Learn how to never mistake the two kanji ever again.

With thousands of kanji to learn in the Japanese language, it can be hard to remember them all, especially when there’s only one stroke difference between some of them. However, knowing the etymology of the kanji can help a lot when it comes to creating a permanent, unshakeable foundation by which to recall them, and one instance is the history behind the kanji for the word “crow”.

▼ “Crow“, or “karasu” as it’s known in Japanese, looks strikingly similar to the kanji for “bird“, or “tori“.

The above image, shared online by Japanese teacher Kayo sensei, who goes by the handle @kayoshodo on Twitter, asks why the kanji for “crow” is missing that one line in the centre marked in red. Kayo sensei is here to explain the reason behind it all with a look at the original image from which the kanji for “bird” came from.

The horizontal stroke represents the eye of the bird, which is easily visible when the bird is white or relatively pale in colour. However, the crow is jet black, making the eye hard to make out, and this is the reason why there is no horizontal line in the kanji for “crow”.

Knowing the reason behind this small difference in appearance makes it easy to distinguish between the two similar kanji, and it’s something a lot of Japanese learners online were grateful to learn, sending Kayo sensei’s tweet viral with over 31,000 likes and 8,000 retweets.

▼ Her quick crow kanji tutorial was also a hit on Instagram:


The kanji for “bird” actually acts as a base kanji for a number of avian species to build upon. For instance, the kanji for “pigeon” or “hato” in Japanese adds the kanji for “nine” (pronounced “ku”) to the left of “bird”, as this reflects the “kuu kuu” sound pigeons make.

It’s a fascinating look at some of the ways kanji have developed over the years, and the real-world scenarios embedded in their etymology really help to cement them in our brains. For more tips on learning and remembering kanji and ways to quickly improve your writing skills, be sure to give Kayo sensei a follow on Twitter and Instagram.

And if you really want to up your kanji game, you might want to review the kanji with the longest readings and master the top five most difficult kanji ever. Happy studying!

Source: Twitter/@kayoshodo, Instagram/kayo_japanese_lesson
Top image: Instagram/kayo_japanese_lesson
Insert images: Instagram/kayo_japanese_lesson
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