Change Oak to Beech?

Wanikani gives the meaning of “oak” to the kanji 椎.椎
However, Jisho lists the vocabulary 椎 (しい) as a specific genus of beech tree called “chinquapin” that isn’t a type of oak.椎
Also, the Japanese Wikipedia just lists oak as just オークオーク
So, maybe “beech” would be a better primary definition of the kanji 椎 than “oak”. While oak trees are apparently a type of beech tree, 椎 doesn’t appear to be any type of oak tree.


I can see where you’re coming from, but the specific tree it refers to may as well be trivia to the average Japanese person I think. As you can see from the examples, WK doesn’t teach any actual tree-related vocab for it. The しい reading is also not taught in school. They might be best off making the meaning “vertebrae” or “spine”, since that’s one of the meanings (#4 below) and the one most people are likely to encounter.


I’ve heard of 白樫 for Japanese white oak just from drumsticks for while now. I’ve had 柏 (かしわ) in my pile for some reason but forgot why (probably from a name). Didn’t know until today that 椎 (しい) is the same for shiitake mushrooms (椎茸) :mushroom: though this is usually kana only from what I see in a grocery store but still comes up. Would assume 茸 is probably known by most natives though, reasonable excuse to practice the しい reading that is easy to remember.


Thanks for bringing this up, I’ll check with the content team on the reasoning behind this and let you know what they say.

Update: Just wanted to let you know that we made some changes here to :

  • we moved すい to the allow list
  • we added しい as a kun’yomi
  • we added “spine” as the primary meaning, and “evergreen beech” as an alternative meaning, we moved the older meanings to the allow list, and added “beech” to the allow list
  • we updated the meaning and reading mnemonics to use “spine”

and 脊椎:

  • we updated the meaning explanation to use “spine”.

Thanks again for the feedback!



The one piece of trivia I know about 白樫 is that it’s diffuse porous vs the ring porous white oak we have in the US.

That is, the vertical grain diameter remains pretty consistent rather than growing larger during the growing season each year.

This is what makes it more stable and much more pleasant to work. It’s why it’s so highly prized for 鉋台 (Japanese handplane bodies). Great stuff for woodworking. I didn’t know it was used for drumsticks.


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