In linguistics, transitivity is a complex thing. In fact, it's not as simple as "transitive" vs "intransitive". Apparently there's a scale, and English is overall higher on it than Japanese.
This means that the brackets of "transitivity" are placed a bit differently in Japanese and in fact contain less verbs than in English. Something that may be considered an "object" of a transitive action in English is more likely to fall into the "necessary extended argument" (recipient/beneficiary/theme) of an intransitive verb in Japanese. Especially if the typical "object" of that verb is a person that has agency independent of our own, or if we are not directly affecting that thing with the action in question.
I think the general rule of thumb is this:
Is the action being done directly ON the object (を) or TO the object (に)? Does the subject/agent has power over the object? Does the state of the object change?
(Movement verbs in Japanese are weird in this context, I'd love to see someone's thoughts on that)
Thus in Japanese, we are doing an act of revenge "to someone" and not "on someone", a person being kissed is not a direct object (ideally we don't force him/her) but a recipient, and when we're accessing something, we're not changing it.
I think that's also why in Japanese "like" is intransitive ("something is liked", we're not affecting it in any way by liking it), "to understand" is intransitive (because we're not affecting the area that is being understood, and understanding is a state that we reach with little agency over the process) and "to know" is transitive (and refers in fact to that moment in which we "got to know" the information, thus we have some agency over that information, it's more direct).
(You may want to stop reading now, because it's about to get a bit more technical and skim the edges of rambling...)
As I understand it, there are two types of transitivity: semantic (what something means) and syntactic (how it's coded by the language). These aren't always the same thing.
Semantically, there are four (and not two) types of verbs (examples are from English):
- strictly intransitive, e.g. arrive, chat
- strictly transitive, e.g. recognize, like
- ambitransitive verbs, where Subject=Agent, verbs allowing "indefinite object deletion", e.g. follow, win, eat, read (there's an object, we just don't say it explicitly: when we say "I read" there's a book or newspaper in there somewhere, we just don't mention it)
- ambitransitive verbs, where Subject=Object, called also "inchoative-causative"* verb pairs, e.g. melt, trip (one may argue that those are just two different verbs in a pair, that in some languages they just "look the same", so in English "to break something" semantically doesn't equal "to break on it's own" - in this light the existence of transitive/intransitive verb pairs in Japanese is a natural thing, and English is the weird one)
Depending on the language, the verb can fall into different categories.
inchoative = denoting an aspect of a verb expressing the beginning of an action, typically one occurring of its own accord.