Kanji Spotlight: Enduring Ninjas

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Hi everyone, it’s kanji spotlight time! The kanji that I’ll be focusing on today is 忍.


Anime and manga fans would probably have seen this word before… Yup, that’s right, this kanji is pronounced as ‘にん, nin’, as in ‘忍者, ninja’.


Let’s look at the definition of 忍 first.

Definition of 忍

This word is actually an old word, one that is hardly used on it’s own. Still, you will find the word used in compound phrases. Also… The kanji itself has a pretty interesting make up which I’d get to shortly.

Stroke order of 忍

The kanji itself isn’t terribly complicated to write, just a total of 7 strokes. This kanji can be split into two, the top and the bottom. Again, as with all kanjis, getting the balance and proportion write is critical.

A balanced 忍 would look something like that:

The bottom part is slightly flatter/smaller than the top, but not TOO small either. Keep both the radicals in the center. That is the key to making your writing look nice. Otherwise… Your kanji will end up looking loop sided like these…:

Top is too large, and the bottom is slanted to the left. Looks like the kanji is going to topple.

Bottom is too big

This looks much better than the previous two, but the bottom is written a little too much to the right. Would have been perfect if the alignment was shifted properly.

Now for the most interesting part. I’ve been talking about the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ parts. But what are they actually?

You might recognise this kanji:


That’s right, it’s 刀 (かたな, katana). The katana/sword/knife.

But what does it mean when there’s an extra stroke?


Then, the kanji becomes 刃, or は (ha), meaning the edge of a knife or sword. Think of the stroke as being on the cutting edge of the sword.

So that’s the top part of 忍.

Now for the bottom part.


心 (こころ, kokoro), meaning mind; heart; spirit. Heart in both the literal and abstract sense.

Putting together the top and bottom of the kanji, you have ‘edge of sword’ and ‘heart’. Now imagine having the edge of a sword placed on your heart. Painful isn’t it? That’s quite some endurance you’ll need to bear with it… And that brings us to the essence of the word 忍. Endure. Enduring it even though it hurts so bad.

So while ninjas may seem really cool in anime and mangas, with their ninjutsu and shurinken, actually being a ninja involves a lot of hardship. After all their name itself means ‘people who endure’.

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