Proves that we have a soft spot for flowers, wind, and little wavy boats.

Kanji is the bane of anyone trying to learn Japanese due to its complexity and each character having multiple readings, not to mention that a single kanji can have as many as 13 syllables. But when skillfully written by hand, they can instantly turn into graceful art pieces.

Kouka Awazu comes from a long line of master calligraphers, and she has been the head of her own calligraphy school for more than 25 years. Starting at the tender age of 10, she has won numerous prizes in contests, as well as guiding over 10,000 students in the ways of the brush and ink.

Kouka also has an incredible amount of experience instructing foreigners too, and she has noticed that they tended to prefer certain kanji over others. Here’s the list of top 10 kanji that foreigners like according to her, with her explanations as to why.

10. Advance (susumu)

The 隹 radical is associated with a bird, which seems to be sitting on a boat traveling over sea. Kouka says that students often find this kanji rather interesting.

▼ It looks rather stylish too.

9. Flower (hana)

Preferred by women, this tasteful kanji can be written using different ink colors to resemble blossoms, or written in a cursive style to symbolize vines.

▼ It kind of looks like a plant
when written in a flowing style.

8. Love (ai)

This elegant kanji symbolizes love, and what makes it even more significant is that the radical situated right in the middle is 心 (kokoro), which means “heart”.

▼ It’s easy to fall in love with this kanji.

7. Work (hataraku)

Combine the three radicals “person”, “heavy” and “strength”, and you get a kanji that’s notoriously difficult to write, but as equally satisfying when completed.

6. Journey (tabi)

Being in Japan is a journey in itself, and this word no doubt resonates strongly with foreigners.

▼ These strokes almost have a bit of a blur to them,
like they’re hurrying along on their own journey.

5. Dream (yume)

Whether it’s English or Japanese, the word “dream” inspires hope and a better future.

▼ I dream about being able to do calligraphy this nicely….

4. Reverberate (hibiki)

The 音 radical, which means sound, supports the kanji from below. Kouka claims that foreigners enjoy writing the squiggly portion on the top that resembles echoes.

▼ It certainly reverberates with us too!

3. Path (michi)

Students just love drawing the little wavy boat at the bottom, and having the profound meaning of walking one’s path in life is an extra bonus.

▼ It’s kind of beautiful watching the path
a brush takes to write “path.”

2. Wind (kaze)

This kanji is rather popular with men, and it can be as flexible as the previous entry for “flower” in that bold brush strokes signify gales while delicate ones signify gentle breezes.

▼ As if the wind itself is blowing the brush, guiding it.

1. Beauty (bi)

The word for “beauty” is the most requested kanji by foreigners as a gift for loved ones, or simply for the fact that it’s a quality that most people seek.

▼ All we can say is, beautiful.

There are loads of interesting kanji out there with profound meanings, each with unique ways of writing and packed with little stories to tell if you know where to look. It can be fun finding your favorite kanji, especially ones that have meanings completely different from what you may guess.

Source: Goo Rankings, Kouka no Sho
Top image: GAHAG