Essential Kanji: 2,000 Basic Japanese Characters Systematically Arranged for Learning and Reference / Edition 1

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More About This Textbook


Essential Kanji is an integrated course for learning to read and write the 2,000 basic Japanese characters. It introduces the kanji that are now in everyday use, a mastery of which makes it possible to read most modern Japanese. Devised for either home or classroom use, the book has been tested and refined by years of use in university classes taught by the author.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834802223
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1987
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 255,110
  • Product dimensions: 4.88 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

P. G. O'Neill, a native Londoner, is Professor of Japanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where he also obtained his Ph.D. in 1957 with a thesis on traditional Japanese drama. His publications include Japanese Names, A Guide to No, Early No Drama, An Introduction to Written Japanese (with S. Yanada), and A Programmed Introduction to Literary-Style Japanese.

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2009

    I liked it, however, I needed another source.

    Large bold symbols, easy to see stroke counts, detailed description of various meanings and uses, this book worked well for me while used with a dictionary and the internet. You would almost have to know each symbol ahead of time in order to find it. However its loaded with sybols and plenty of info.

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  • Posted January 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:


    This is an essential tool at home.<BR/>Very useful.<BR/>The organization lacks a bit but it's still good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2002

    Great for fast translation

    What this book excels at is translation assistance. If I'm reading an ad from a Japanese paper(or even a street sign), and run across a character I've never seen, I immediately turn to this book. When you have no furigana(tiny kana written above the kanji to give you the pronunciation), a book like this is a lifesaver. I have never used it as my sole source for learning kanji, but rather as a supplement for when I hit unknown ones. It's also a nice beginner item for those unwilling or unable to shell out the $65-90 for a complete stroke order dictionary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2001

    Essential Kanji: 2,000 Basic Japanese Characters Systematically Arranged for Learning and Reference

    I bought the first hardback edition in 1980. The formatting is excellent, as is the inclusion of the Chinese pronunciations. Having used it extensively, my copy is now so now worn, I need to buy a replacement. However, I will only re-purshase 'Essential Kanji' if it is revised to reflect the following 1. Stroke orders and stroke counts which are either incorrect, or if correct, are deviations from the standard and should to be explained. Eg, check out the characters using the 'hear' radical. 2. Return to the hardback version. The paperback reprint uses paper which is too hard, requiring the strength of Arnold to hold down. Plus, without the hardback feature, I can see it falling apart quickly for the serious user. 3. Replace the Wade Giles Chinese pronunciations with Pin-Yin. This is not essential, but would be nice to reflect the system most widely used today. I would be most happy to point out the stroke problems if Mr. O-Neill would respond. If he is no longer alive, would be happy to do so to whoever will take up the task of revision. This should be a five star, but I'm only giving it a three in its present state.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2001

    Essential Kanji: 2,000 Basic Japanese Characters Systematically Arranged for Learning and Reference

    I bought the hardback version in 1980. It has been a great reference work overall. Due to overuse, it has fallen apart and I need a replacement. I would very much like to buy Mr. O'Neill's work again, but would do so if revised (and not just reprinted). The reasons are a) The current printing, being paperback, doesn't look as durable as a original hardback version. For the serious user (me) this is important. b) The current printing also use paper so hard, only Arnold S. is able to open and hold down the pages. c) Fix, or at least explain if non-standard, serious stroke order and stroke count discrepencies. For example, the use of the 'hear' radical is not consistent, nor match other reference works. Some discrepencies, I believe, follow Chinese stroke orders but not standard Japanese ones. I would be happy to point out others if Mr. O'Neill or his successor asks. Other changes I would like to recommend are a) Change the Chinese pronunciations from Wade Giles to Pin-yin. This is your best value-added feature, but would like it to reflect the standard currently used b) Agree with the previous BN reviewer that the ordering of the kanjis are not too easy to use. Would suggest organizing by the kana alphabet, giving weight to the most commonly used 'cun' sounds Eg, the kanji for 'see' as in 'sensee' should group together as the 'see' 'seedo.' The appendixes as are, are fine in helping the user search for a kanji through other sound/stroke number. Overall, a three-star for the current printing. Should be a five star if my recommendations are considered in a revised edition. Thank you

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2000

    Not systematically Arranged

    The most common Kanji used in the Japanese language are not grouped in any logical way, so if you start from the learning from the beginning of the book, you will end up studying some rarely used Kanji while skipping the more common ones. Also the Kanji compounds (jukugo) selected are not often the most useful words - often outdated words which normal Japanese people don't use.

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