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What the Heck is Kanji Anyway?! Uncovering the Mystery of Japan’s Alphabet at Kyoto’s “Kanji Museum”

Japan is well known for its traditional culture, incredible food, and indecipherably difficult Kanji-based language. But Kyoto has found a way to make the characters accessible and fun for locals and tourists alike, with Gion’s “Japan Kanji Museum & Library”. You can experience the insane world of kanji in all three dimensions through images, graphics, and interactive exhibits. It has become particularly popular recently, so we decided to head over to experience some Kanji!

Experience Man’yogana stamps

50,000 Characters! Experience the Deep World of Kanji with All Your Senses

Gion is located near Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto. The Kanji Museum opened up in 2016, along Shijo Street, the center of Kyoto Tourism.
In 2011 the “Kyoto Shiritsu Moto Yasaka Junior High School” closed, and the museum was established. The museum attracts many elementary and junior high school students from around the nation, and since its opening, it has attracted around 250,000 people.

The Kanji Museum is also a famous location where the “Kanji of the Year” is displayed after it is announced during the New Year’s Holiday. When we visited on December 14th, 2018, it was 2 days after the “Kanji of the Year” was announced. However it was still displayed at Kiyomizu Temple Main Hall until December 21st, and the museum still had the 2017 kanji “Kita(北)” on display.

The ticket and experience sheet you receive when you enter. Each sheet is different

When we first heard of Kanji Museum, we imagined an academic facility to study at, however its nothing like that. The 1st floor concept is “watch, listen and feel,” and the 2nd floor is “enjoyment of learning through playing” The museum offers ways to enjoy kanji with your body.
So let’s head in and follow the route from the 1st floor, and start our kanji experience.

1st Floor: Learn the Origin of Kanji and its History

First, we will stop by the theater near the entrance and watch an 8-minute movie.
The movie explains how kanji was imported and how the language and expression changed throughout history.

Next up is the “Kanji History Picture Scrolls” displayed on the wall. The scroll is 30m long!
With information on hieroglyphs and ancient letters, its length kind of makes sense. There’s a lot of information to take in, but their fun pictures and photographs make it easy to understand.

Here is the “Odoru Koukotsu Moji Table (Dancing Oracle Bone Script Table).
The oracle bone script is said to be the origin of Chinese Kanji and was used around 1,300 BC – 1,000 BC.
The large table, with turtle shells and animal bones motif, shows various kanji. If you touch the kanji, it moves towards bones and transforms into the oracle bone script it was based on.
It lets you see …

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