Let’s Read Manga and Learn Kanji Characters!

In studying the Japanese language, you may be having a hard time learning 漢字(kanji). There are three types of characters in Japan: hiragana and katakana, each with 46 characters, and kanji, with approximately 50,000 characters. A single kanji character has multiple readings, and even Japanese people have trouble remembering them. 
If possible, you want to learn Kanji characters in a fun way, don’t you? I would like to introduce you to a wonderful teaching tool called 漫画(manga). Many teen-oriented manga sold in Japan have kanji readings. They are primarily targeted at teens, but the stories are interesting for adults as well. Let’s find your favorite manga and have fun learning kanji! Japanese kanji is distinctive in that there are multiple readings for a single character. 

Kanji Is Difficult for Us.

 Kanji is a significant hurdle for learners of Japanese. It is said that there are approximately 50,000 kanji characters in Japan. If you have memorized roughly 2,000 kanji, you can read a Japanese newspaper. Even though there are 2,000 characters, it is not easy to memorize them because there are multiple readings for each kanji.

For example, a typical kanji that can be read in many different ways is “生”. The example sentences in this image show 15 different readings. 
 It is important to read and write a lot to memorize Kanji characters, but you will probably get bored just studying them in workbooks. I recommend reading manga to learn kanji in a more enjoyable way.

Read Manga With “Furigana”!

 Japanese manga are divided into several types depending on the age of the reader. Many of the 少年漫画(shonen manga) and 少女漫画(shojo manga), which are targeted at teenagers, have “Furigana”(the reading written in hiragana along with the kanji). 
 For example, One Piece, Sailor Moon, and Detective Conan. Although those comics are targeted at teenagers, the stories are interesting for adults as well.

What Manga Should You Read?

 Since there are so many Japanese manga, some people may have a hard time deciding which one to read. I think it’s best to read manga that you find interesting. But I recommend reading manga set in modern Japan rather than fantasy or battle stories if you want to study kanji. This is because manga with special settings use many kanji that are not often used in everyday life. Now, let me introduce you to my favorite manga!


 This manga is a comedy about a family living in Tokyo. It depicts everyday scenes in Japan with cute characters, for example, going shopping at the supermarket, high school students talking with their friends, etc. It is the best material for learning kanji because it contains many kanji that Japanese people use on a daily basis. It is also easy to read because it does not have the complicated panel layout that is common in Japanese manga. In addition to Kanji, you will learn Japanese customs and culture together.


 Japan has high schools specializing in commerce, industry, and agriculture, and this manga depicts high school students attending an agricultural high school in Hokkaido, Japan. You will enjoy reading it because of its themes of conflicts with parents, love, and other problems typical of high school students. In addition to kanji commonly used by high school students, there are many other kanji related to food and animals. You can also learn about Japanese eating habits by reading it.


 This is a typical “oldie but goodie” manga that started 40 years ago. It is the story of a girl born into a poor family but with outstanding acting talent, striving for success in the theater while competing with her rivals. The story is still nice and a page-turner! I hope you’ll like it, too! Since there are various stage performances, you can learn diverse kanji from the characters’ lines.

Points to Keep In Mind When Studying With Manga.

 There are many more interesting manga than I have introduced. If you want to know if a manga you want to read has a furigana, you can do an image search for that title on Japanese search engines. (Google Japan) You will see an image of the dialogue part, so please check to see if it is marked with furigana.

 Also you should be aware of the furigana that is not the true reading. For example, in this image, “混沌” has “カオス” as a furigana, but the real reading is “こんとん”. The reason for the furigana “カオス” is that the Japanese translation of “混沌” is “chaos.

The way to recognize these furigana is to pay attention to katakana and furigana with “”. Those two are often not the true reading of that kanji.

 The following magazines carry major teen manga in Japan.

 Find your favorite manga and have fun learning kanji!