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Kanji characters are one part of Japanese culture.

Lately there has been an international boom in thinking that Japanese kanji are cool, but because of that, there are a lot of people who end up wearing T-shits with embarrassing characters on it.

It may be a cool design, but people who know what the characters mean probably feel second-hand embarrassment for them.

Also, once they learn what the shirt means, they themselves probably will be embarrassed.


This character means “hemorrhoid”.


This means “self-hate”. It would be used in a sentence like this:

“Whenever I can’t stop myself from doing something, I fall into self-hate.”

In order to avoid the situation of buying a t-shirt you like when you come to Japan and later finding out what it REALLY means, keep a note of the following kanji that have cool meanings!


海 Umi


This means “ocean” or “sea”. It’s a powerful kanji that captures the essence of the wide ocean. Design-wise, it’s a very cool kanji.


侍 Samurai


This kanji was used in the movie “The Last Samurai” and also in the name of the Japanese men’s soccer team, “Samurai Japan,” so it’s somewhat of a famous character. It was a name in the past that showed the social status of Japanese men. They also used the term “bushi.” This character was used to describe men who held a sword and fought, so it’s a cool kanji that was often used at the site of battles.


努力 Doryoku


This means “effort,” as in putting you all into something. Japanese people value this and that makes this a cool kanji.


響 Hibiki


This kanji means “sound.” Japanese people use this kanji in logos and other designs because of its cool shape. 


絆 Kizuna


This means “bond,” as in the bonds between people. In 2011, this was chosen as the kanji of the year. 


夢 Yume


This means “dream,” as in “live your life with big dreams for the future!” The same dream as in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

What type of dream do you have? 


魂 Tamashii


This means “soul.” 

Japan is a country that has always valued things because it’s said that things have souls. There are also phrases like “samurai soul.” This kanji represents the Japanese philosophy of putting “soul” into everything you do.

Even Japanese people wear clothing and accessories with this kanji, so it’s very cool even as a design.


風林火山 Fuurin Kazan


When samurai fought in the past, this phrase would be on their flags.

It’s a four character phrase that means “as fast as the wind, as quiet as the forest, as daring as fire, and immovable as the mountain.” 

In Japan they still use this phrase often, especially since the balance of the characters create cool designs.


愛 Ai


This means “love.” There’s many types of love, isn’t there?

This kanji is used often in Japan because it’s a cool design with nice balance.


大和 Yamato


Yamato is the ancient name for Japan.

There is a phrase that adds this to the previous character for soul, “yamato tamashii” (大和魂). It’s a phrase that describes the unique Japanese way of thinking and actions in relation to Japanese people’s knowledge and talents.

There are people who name their children Yamato because in Japan it is a kanji phrase with a cool meaning.


無敵 Muteki


This means “invincible” or “matchless,” in the “there are no enemies around me! I am the strongest!”

This is a cool kanji for people with chivalrous spirit. 


風 Kaze


This means “wind.” The artistic design of this kanji makes it very cool.


竜/龍 Ryu 




Both of these characters mean “dragon.” Since the balance and design of 龍 is especially cool-looking, it’s often used in Japan as part of a design so you can find Japanese people who wear clothing with this character. 


鯉 Koi


This means “carp,” a fish that in the past it was said to grow into dragons. Since these fish look like dragons, especially the colored carp, in Japanese gardens they are placed in ponds to swim and they have become a symbol of Japan.

You can see many designs and artwork with koi fish and the koi kanji in Japan.


己 Onore


This means “me,” and is an old way to refer to oneself. It doesn’t have a deep meaning or anything, but isn’t a cool design?

Did you see any kanji you found interesting? If you come to Japan, please pick a nicely-designed kanji with a cool meaning for your souvenir T-shirt.

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