The similar-looking ideograms and kanji

One of the most boring things to learn when studying Japanese is Chinese characters called Kanji. The situation only gets worse when you find characters that are very similar that you completely confuse the word. In this article, we will especially talk about similar-looking kanji.

There are many kanji that change just a small stroke or curve, and it can confuse you when reading or writing, just like the katakana シツ and ソン. In addition to having similar appearances, you will sometimes come across ideograms with similar readings and meanings.

Although there are identical characters, the meanings can be totally different. Or sometimes it can have a very similar meaning, or even a similar pronunciation. That is why it is important to know the radicals of ideograms.

The most confused similar kanji

Below we will share some popular ideograms that are quite confused by students who are starting to learn Japanese. We will also explain in detail each of the ideograms and their differences.

Kanji 入 and 人

On the left side of the image, we have 入 (iri) which means "enter" and on the right side we have 人 (person) which means "person".

On the computer, characters are difficult to identify due to the rendering of the character, however, in handwriting, it is easier to differentiate one from the other due to the position of the strokes. The smaller stroke on the left supporting the larger stroke on the right is the iri. The smaller stroke on the right that supports the larger stroke on the left is the person.

Ideograms 土 and 士

These ones are more difficult, as the difference is quite subtle. The one on the left is the 土 (tsuchi) which means "earth" or "soil". The one on the right is 士 (This word is untranslatable.) which means "warrior". The difference is the length of the strokes. At the tsuchi, the bottom stroke is longer than the top stroke. At the This word is untranslatable., the opposite applies.

Similar-looking, similar-looking ideograms and kanji

Kanji 本 and 木

The difference between these two is also not very big. The one on the left is the 本 (hon) which means "book". The one on the right is 木 (eat) which means "wood". The difference of hon for the eat is the little dash in the hon that the eat there is not.

Ideograms 日 and 曰

These are really hard to tell apart and it takes a lot of attention to know which is which. The one on the left is 日 (Hello!) meaning "day" and the one on the right is 曰 (etsu) whose closest meaning would be "to say".

The difference is that in Hello!, the dash is full and splits the character in half. At the etsu, the stroke is incomplete, leaving an opening as shown in the image above. For your happiness, the character etsu is only found in very sophisticated texts and is accompanied by the hiragana く (ku), thus forming a verb.

Kanji 力 and 刀

The characters 力 (chikara), which means "power" and 刀 (katana), meaning "sword" also contains a slight difference. The one on the left (chikara) has a dash coming out of the horizontal top, the one on the right (katana), does not have this feature.

Ideograms 氷 and 水

The left character 氷 (kōri) means "ice" and the one on the right 水 (mizu) means "water". The ideogram is practically the same, with the difference of one more stroke in the kōri.

Similar-looking, similar-looking ideograms and kanji

Kanji 大 and 犬

It is the same case as the previous one. Two characters that are the same character with the difference is that the dog character 犬 (inu) has one more dash than the large 大 character (dai).

Ideograms 知 and 和

On the left side, the character 知 (chi) which means "wisdom". On the right side, the 和 character (wow) which means "harmony". The difference is in the radicals as depicted in the image.

猫を描く - Draw a cat

The phrase above means "draw a cat" notice how the kanji "Cat-猫" and "drawing-描" are quite similar.

Analyzing the differences of similar KANJI

The truth is that there are thousands of similar kanji, many kanji have the same radical, making them similar. Others are visibly identical, but have a different shape and stroke order that make them completely different things.

Unfortunately it is difficult to learn differences in similar kanji that you may not know, with time you get the practice and you can differentiate instantly. That's why it's important to learn stroke order and writing ideograms.

Below we will leave an image with 10 pairs of similar kanji, and we ask that you yourself try to see and understand the difference. If I just talk, it won't be very effective. You should look and notice the small differences ranging from stroke order and size to different radicals.

Similar-looking, similar-looking ideograms and kanji


In addition to the image above, there are many other similar ideograms. I'll leave a few more below:

従 - 徒

験 - 検

感 - 惑

識 - 織

待 - 持

嫌 - 婕

録 - 緑

石 - 右

The artigo is still half finished, but we recommend opening it to read the following later:

Other difficulties in learning Kanji

Learning kanji can be quite a challenge, they can look pretty, and it has its good points in the Japanese language. In addition to the fact that there are many similar ideograms, there are other reasons that can confuse Japanese students and make it difficult for them to learn:

  • There are a lot of unnecessary kanji;
  • They are unnecessary in conversation;
  • They are very difficult to write;
  • They have various pronunciations;
  • They have several meanings;

It can feel like a challenge having to pay attention not only to the details of the strokes, but also remembering countless readings and still having to write them down can be suffocating.

Despite all this, by learning their small differences and memorizing how they work, knowing kanji will change the way you view the world. It will expand your brain and make you smarter.

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