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Kanji come to life with over 250 graphically illustrated mnemonics for learning essential Japanese characters. Colorful pages are filled with horses and tigers, palaces and pulpits, kings and lunatics, samurai and wizards. A world of soldiers, swords, spies, demons, fire, smoke, gushing blood, and dragons with claws and fangs.

While the format looks and feels more like a colorful story book than a textbook, KanjiPictoGraphix Dragon Book taps powerful learning methods derived from Rowley's career as an educational therapist and professor of information design.

The book begins with an 'Elements' chart of the building blocks of Japanese written language. Pages are organized into clusters of characters with common elements and meanings. The result is a semantic, meaningful narrative that makes learning the complex written forms easy to understand and remember. The hundreds of visual mnemonics draw upon a combination of visuals with genuine etymological roots along with contemporary visual interpretations to help you learn to read Japanese kanji quickly and joyfully.

Kanji are over 2,000 years old, so you will see some non-PC imagery that reflects ancient ideas about religion, women, men, children, animals, and old people. Rather than whitewash this, the book illustrates the meanings and ideas of an ancient, beautiful, and, at times, provocative language.

Michael Rowley is the founder and creative director at, a family-run print and mobile media design and branding business in Silicon Valley, California. He is the author of KanjiPictoGraphix for iPhone and iPad. His Twitter feed @KanjPicto distills and dissects the meanings of Japanese kanji vocabulary words. Early in his career Michael worked as an educational therapist at the Dannen School at La Cañada, taught English at Chaminade University Tokyo, digital imaging at The American Film Institute in Hollywood, and information design at Art Center Pasadena. He lives with his sweetheart, Kiki, and their four dogs and is a volunteer at, an organization to rescue animals and end petlessness.

Publication Date: 
September 1, 2011