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Shimizu shin kan-wa jiten
Japanese title清水新漢和辞典
Author 山岸徳兵
CategoryKanji to Japanese
ISBN4389310054 [COPAC, Webcatplus, Wikipedia]

Review of Shimizu shin kan-wa jiten by Ben Bullock

The kanji dictionary I usually use is a pocket Japanese dictionary which I bought several years ago. I don't think that this particular dictionary is exceptional for anything except that it is smaller than the other ones on the market (that's why I chose it). You only need to be able to read hiragana, katakana, and number kanji to get started with this dictionary, and if you know how to use the radical system this will probably be the only kanji dictionary you ever need. Furthermore it is small, cheap, and contains cross referencing information which is superior to any of the English language dictionaries that I have seen.

Two thousand characters may seem a lot, but in practice a dictionary with only 2,000 characters is not enough even for everyday use in Japan, although it may be adequate for learning kanji. The "Shimizu Shin Kanwa Jiten", which I mentioned in another post, contains something over 4,000 characters, which is probably as many as one needs for reading almost all Japanese text.

Once you know how to use a radical-based kanji dictionary you can use any of them. Many of the ones made for foreigners, for example halpern, old nelson, are very heavy and use their own special looking-up schemes.

My point (the reason I didn't bother posting the title) that in general almost any kanji dictionary for Japanese people will be better indexed, more informative and more accurate than Nelson, S&H or Halpern. Furthermore even a beginner with some idea of the radical system who can read kana could use them without much problem in conjunction with a JE dictionary. I think this is about the third or fourth time I've made this point on this newsgroup but I don't know if anyone is listening.

I think that whatever indexing system you learn and practice on becomes the fastest method. The most common and useful indexing systems are all based on radicals in some way or another..

I'd like to second this, and also to point out that look-up systems which are specific to one dictionary tie you to that dictionary. But if you know the standard radical system you will not be tied to any dictionary in particular.

For example, recently I needed to look up a character 曙 (akebono), the name of a district of a city that came up in a document I was working on. Since my "Shimizu" dictionary was downstairs, rather than walk down there I pulled my wife's high school "shinshaku kanwa" dictionary from the shelf and looked it up in there. Similarly I could make use of any other character dictionary, including ones for Chinese and so on. For another example, because I knew the radical system from using Nelson I could immediately start using my Shimizu dictionary when I first bought it, without being able to read much Japanese at the time. All the dictionaries are more or less identical with respect to this radical system. I've been able to use the same system on the "Data Discman" as well. If for example I ever find a smaller or better dictionary than the Shimizu I can immediately throw the Shimizu in the bin and start using the other one without worry.

☆ See all reviews by Ben Bullock.

For questions, comments, or if you would like to add your review to the above list, please email Ben Bullock <> or use the discussion group for this web site.