The Kanji Code

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The Kanji Code: Japanese phonetic components

The Kanji Code: See the Sounds with Phonetic Components and Visual Patterns

Written by Natalie Hamilton

Memorising kanji readings is one of the biggest hurdles when learning Japanese. The Kanji Code teaches a systematic method of learning the readings of kanji or Chinese characters, in particular the ON or Chinese readings. By studying phonetic components and other visual clues, students of Japanese can reduce their reliance on rote memorisation and feel more in control of their learning.

The book contains an easy to read explanation of the keisei  or form-sound kanji characters (形声文字), to deepen your understanding of the components and their functions. Graphics show the visual connection between kana and kanji, and visual similarities between kanji with the same or similar readings that would otherwise be overlooked. The visual approach will especially appeal to visual learners and students interested in art and design.

  • Learn 150 phonetic components – the key to the readings of 450+ kanji characters.
  • Learn the link between kanji, hiragana and katakana – and use it to remember the ON readings of 50+ common kanji characters.
  • Learn how visual features like shape and patterns like stripes can give a clue to the ON reading of 170+ kanji characters.
  • Each kanji features ON and kun readings, English meanings and example words.
  • Kanji readings are written in romaji so they can be read by students of all levels.

What people are saying

“An invaluable resource. Natalie has compiled a lot of valuable information in the form of a book that students can carry around. This can be a textbook, a reference book or a dictionary. It explains very well the relationship between kanji and kana, kanji and phonetic code, and kanji and visual code. Many of the phonetics listed here are the same ones my research identified as being useful for students of Japanese. The idea of seeing the relationships between kanji through a common visual feature is also original and very interesting. I will be recommending it to my students.”

Dr Etsuko Toyoda, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne 

Also includes several detailed indexes for ease of searching and improved understanding of kanji composition. The innovative radical index includes the English names of radicals and is sorted not by stroke order but by subject, making it more intuitive to non-native Japanese speakers.

The book is available in two formats:


The paperback is available through a number of online booksellers including:

If you are in Australia or New Zealand, you can support our  independent press by buying direct – simply fill out the form below. If you prefer to shop locally, you can order the book from your bookseller by quoting:
ISBN 978 0 6484886 0 6.


The Kanji Code is available for download as a Kindle ebook. You don’t need a Kindle, Amazon provides a free app so you can read the ebook in your browser.

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Japanese Phonetic Components

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