Katakana instead of hiragana/kanji

There was some discussion not too long ago about using hiragana instead of kanji. To get the full picture, I’d like to know when is katakana preferred instead of hiragana or kanji? There are two cases I’m thinking about:

  1. Personal pronouns: ボク, オレ. Someone mentioned that hiragana is more feminine than katakana and kanji, that’s why plain わたし can be seen. So what is emphasised by using katakana pronouns instead of kanji?
  2. The other one is the particle の, like in from Naruto. My guess here would be fanciness, similarly to using rarer kanji readings like the こ in 木ノ葉 or ほ in かげ.
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Katakana used to be the “main” kana for particles and okurigana. Hiragana only became the main one in like the last 100ish years? I don’t recall the exact timeline. So using katakana for particles makes something look old.


I didn’t know about that! I’ll be looking it up, sounds like an interesting turn of events.

Many Japanese people can feel that if a text contains too many kanji, it’s not really pretty, or easy to read, so sometimes they’ll go for kana instead of kanji. Another way to use katakana is similar to how we use italic, or maybe even bold text in English, to emphasize a word and make it stand out. That’s probably what’s going on with the first-person pronouns. As to why someone (or the writer, if it’s something like a manga) would do that, there’s lots of reasons. For example, in the manga I read, there are sometimes girls who use “boku” for themselves. Those will almost always be written in katakana, probably to draw the attention to the reader that they said something unusual.

Sometimes katakana can be used to denote the fact that the character saying the line is being unnatural about the way they’re saying it. Sometimes it can be used to denote foreigners speaking Japanese, sometimes is can denote the character reciting a line in monotone like reading off a script.

Unfortunately, it’s complicated.


Thanks for the exhaustive answer! This probably reflects that I still doesn’t read enough in Japanese, otherwise I would have encountered more uses of katakana. I heard about katakana being used similarly to italic, but haven’t really seen it myself. At least I won’t be that much surprised about it anymore.

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