Japanese Kanji Symbols

Here you can learn more about the history and use of Japanese kanji symbols.

What symbols are used to write Japanese?
There are four kinds of symbols that make up four Japanese "alphabets" :
How many kanji symbols are used in Japanese?
There are said to be about 50,000 kanji characters in existence, of which a literate Japanese adult will be able to recognize about 3,500. Out of these 1,945 are officially recognized as "everyday" or jouyou kanji, and knowledge of about 1,000 kanji symbols is considered sufficient to read about 90% of the words in a Japanese newspaper.
How are kanji symbols used in Japanese?
  • Indicating core meaning

    Each Japanese "alphabet" has a particular function. Kanji are complex symbols called pictograms, meaning they convey information in a pictorial form. Kanji characters are used in the Japanese language to provide the root and core meaning of most nouns, adjectives and verbs. Hiragana symbols are often added after kanji as grammatical modifiers. For example, the Japanese kanji symbol for "eat" could be modified to mean "to eat", "ate" or "eating" by changing the hiragana characters that follow it:

    The kanji symbol meaning "eat" Japanese kanji symbol for eat
    Adding these two hiragana to the kanji now makes the infinitive or plain form - taberu. Japanese word - to eat
    Changing the hiragana characters makes
    the past form "ate" - tabemashita.
    Japanese word - ate
    Now with these hiragana characters added
    we have made "am / is eating" - tabeteiru
    Japanese word - eating
  • Japanese names

    Kanji symbols are also used to write names in Japanese. All Japanese family names and most Japanese first names are written in kanji. The kanji used in family names are often connected with natural phenomena. Common family names such as Matsuda (pine tree + field), Ishikawa (stone + river) or Nakata (middle of + a field) reveal Japan's agrarian past. The kanji characters used for Japanese first names are usually chosen for their meaning or based on a numerological interpretation of the number of brush strokes required to write them.

    You can buy an image of your name in kanji here.

What is the history of Japanese kanji symbols?
Japanese is thought to be related to the Ural-Altaic family of languages that includes Turkish, Mongolian, Manchu and Korean. An early form of Japanese existed from about the 3rd century AD. However, it wasn't until later that the Japanese gained the ability to write. The writing system they began to use was Chinese, imported from China and Korea along with a variety of technologies, political concepts and Buddhism. These imported Chinese characters remain in the Japanese language in the form of kanji characters. However, the difficulty in adapting the monosyllabic Chinese script to the polysyllabic Japanese language resulted in the development of hiragana and katakana symbols that are now used alongside kanji characters in written Japanese.
Popular kanji symbols
Some of these kanji characters are also available for downloading as calligraphy worksheets.
Japanese kanji symbol for dragon Japanese kanji symbol for love Japanese kanji symbol for strength
Kanji symbol for dragon Kanji symbol for love Kanji symbol for strength
Japanese kanji symbol for happiness Japanese kanji symbol for friendship Japanese kanji symbol for fire
Kanji symbol for happiness Kanji symbol for friendship Kanji symbol for fire
Related Information
(Please note that some sites require Japanese fonts installed. japanese-name-translation.com is not responsible for the content of external sites.) More information about kanji and Japanese