We have developed a method that makes it easier for language beginners to look up Japanese kanji characters. Instead of using the arbitrary conventions of kanjis, this method is based on three simple prototypes: horizontal, vertical, and other strokes. For example, the code for the kanji
, meaning rice field) is ‘3-3-0’, indicating the kanji consists of three horizontal strokes and three vertical strokes. Such codes allow a beginner to look up kanjis even with no knowledge of the ideographic conventions used by native speakers. To make the search easier, a complex kanji can be looked up via the components making up the kanji. We conducted a user evaluation of this system and found that non-native speakers could look up kanjis more quickly and reliably, and with fewer failures, with our system than with conventional methods.