Kanji (literally "Chinese characters) are one of the four writing systems used in modern Japanese. The other three (hiragana, katakana, and romaji) are phonetic alphabets, like the ones used in English, Italian, Spanish Greek, Arabic, etc. Kanji, on the other hand, are not phonetic, but convey a meaning, and can often be pronounced in several different ways. The kanji meaning "down" or "below" has about 10 pronunciations. ::eek:: Most kanji, however, have about 2 or 3 pronunciations. Kanji are very useful, considering how many homophones there are in Japanese. Kanji allow the reader to distinguish between two words that have identical pronunciations and completely different meanings (e.g. "Koukou" can mean "high school" or "sexual intercourse." They have the same pronunciation, but are written with different kanji.) About 2,000 kanji are used in everyday Japanese, and yes, they are a hassle to memorize, but there are certain patterns (called radicals) that appear in dozens of kanji, which makes memorization easier. (e.g. The figure that looks "like three horizontal lines on top of a square" is seen in numerous kanji, most of which have meanings that are related to speaking or reading.)
Kanji are coOoOoOol.
They should offer Japanese in more high schools.