The Kanji subcommittee of the national language study committee of the culture commission has announced an addition of 191 kanji to the list, which brings it to a new total of 2131. Looking at the full list of the now officially common kanji, I am actually struck at how common so many of them are. In fact, I went through the list and did a quick count, and I saw at least 125 for which I knew at least 1proper usage in Japanese (i.e. reading plus definition or place name), and a couple more I decided not to count because I only know them in Chinese. If I know this many of the 191, with still well under a decade of study of Japanese as a foreign language, I think it’s a safe bet that pretty much any native-speaker high school student knows almost all of them, plus a LOT more. If nothing else, I think we can safely put to bed the myth that “you only need to know about 2000 kanji to read Japanese fluently” because there are only about 2000 on the list of kanji that high school students are officially required to know. The joyo list really is a joke, and while I’m sure in reality you don’t need to know nearly as many characters to be fluent in reading Japanese as you do in Chinese, the numbers are probably not as far apart as is commonly believed.
Interestingly, 5 were also removed from the list, and the one example they give, 銑, I have no recollection of every seeing before, although I’m going to guess it is some sort of farming implement.
Thanks to Curzon for mailing me the article.