Japan's Opinion on Furigana

This topic is not limited to strictly Japanese people but it is aimed towards those who currently live in Japan or have done so in the past. However I welcome anyone to contribute to this topic!

As I understand, furigana is not endorsed by the Almighty @koichi and for a very good reason. I think that his reasoning was that the reader should be able to read their chosen texts by knowing the kanji alone. By over-relying on furigana you’re not reading kanji but hiragana/katakana–which is not learning Japanese. In the same way that riding a bike is not the same as riding a normal bike with a fancy bell and streamers that hang at the end of the handlebars. Ding! Ding!

(If I’m misattributing, please find it in your heart to forgive this disciple.)

But how about Japanese people? Do they see furigana as a bad thing which hinders learning actual Japanese or do they see it as a supplement?

1 Like

Well, I mean, Japanese people don’t need to learn Japanese in the sense that we do, of course. I’m sure there are Japanese people who look down on people who read manga that put furigana on literally every single kanji character, even if it’s meant for teens, but I also see why sometimes people don’t want to have to think hard when they’re looking for entertainment.


Actually manga was what sparked this question of mine. I’ve noticed that shonen manga which is aimed for kids/teens contains furigana whereas seinen manga which are aimed towards a mature audience hardly has any. Which had me thinking if Japanese people “grow” out of it. Of course, you hit the mark when you say that native Japanese don’t need to learn is the same way foreigners do.

1 Like

I think furigana actually help you learn to read Japanese, but you should grow out of 日=ひ eventually. Learning Japanese and learning kanji is not always the same, it is a good thing to cover a page without spending 90% of the time looking up readings you have already heard.

In Japan the furigana are put appropriately to the expected ability of the audience, with furigana for exceptional readings or kanji for adults. They appear in the usual news and TV programs as well.


Havent lived in Japan but doubt they really care. Joyo Kanji, as far as I understand, is the Kanji taught in compulsory education so Natives would be expected to know everything there.

Shounen target audience is 12-18, on the lower end (6th grade) they would have only learned about half of Joyo so its not surprising that theres a lot more furigana. They learn the rest in the next three years.

My guess is that koichi’s hard stance is more intended to push learners away from being dependent on furigana, especially for those that have put off learning Kanji.


Well, I do see some manga that are clearly not intended for elementary school children that do have things like 日 (ひ) because they just put furigana on literally everything. I don’t think they actually think kindergartners who haven’t learned 日 yet are gonna read it.

1 Like

I haven’t seen that, but in that case you are probably right that it is for “light entertainment”. But doesn’t it get distracting with all that redundant information instead?

I just dug up a 小学生新聞 and every single kanji on the page had a furigana reading on it. Do a google search for one if you want and you’ll see the same thing. I’ve browsed my town’s library for children’s books occasionally and the younger the audience the more you’re gonna find furigana—that also applies to materials written for a wider audience of young kids, such as the aforementioned 小学生新聞 or shonen manga.

I haven’t specifically asked coworkers about it but the prevalence of furigana on materials targeted at kids from kindergarten up through middle school leads me to believe that the Japanese opinion toward them is that they’re valuable for people who are still expected to be learning kanji. As anyone who has studied written Japanese for any length of time can agree, looking up words when you don’t have the readings is a painstaking time-consuming process that could be better spent doing something else.

I also entirely do understand the importance of ditching (most) furigana eventually, which is probably where materials targeted more specifically toward a certain age/grade (in terms of Japanese children) or a certain proficiency level (for foreigners learning Japanese) comes into play.


If only kids material had regular kanji writing with all furigana… Very often they are written in a strange mix of kanji and hiragana with no rhyme or reason… The book I’m reading right now is targeting the 6-8 years old range and somehow it manage to systematically write some very easy stuff in Kanji/hiragana mix (like “名まえ” and “両がわ”) while also using quite often difficult kanji (high school kanji, and sometimes not in wanikani like 妖精). It even use a non-jouyou kanji at some point !! (斧 おの axe)


It’s pretty common actually. Aria has furigana for everything. So did Non Non Biyori.

It’s easy to ignore most of the time, but yes, it’s occasionally distracting. Some manga (like Aria) actually use it to add more information. For example, in-world they call Earth “Manhome”, and it’s written like 地球マンホーム in the manga. So rather than needing a bunch of (potentially awkward) exposition to explain that Earth is now called “Manhome”, the reader can just see that this thing called マンホーム means 地球.


I don’t think it’s necessarily considered good or bad. But rather just an obvious necessity. There’s a very specific list of kanji that you learn in each grade in Japan. So it’s expected that if you’re in grade x, you know y amount of kanji. And therefore, reading material targeted at a specific age group will include furigana for all the kanji that said age group is expected to not yet have learned.

Even in reading material for adults, you often find furigana for very obscure kanji that no one is expected to have learned in all their years of school.

I also have a hunch that a native Japanese person’s eye would naturally gravitate towards the kanji instead of the furigana. Opposite to what happens with us learning it as a second language. This is just an assumption based on watching my wife (native Japanese) read text with furigana. I think her brain just automatically tunes out the furigana cause it’s so so much faster to just glance at the kanji and be able to read it in half the number of characters.


Isn’t it also in Aria that furigana are used sometimes to carry double meaning ? The regular text tell what the character say, but the furigana tell what the character think (often way less flattering :grinning: ) That was really an interesting usage.


Aria does that occasionally, but not often. 約束のネバーランド (volume 1 at least) did that all the time.


One difference I’ve noticed between material for learners and manga is that material for foreign learners tends to make the furigana large, clear, and easy to read. It’s hard sometimes to make yourself look at the kanji instead. That doesn’t happen so much with microscopic, barely legible furigana for natives. It takes more active concentration.


I was just thinking about this yesterday, lol. I was looking at some shonen manga and had to strain the hell out of my eyes to read the furigana for some words I didn’t know. The struggle is real.

That’s why large print manga is much nicer. The furigana is actually readable. :sweat_smile:

Yep, it’s very easy to read the furigana in Aria the Masterpiece. ご注文はうさぎですか is also large print, but… no furigana to speak of. :sweat_smile: (Those are the only two large print manga I’ve read.)

Hmm. I can’t say I relate to this problem, even in some relatively small-print books I have. I wonder why…

Furigana is definitely training wheels for native speakers (and really, for learners too). At least in the sense of appending every single kanji with it.

It’s worth noting that it’s still used occasionally even in adult-oriented prose, though. Mostly for names, but sometimes for obscure readings or vocabulary, non-joyou kanji, etc. For example, I’m currently reading a Yukiko Motoya short story collection in Japanese that breaks out furigana for vocabulary every once in a while, but doesn’t use it, say, 98 percent of the time. That’s pretty standard.

I do think that as a learner, you should be training yourself off of texts that are heavy on furigana. Not that you can’t read them (I’m still out here reading manga that has them all over the place), but you should definitely challenge yourself with texts that don’t include it too.


Maybe they like to switch it a bit :joy: