Are you familiar with kanji? They are logographic Chinese characters that have been adopted into the Japanese writing system a long time ago. In June 2016, the Japan Kanji Museum & Library opened in Gion, Kyoto in the hope of becoming a place where people can learn more about kanji. Find out more about it!
Chinese characters first appeared in Japan through letters, seals, swords, decorative items, and the like. However, people during this time couldn’t comprehend the meaning of these characters yet. During the reign of Empress Suiko, the 33rd monarch of Japan, missionaries were sent to China which resulted to increased literacy. This paved the way for the Japanese language, which had no written form at that moment.
When the system of “kanbun” emerged, it became easier for Japanese people to restructure and read Chinese sentences according to Japanese grammar. The two writing forms called “hiragana” and “katakana” have been derived from kanji. These writing systems are collectively known as “kana.”
In order to educate visitors who have no knowledge about kanji, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Public Interest Foundation decided to open the Japan Kanji Museum & Library. It consists of two floors showcasing the development of kanji as well as interactive games to test one’s kanji knowledge.
On the first floor of the museum are development charts and information. Here, you’ll be able to trace the beginning of kanji up to its arrival in Japan. Kanji writing instruments are also on display here.
The two floors of the museum are connected by a 10-meter tall tower, which consists of 50,000 kanji found in the “Dai Kan-Wa Jiten” dictionary. They are represented in different colors and sizes which symbolize the frequency of their usage. They are also arranged according to their pronunciation.
The library is located on the second floor of the museum. It has tons of books to guide you in learning as well as interactive games such as puzzles and the like, which will enable you to test your kanji knowledge. This can be a fun spot for students and for those visiting the museum with their friends.
You will also find the “Kanji of the Year” on the second floor. The chosen kanji for 2017 was “kita (北),” which translates to “north” in English. This highly reflects the threat that Japan experienced in relation to the North Korean missiles.
- Adults – 800 yen
- University and high school students – 500 yen
- Junior high school and elementary students – 300 yen
If you are interested in learning about kanji or serious about taking the Kanji Kentei test, you can head to the Japan Kanji Museum & Library in Kyoto from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Take note, however, that it is closed on Mondays and New Year holidays. There’s also a cafe and a shop within the museum where you can drop by. Everyone is welcome to visit, including foreign students!
Japan Kanji Museum & Library Website *Japanese only