Using A Physical Japanese-Japanese Dictionary

So I recently purchased a (beginner) Japanese-Japanese dictionary… like, a physical one, that you actually touch and hold and flip through the pages (I know, crazy, right?). I’ve read a number of times that the sooner you get used to using one, the more beneficial it will be to you in the long run. While I’ve had some fun/satisfaction looking up kanji I already know the pronunciation for, I’m still pretty clueless how to use the dictionary the right way. How do I go about looking up kanji I don’t know the pronunciation for? The dictionary seems to be ordered by syllable.

In case it helps, this is the dictionary I currently have:


It’s actually pretty difficult to look up kanji pronunciation in a 国語辞典. They’re more for if you know the pronunciation already and you need to know the meaning and/or how to write it out in kanji.

There’s another type of Japanese dictionary called a kanji dictionary (漢字辞典) which is more suitable for looking up unknown kanji, what words they’re used in, etc. Usually they’ll use a radical/stroke count based system for ordering, which you can use to look up a kanji, but they’ll generally provide some other indexes to assist with lookup. e.g. the 学研 one that I use has, in addition to the radical index, an on-kun index, a stroke count index and a jouyou kanji index separated by year level.


Thanks @mechturk. Would you recommend a specific kanji dictionary? After a quick Google search, it looks like a lot of them have Romanized pronunciations, which I definitely do not want. Are you aware of any that use hiragana/katakana? I’ll probably purchase from Amazon.

Are you searching for 漢字辞典?

I think most of the ones you’d get from Japan would be hiragana/katakana only. I terms of beginner ones, I’ve only used the one, so I don’t have any specific recommendations, but I did have a look through some of the ones available before buying, so maybe that’ll help a bit.

The one I use is this one:

There’s quite a lot of sample pictures in the Amazon description, and I’ve been really happy with this so far. I think I mainly got this because it’s in full colour and I liked how it looked in the samples.

That said, there were three other ones I was considering at the time:

There’s a Challenge one, and I use their 国語辞典 and have been pretty happy with it, so I’m pretty sure their kanji dictionary will be quite decent too.

Then there’s the one published by Shogakukan, which, if you’re happy with the 国語辞典 you have, may be worth going with for the kanji dictionary as well. Previews available here:

They recently released a full colour version as well:

I think when I was shopping around this hadn’t come out yet, otherwise I would probably have chosen this one!

Last but not least, there’s one by Sanseido who are very well known for their dictionaries generally.

with a preview available on the Sanseido website.


Yes sir, I am.

Wow, @mechturk, this was an even better reply/recommendation that I could’ve asked for, thank you! I’ll take a look through these, though I’m already leaning towards the one published by Shogakukan.

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Huh… where are you searching, then? I guess. I don’t know why you would get any books with romaji from searching for that. I mean, perhaps well below everything else. I didn’t, even when just looking at results.

Well I guess the problem was that I originally started my search in English, which obviously yielded pretty much exclusively English results. I had just assumed that inputting Japanese characters into an English/American Amazon field wouldn’t work. I was wrong.

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