How Japanese people deal with kanji they don't know how to read?

I use Kaku Japanese Dictionary (OCR) on android because it’s convenient and Yomichan with monolingual dictionaries on my browser, but what do the natives use?

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I think they usually just draw it, honestly. Theres a lot of handwriting recognition stuff out there.


They either: draw it at a recognition tool; make an educated reading guess (phonetic patterns) and try it at the IME or a dictionary (works pretty well for more uncommon Kanji); or search it in a Kanji dictionary using the traditional way, radical index and stroke number.

There really isn’t much left one could do other than straight up ignoring it


There was a video “that Japanese man Yuta” made a while ago about asking Japanese people what a certain kanji was. There they used the phonetic patterns of kanji to guess at a reading, even if it was basically brand new to them.


Here’s a link to prolly the correct video, couldn’t check


wow, this is crazy! i had no idea so many people would struggle to write vocab by hand in japan.

i fully understand why it’s hard for a language learner but i expected more correct answers from native speakers.

i wonder if this means they’ll switch to kana within another couple generations.

That one’s with them trying to write kanji from memory, I believe the one you were looking for was this one:


I kinda feel like there are too many homonyms to get rid of kanji entirely, but I think in handwritten things you’d see fewer kanji. Just because you can recognize and know a kanji when you see it (like when you’re reading or you’re looking for the right one in IME) doesn’t mean you can write it completely from memory

Probably the rise of digital technology is what led to people generally knowing how to write fewer kanji from memory since they don’t have to write them as much, but also it’s for the exact same reasons that kanji probably aren’t going anywhere. With digital input, you only have to be able to recognize it when you see it, after all

Iirc those kanji weren’t obvious at all or common, that’s why. Also same guy has a video on why Japanese use kanji. Tl;dr kana only text just isn’t readable, so don’t expect them to ever switch.

Thank you, indeed that was it.

i realise that it’s hard to read even at my level but if you add spaces between words, i don’t think it would be that difficult.

latin used to be written without spaces. i remember trying to decipher some in school and it was really hard so we wrote french without spaces as well and we struggled badly to read our own language.

recognition is far easier than recall for sure. but the reading would be much easier is the units were separated by spaces. when i read example sentences with some words in kana because we have not learned the kanji yet, i struggle with figuring out where things start and end. if that hurdle is removed, i can’t see why text written in kana would be unreadable. kanji are prettier fosho!


Japan is a technologically advanced society. In a couple of decades, they will just project their thoughts directly to each other’s brain. No need for any writing systems.


Aaaah, that’s not really exactly true; I just read a short story collection and one of the stories was written in full hiragana (the book even won the Akutagawa Prize so the jury seemed to like it at least :grin:). At first I found it a bit hard but after a while I got used to it. (Of course there were no spaces in the story.)

Also, during the Meiji Restoration various people thought about getting rid of kanji altogether and replacing them by kana or romaji; you can read up on that history if you are interested in why they still kept the kanji.


Don’t they already do that? Japanese people are already mind readers afterall

Nah it’s called KY for a reason. They still need some years before it gets to MY(mind yomu).

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