Part 1: Kanji Confessions
Haruka Hirai is alone in the classroom after school writing her favorite kanji, 永 (ei), which is part of the compound 永遠 (eien, or eternity). Yusuke Sagara happens to come back to the classroom and sees her, and in that moment he falls in love.
Yusuke asks her if she likes kanji and she replies that she loves it. Then, being a boy, he pretends he hasn’t heard her properly and keeps asking her to repeat it, which sounds like she’s saying she loves him given the lack of an object in Japanese sentence structure. She tells him why she finds this character beautiful and then asks Yusuke if he likes kanji, too—and of course he replies that he does, because how else are you supposed to respond to a pretty girl?
And so the start of a beautiful relationship is born, all thanks to the power of kanji!
Part 2: An Idiom Blossoms
Haruka and Yusuke are on a not-date at the park when Yusuke starts speaking in yoji-jukugo, four-kanji idiomatic expressions that he thinks will totally make him sound cool and intelligent if he busts them out in a conversation with a girl.
Later, Yusuke notes that Haruka seems to glow whenever she’s talking about kanji, and she says that kanji widens her world. After that, the two of them then head toward the boating lake. Yusuke has heard a legend that couples who go for a boat ride on it break up, but Haruka cheerfully tells him they’ll be fine since they’re not dating. But after spending a romantic time on the lake together, at the end she asks him to teach her yoji-jukugo and says that it’s a good job they rode the boat now because they won’t be able to after they’re dating!
Looks like kanji has worked its magic yet again!
Unlike the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which is for learners of Japanese as a second language, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Test (Kanji Kentei) is designed for native speakers (although of course foreign learners of the language can take it too!). There are 10 levels, with 1 being the hardest. The first seven are relatively easy, corresponding to elementary and middle school levels. Level 3 is the level high school students aim for, and 2 is most often taken by adult and university students who have an interest in or specific need for kanji.
Then there’s Level 1, which tests examinees on 6,355 kanji, which is apparently so difficult that less than 2,000 people take the exam each time it's held, and less than 15 percent of those who take it actually pass. If you manage to pass Level 1 you basically have the right to call yourself a kanji master.
But hey, with the promise of all that love and romance, who wouldn’t want to pick up a pencil and start practicing those kanji radicals?