Kanji with Implicit Insights


The Japanese government revealed the name of the new nation’s era as “Reiwa (令和)” on April 1. The government says that the English translation of the new era name is “beautiful harmony.” This translation comes from the kanji characters instead of the sound, hiragana, or katakana.

Kanji characters tell the meaning visually and instantly

Kanji characters tell what the word means concisely. Taking an example of a book reading (読書): “Doku (読)” means reading, and “Sho (書)” means a book. “読書” is compact in writing, compared to the sentence: “本を読む.”

You find that most Japanese have Kanji characters for their family and given names. Kanji characters for family names, including Sato (佐藤) and Suzuki (鈴木), mainly come from geographical origins and family roots.

You also find that parents use Kanji characters for naming their babies in Japan. According to Meiji Yasuda Insurance Company’s survey, the most popular girls’ names for 2018 were 結月, 結愛, and 結菜. The most popular boys’ names were: 蓮, 湊, and 大翔. The parents select Kanji characters that bring luck and are memorable. Kanji: 結 was popular for girls’ names because the kanji has positive meanings of connecting and fruitful.

Kanji characters are also convenient for generations of artwork images. For example, the following illustration expresses the appreciation: 感謝 by showing the smiling face in the Kanji character.

Kansha (appreciation)

Kanji remains hard to pronounce

People sometimes make mistakes for pronouncing kanji characters in the wrong way. An example is 重複 (Choufuku) for duplication in English. Some people pronounce it Juufuku, not Choufuku. However, people understand the meaning of the word by looking at the Kanji. Other examples of hard-to-pronounce words are fish names in Kanji, such as 鯖(Saba), 鰹(Katsuo), 鮪(Maguro), and 鰊(Nishin).

Kanji features high-context culture

Kanji characters help people to understand the in-depth meaning of the words without detailed explanations. Therefore, Kanji characters are convenient for communications if you know the context of the Kanji characters.

However, you cannot assume that everyone understands the true meaning of Kanji. What we expect more is explanations about what Kanji characters mean. Kanji characters can be the starter to know more about the word and the context.

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