potato; sweet potato; taro; yam; tuber
Kanji 1011

Thank you for visiting this Character Home Page. Below you'll find a synopsis of the essay. If you wish to read the full text, the PDF of the essay is available for purchase to the right.


From Hokkaido to Okinawa, the Japanese grow many types of white potatoes and sweet potatoes and have scads of ways of eating them. Find out when 芋 represents which of its many definitions, why a "new potato" label is crucial, what "sweet potato color" means, and what a potato stamp is. Also see why sweet potatoes prompt passion, nostalgia, embarrassed laughter, and excuses. 

Revision history:

Dec. 21, 2023: p. 6: Eliminated a confusing statement.

Jan. 28, 2022: 

  • p. 2, Etymology Box: Updated the Henshall etymology and the Sears link.
  • p. 19: Added a link to the Kanshudo games.

June 29, 2017: 

  • pp. 2, 4, 9, and 17: Removed broken links and (where apppropriate) the surrounding text.
  • p. 10, 1st photo: I had said that the sign for sweet potato ice cream featured the rendering 紫芋. I must have been delusional! It says 紫いも.

Nov. 6, 2015: 

  • p. 5: I had somehow confused 種芋 (たねいも: seed potato) with 芋つる苗 (いもつるなえ: (sweet) potato vines that can be used as seedlings). I have removed the three sentences about 芋つる苗.
  • p. 17: In the Answer to Quick Quiz 3, I mentioned that one can interpret the poem as indecent, and I had incorrectly attributed this idea to Wikipedia. Instead, it was my proofreader’s interpretation, so I’ve now simply said, “This can be interpreted as an indecent poem.”

May 8, 2015: p. 9, photo caption: Changed the first and last paragraphs to reflect that the shop is in Kawasaki (not Kamakura) and that the third dessert is named after the city of Bremen because of a story that is quite famous in Japan.

May 1, 2015: Originally published.


Add comment

Log in or register to post comments
Kanji PDF
Cover of essay 1011 on 芋, titled "Potato Passion"
Mini Profile
RADICAL艹 (140: grass)