Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
P.G. O’Neill’s Essential Kanji is in my opinion the best Japanese kanji dictionary you can buy. It’s had rave reviews since 1973, and there are good reasons why my copy of it is dirty and dog-eared.
In Essential Kanji, the boxes that show you the stroke order are nice and large. One of the biggest reasons to get a Japanese kanji dictionary in the first place is so you can write kanji. This kanji dictionary shows you how to write the kanji properly without having to squint. In China and Japan, people have actually been known to get into brawls over proper kanji stroke order. Who knows—maybe this book will save you a black eye or two!
The English meanings for the kanji are concise and make sense. A lot of my books have very vague, overly broad English definitions that leave me scratching my head, but that’s not a concern here.
At the back of the book, there is also an alphabetized index of readings to characters. That means that if you know how a word is pronounced, you can find that word in the alphabetical list and then find the kanji that make up that word.
Also, the book is durable and just the right size. The makers of some kanji dictionaries try to be helpful by making a book that can slip into your pocket. The trouble with that is the contents of the book are also small, and the pages would smear or tear easily. Essential Kanji is the size of a standard paperback, and its pages can take some abuse without falling apart.
The only slight downside of the book is that it doesn’t progress from the most useful kanji to the more obscure ones. The basic premise behind the book is that it starts out with the ones that are simpler to write and progresses to the more complicated. It succeeds in doing that, but sometimes the most common, basic kanji are actually hard to write, so you want to pick those up earlier on.
Essential Kanji would be a decent, if not fantastic curriculum by itself for kanji, but in terms of being a Japanese kanji dictionary to refer to, it is superb.
Philip Rozek invites you to get even more info on Essential Kanji by reading the full article at http://www.how-to-learn-japanese.com/japanese_kanji_dictionary.html You can try to guess the top 10 most butchered Japanese words in English, and more. He’ll also let you pick from his full array of tips on how to learn Japanese.