Japanese Word Cards

Regular readers may recall that I’m somewhat stationery-obsessed. Drop me in a new city and I’d far rather visit the local stationery shop than almost anything else. It’s why, in part, I love Berlin so much.

Stationery is obviously an important part of the cultural landscape in Japan: the quality, and breadth of products available was awe-inspiring. The Ito Ya store in Tokyo Ginza was dizzying: 5 floors of everything from name seals to date books to fountain pens to fine Japanese paper. It was a miracle we emerged with me only having spent $100. But it’s not only at the high end: I saw a better selection of stationery in “100 Yen shops” (aka “dollar stores”) than at any dedicated stationery shop in Canada.

One of the items seemingly unique to Japan was the pack of “word cards.” I saw these for sale everywhere, and the form-factor was pretty standard: a deck of small blank white cards, perhaps 50 or 100, bound together with a locking metal ring. Like this example from the Maruman company:

NOKIA Lumia 800_002732

I’d never seen anything like these in other countries, and I asked my Japanese friend Nori about them; he confirmed that they’re extremely popular in Japan, and that they’re a “tool for students for remembering foreign words, historical facts, chemical formulas and so on, writing a name or title on one side and something need to remember on the other side.” The name for these in Japanese is is 単語カード, or “tango kādo” and a Google image search shows the variety of designs they’re available in.


Pedro Custódio's picture
Pedro Custódio on April 10, 2013 - 08:35

Believe it or not, here’s another common fact between us, I came across these when I had my first japanese lessons, it was love at first usage as they say and it is indeed a critical part of the japanese learning methods I guess in both directions (Japanese <> Foreign language) as it’s practical. I think there’s a lot of apps (like the Evernote peek) that were most certainly inspired in their addictiveness ;) I see them as a miniaturised version of the common memory cards that are a bit more common here and there.

Oliver's picture
Oliver on April 11, 2013 - 20:54

But aren’t these just “flashcards”? I’ve seen cards on a ring in ostensibly non-Japanese contexts. e.g. http://edudemic.com/2012/04/th…

I suppose all the ones I see on rings might be products of Japan, since of course we trade.

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