Similar-looking ideograms and kanji

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

There are many kanji that change only 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 radical ideograms.

The most confused kanji

Below we will share some popular ideograms that are quite confused by students who are beginning 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 “to enter” and on the right side we have 人 (hito) which means “person”.

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

Ideograms 土 and 士

These are more difficult, because the difference is quite subtle. The one on the left is 土 (tsuchi) which means “earth” or “soil”. The one on the right is 士 (shi) 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 shi, the opposite applies.

Similar, similar, 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 本 (hon) which means “book”. The one on the right is 木 (moku) which means “wood”. The difference hon to moku is the small dash in hon that the moku there is not.

Ideograms 日 and 曰

These are really difficult to differentiate and it requires a lot of attention to know which is which. The one on the left is 日 (hi) which means “day” and the one on the right is 曰 (etsu) whose closest meaning would be “to say”.

The difference is that hi, the dash is complete and divides the character in half. At the etsu, the dash is incomplete, leaving an opening as shown in the image above. For your happiness, the character etsu it is only found in very sophisticated texts and is accompanied by 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 trait.


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 line in the kōri.

Similar, similar, 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 feature than the large ograma character (so).

Ideograms 知 and 和

On the left side, the character 知 (chi) which means “wisdom”. On the right side, the character 和 (wa) which means “harmony”. The difference is in the radicals as described in the image.

猫を描く - Draw a cat

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


Analyzing Differences From KANJI

The truth is that there are thousands of kanji alike, many kanji have the same root, making them look alike. Others are visibly identical, but they have a different shape and order of features that turn them into completely different things.

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

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

Similar, similar, similar looking ideograms and kanji


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

従 - 徒

験 - 検

感 - 惑

識 - 織


待 - 持

嫌 - 婕

録 - 緑

石 - 右


Other difficulties in learning Kanji

Learning kanji can be quite a challenge, they can look beautiful, and they have their good points in the Japanese language. In addition to many similar ideograms, there are other reasons that can confuse Japanese students and make learning difficult:

  • There are many unnecessary kanji;
  • They are unnecessary in conversation;
  • They are very difficult to write;
  • They have several pronunciations;
  • They have several meanings;

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

In spite of all this, by learning its small differences and decorating its operation, knowing kanji will change the way you view the world. It will expand your brain and make you more and more intelligent.


I hope you enjoyed the article, if you liked it share and leave your comments…