Japanese writing systems
Japanese uses a combination of the following four writing systems:
- Kanji: Chinese characters, introduced to Japan via Korea around the third or fourth
century AD, are primarily used for word roots and stems. There may be as many as
50,000 kanji characters, though only 5,000 to 10,000 are commonly used.
- Hiragana: 46 phonetic symbols, representing all the sounds of the Japanese language,
curvilinear in style, used mainly for grammatical elements of Japanese such as verb
and adjective endings and particles.
- Katakana: 46 phonetic symbols, representing the same sounds as hiragana, more angular
in style and used to write words imported into Japanese from other languages including
- Romaji: the Roman alphabet used to write words as they sound in Japanese.
Translating names into Japanese
Foreign names are normally transliterated into Japanese using the katakana writing
system. However, kanji are likely to be considered more interesting and attractive
by Westerners for name translation because of their beauty and meanings. In addition,
hiragana could be considered appealing because of its curvilinear style. The romaji
translation provided here will give you an indication of how a Japanese person would
say your name.
If you have tried to translate your name using Kanji Zone's name translator and
you get the message "not available" check whether our name database
contains an alternative spelling of your name. If you find that your name is not
listed and you would like us to consider including it in our database, please contact us with details (including gender and pronunciation
information and where possible alternative spellings) and we will review adding
your name to the database.
Read more about Japanese name translation.
How to write Japanese
Kanji and kana (hiragana and katakana) characters are written according to established
principles of stroke order with "top to bottom" and "left to right" being the most
important. A knowledge of these principles is extremely important to achieve the
proper shape of the characters. Click on the play button below to see the stroke
order for the kanji character for "Ai" (love).
Traditionally, as in Chinese, Japanese text is written from "top to bottom" and
"right to left". Click on the play button below to see how this extract from Houjouki
(an ancient Japanese essay) is written.
The beauty of kanji has been expressed for centuries in calligraphy, the art of
drawing characters with a brush. Nowadays, with the aid of computers and modern
printing technology, it is possible to print perfectly formed kanji and kana characters
in a variety of colours and styles on T-shirts and other apparel. In addition to
the T-shirts you can design and buy using our image editor, Kanji Zone offers a
selection of Japanese themed designs on T-shirts and sweatshirts etc. made to order
via US based Print on Demand webshops Printfection and Zazzle .