How do people read kanji in normal size fonts?

Just pointing out that most of us are beginning readers (in Japanese). Notice that most English-language children’s books are printed with large type. Is that because children have poor eyesight in general? Not at all. It’s because they haven’t yet had enough years of practice reading text so that the letter-forms are immediately recognizable even in small sizes. As books become targeted towards older audiences, the type size becomes rather smaller as a rule. Until you get to large-type books aimed at people with failing eyesight.

So what I’m saying, is that it’s (probably) not that your eyes are bad, or that the print is too small (assuming that it’s aimed at Japanese readers who aren’t small children). It’s that our eyes aren’t yet good enough, and don’t have years of experience (10,000 hours?) at recognizing the characters.

And yes, I also often need a magnifying glass to read Japanese text, because I’m in the same boat.


Regarding furigana in manga, I guess it just depends on where you’re getting your scans from and how old the title is. Most of the manga I buy (off Bookwalker) is really clear, and you can zoom in a lot without it getting blurry. Hence why digital is the only way I’ll ever read JP manga, it’s so much clearer, and with higher contrast than print on paper. But the it does seem to vary from series to series (or more likely, publisher to publisher), depending on the quality of the source materials.

Anyway yeah I sympathize with the OP here. But as others have said all you can do is get more and more experience, to the point where most of the time you’re not trying to figure out the kanji from scratch, but rather simply looking for some distinguishing feature to make the decision using context. When you’re a beginner, it feels like every smudgy kanji could be one of hundreds, but the more experience you get the more you can intuitively narrow down the options.

A good example of this is when you’re reading a manga and have to transition from nice, clear, machine-printed dialogue in speech bubbles to the hand-written asides that fall outside them. Initially I found those all but impossible to make out. These days they can still be a struggle, but I’m often surprised to find myself understanding what’s being said even when some of the kanji are utterly unrecognizable in isolation.

Just read, read, read, and read some more.


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