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A Contest and a Palindrome Puzzle

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Today’s blog features two parts: a contest and a palindrome puzzle. They’re both challenging in their own ways, so 頑張ってください (Ganbatte kudasai: Good luck)! Back next week with a more typical blog!



Do you want to win a copy of Crazy for Kanji: A Student’s Guide to the Wonderful World of Japanese Characters? I’m hoping that my new book will make you fall in love with kanji. I’m also hoping it will serve as a map that orients you in the vast and often confusing world of kanji characters.

For a free copy, try your hand at the eight questions in the contest at the first link. Whether you’re a kanji newbie or an expert, you’ll find a fairly level playing field here. By and large, the questions don’t draw on knowledge but rather on intuition about the logic (or illogic!) of kanji.

The rules are simple:

1. Three winners will receive signed copies of Crazy for Kanji.

2. Winners are those with the greatest number of right answers. It’s a hard quiz, so the highest scorer may have answered just a few questions correctly!

3. Feel free to consult dictionaries or other reference material.

4. The contest ends on March 29, 2009, at 11:59 p.m., Japan Standard Time.

5. Contestants should email answers to with “JPod Contest” in the subject line.

6. Answers should be formatted more or less like this: “1a, 2b, 3c, etc.” No need to include words.

7. On April 3, I’ll post both the quiz answers and the winners’ names on the blog. I’ll also notify winners by email. At that time I’ll ask for a snail mail address, so we can ship you a copy of the book.

8. Have fun with the contest! That’s the most important rule of all!

For the Contest …


Palindrome Puzzle

Recently, a Japanese man sent me a palindrome. He wrote it entirely in hiragana and challenged me to convert it to kanji. And he said this palindrome has been making the rounds in Japan for a long time.

Actually, it’s appropriate for a palindrome to make the rounds, when you consider the first kanji in the compound for “palindrome”:

回文 (kaibun: palindrome)     to go around + words

As you know, palindromes are words (such as Eve) or sentences (such as, “Madam, I’m Adam,” coincidentally enough) that you can read the same way backward and forward. His didn’t quite meet the test, but almost.

Speaking of tests, he gave me a score of only 70 for my performance on his! I happened to mention that I was struggling with a cold and fever, and he generously chalked my mistakes up to the illness, but I knew better! I mean, I knew that I didn’t know any better than to commit the errors I made! After all, it’s a hard puzzle to solve, at least for the likes of me. (Oh, and he had made two typos in the version he sent me, omitting two tentens!!! That didn’t help in the least!)

See what you can do with it. As soon as you feel like giving up, click the link. You’ll find a series of steps toward a solution.


ながきよの とうのねむりの みなめざめ
なみのりふねの おとの よきかな。

Nagakiyono tōnonemurino minamezame
naminorifuneno otono yokikana.

For Step 1 …