on’yomi kun’yomi Radicals
とう かたな

Meaning: Katana

The radical and the meaning of this kanji are almost the same, but not quite. It’s very easy, though – the radical is sword. We’re learning Japanese, so can you name a Japanese sword? That’s right, the most common is a katana, which happens to be the meaning of this kanji as well.

The progression on this one is important. When you think sword you have to think “what kinds of swords do Japanese people have? Then, you’ll reach the meaning of this kanji on your own.

Reading: とう

So now you have this sweet katana in your hands and you’re swinging it around like an idiot. Feel free to make “whoooshing” noises as you swing it around. Then you start spinning it in front of you. You aren’t very good, and as you’re swinging you notice something wrong… you’ve cut off your big toe (とう).

The katana is so sharp you didn’t even notice your toe being gone. Then you start to feel the warmth of the blood under your foot… then you notice the toe and you begin to panic. Make sure to feel the toe and feel the fear, it will help you to remember this kanji’s reading.


Be sure to learn the meaning of this vocab word before moving on (and learn the reading as well, it’s pretty easy, I think).

a 刀(かたな)= Katana

  • Meaning: The meaning is the same as the kanji.
  • Reading: The reading is the kun’yomi reading, because it’s just a single kanji, sitting all alone (on’yomi tends to be used when words have multiple kanji). The reading for this word is particularly easy. Why? Because you probably already know the word “katana” (*swing swing cut cut!*)


As you go through the review, remember to use the mnemonic devices and stories to try and remember things. Use the hints already in your brain to spark the memory of new things you need to remember in order to slowly turn that into a long term memory!

  1. Can you tell me the meaning of these three similar kanji? 九, 刀, 力
  2. What is the on’yomi for 刀?
  3. What is the kun’yomi for 刀?

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