Learning to Read Japanese


I got frustrated with not being able to read anything in Japan, so I started learning how to read Japanese.

Here are the controls for a high-tech Japanese washing machine that weighs your clothes for you and tells you how much soap to add based on how many clothes you put in it:

Kanji, Katakana, Hiragana on Japanese washing machine

It's difficult to perform basic tasks without being able to read Japanese. It's like someone took off all the labels in the supermarket, and nothing looks familiar... unless you are used to eating things like this:

dried squid, Japan

(I think there is a reason why that snack is traditionally eaten while drinking hard liquor.)

I've always wanted to learn how to read Japanese, but thought that it was too difficult. There are three different writing systems in Japan, and one of them (Kanji) has over 50,000 characters. The Kanji characters can have up to 23 strokes like this one: 鑑. I think that elementary school children have to learn about 1000 characters, and by the end of high school a total of 3000 characters.

The other two Japanese writing systems (Hiragana and Katakana) contain one or two hundred characters and can be learned in just a few days.

I heard about a guy who learned to read a Japanese newspaper in 6 months. My goal is just to try to learn how to read a Japanese washing machine in one month...

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