the first tree is shortened, to make room for the next tree. This is a common modification when the tree element is combined with other elements.


#93. A frame () is simply bits of wood () joined together at 90 ( times ) degrees.


#94. To enjoy a food’s flavour (), it has to be in your mouth () but not yet () swallowed.


#95. Traditionally, this kanji is seen as seen as a pictograph of the sun () rising in the east, behind a tree (). The only problem with this image, as a mnemonic, is that it doesn’t give you the stroke order. Try saying this mnemonic to yourself as you draw it on the KSP app:

One () day (), I ( | ) will grab my umbrella (^) and travel to the East.

Or, simpler, ‘One day I will go the East’, because you are to going to get the last to strokes out of order anyway.

Take note of how it differs from the kanji for ‘bundle'().


#96. Climbing a tree () after consuming a few cupfuls (of grog) can lead to a very negative () situation.


#97. A tree () withers away as it gets old ().


#98. This kanji is often used to mean ‘minister’, as in ‘prime minister’.

The prime minister is ‘inter-‘ something suspicious behind that tree (). All you can see is one eye () poking out from behind it.

You don’t want to get wood () ‘inter-‘ your eye ().


#99. The wood () from an oak tree is use to make barrels in which white () wine is aged, giving it a lovely oaky taste.


#100. A person () should protect () their mouth () with a mouthguard when competing in high-speed tree-climbing () events.


#101. Which tree would you buy stocks in – the healthy one on the left (), or the dying one on the right, wth its single surviving vermilion () leaf?


#102. Chestnut tree (), west-nut (西) tree (). Note that the ‘West’ element has been simplified, which is the usual change it undergoes when used as an element within another kanji.

peach tree

#103. The strokes on the right resemble a combination of human legs and a few drops, but we combined them in an earlier lesson to make ‘portent’ (). This is the first kanji we’ve met using the ‘portent’ pattern as an internal element. Because a portent is somewhat abstract, and easily confused with the concept of an oracle, we will sometimes treat the portent element as a symbol meaning ‘turtle’.

The pips of a peach tree look like turtles.


#104. This kanji is a pictograph, but it takes some imagination to see it as a moon. The kanji resembles the ‘sun’ kanji, but it has longer, curved sides to evoke the idea of a crescent moon. Like the ‘sun’ kanji, which means both ‘sun’ and ‘day’, this one can be interpreted as the physical object in the sky, or as a period of time – a month. It might help to remember that a month () is longer than a day ().

Kanji for Moon Animation

To make matters more complicated, this element is sometimes interpreted as ‘meat’ or ‘flesh’ when it appears in other kanji. That is, an element meaning ‘meat’ (originally looking like this ⾁ ) and an element meaning ‘month/moon’ have evolved to look identical. The kanji looks somewhat like a carcasse hanging in a butcher’s shop, with rib-like horizontal markings. For the purposes of memorising the joyo kanji, you can choose which meaning leads to a better mnemonic on a kanji-by-kanji basis. You will notice that the ‘meat’ element often appears for kanji that indicate body parts.


#105. Take your pick: do you want a meat mnemonic or a moon mnemonic?

To tenderize meat in an emergency wilderness situation, just utilize your walking stick!

So far, we have made no attempt to utilise the moon, but one day we will drill vertical mining shafts right through the centre, as shown in this picture.

For the purposes of making mnemonics, ‘utilise’ is a bit abstract, so when this kanji is used as an element in more complex kanji, use a concrete image of something useful… Like an electric drill or a screwdriver.


#106. This kanji combines the abbreviated hand symbol (the ‘side hand’) and the moon.

Imagine holding your hand up to the sky, so you contain the moon in your grasp – that’s the closest you’ll ever come to possessing the moon.


#107. The moon got lonely, so it was granted a companion.



#108. The sun is what makes the moon bright.

The sun and the moon are the brightest objects in the sky by day and by night, respectively.


#109. Start thinking like a conspiracy theorist… Imagine a secret agreement () between the United Nations and the aliens, stating that humans will stop () visiting the moon ().

Note: many people regard the ‘stop’ element () as a primitive meaning footprint.

gall bladder

#110. All month () long I have had to work till daybreak (), which has really activated my gall bladder (given me gall, made me angry).