The written Japanese language is composed of  3 sets of characters (4 if you include the Roman). They are the katakana, hiragana, and the kanji. The katakana and hirigana are simple phonetic alphabets, and interestingly were not invented until the 9th century C.E. Kanji are the ancient characters imported from China.

There are thousands of kanji, and although relatively new in Japan, they have been alive and evolving in China for thousands of years. Each character is a symbol for a certain idea or thing. There are multiple ways to read each kanji, both phonetically and in their meaning. The sheer amount of the kanji and the similarities between them make them difficult to learn at times, but there are very effective methods to systematize this process and I really enjoy learning them.


With these ancient symbols, all elements of language have meaning. There are reasons why things are named the way they are named. There are interrelationships and roots to be discovered everywhere. Life becomes fertile with meaning and opportunity for new discovery, and once learned, they actually make written language much easier.

It’s interesting to discover the entomology behind the kanki as well. Many of them originated as pictographs and sort of evolved away from their original forms over time.  A few examples:


I sort of wish we systematized them throughout the world (remember, they are not phonetic letters, they are symbols, and can thus be appropriated by any language). There have been many linguists who have proposed willfully modifying or creating new languages with intent, rather than just using the arbitrary constructions that have been handed down to us for the past few thousand years. I doubt the world would be willing to adopt the Chinese system, but I think it would be interesting to see what would happen to human thinking if we all adopted a system of symbols like this.

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