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The Kanji Dictionary
By Mark Spahn & Wolfgang Hadamitzky with Kumiko Fujie-Winter
Charles E.Tuttle Company, 1996
ISBN 0-8048-2058-9

Reviewed by David Bordes
University of Kyushu

Looking up a compound in a Japanese character dictionary is sometimes not that easy, mainly because compounds are listed under their first character.

What makes this dictionary different is that every compound appears under each of its constituent characters. This multiple listing feature enables users to look up the desired compound under whichever of its kanji they find easiest to locate quickly. For example, you will find the compound 日本語 under 日, 本(under the section of all compounds whose second character is 本) and 語 (under the section of all compounds whose third character is 語). With this dictionary, finding an unknown compound is really child's play! (Nevertheless, do not forget to check the Kanji you did not know in the compound to increase your proficiency).

Multiple listing feature is the main, most helpful advantage of this dictionary, but there are more:

- It provides 5,910 characters and over 48,000 compounds.
- The authors give a simplified 79 radicals table which make it easy to look up a kanji using a radical index.
- All the kanji having the same radical are listed at the beginning of the section of the given radical, for quick reference.
- Old characters and variants of a given kanji are listed (i.e 体、體、躰、 and 軆 for "karada" (body)).
- Commonly used hybrid compounds (kanji+ kana ) are listed : アル中(“aruchu", alcoholism), 色っぽ い("iroppoi", sexy).
- The numbers under which the 1,945 general-use characters are listed in the authors' KANJI & KANA are given so the user knows immediately if the kanji is a general-use character or not.
- There are up to 31 appendices (!) which provide information that would usually take time to acquire, such as: names and kanji for the main islands in Japan, cities and mountains, the old prefecture names and kanji, the major economic and labour organizations, 50 major companies, the 284 extra kanji for use in given names, a list of counters, the periods of Japanese history, etc.

Among all the Japanese characters dictionaries that exist, The Kanji Dictionary is definitely my favorite one, because with its multiple listing system, it is almost impossible not to find the compound you are looking for. It really allows you to save time…not for earning money, but for learning new kanji!

Note: To read a paper comparing the features of major Japanese-English character dictionaries, including this one, go here.