Significance of writing in kanji vs. writing in kana?

So, I set up a save file for Shiren on Switch so I can at least try and go for Japanese text a little more often. It didn’t take me too long to notice something that I felt was a little strange (outside of me struggling to read out most of the text, let alone comprehending it).
Within a minute or so, one character (an older woman) says 大丈夫 and shortly after, another character says だいじょうぶ. Is that difference indicative of something, like what these characters are as people? Does it depend on the context it’s said in? In the first instance, it’s said to someone as a question, while in the second it’s an observation about that someone.


Is the second character fairly young? It’s not uncommon for characters to only “speak” using the kanji they would know at their age.


I think this is mostly a stylistic choice the writer makes in order to build characters a certain way, as you have also considered. I suspect that the criteria for the decision varies, but seanblue’s suggestion is probably a common criteria.

Age is kinda hard to gauge here since the character’s in question is a talking ferret who serves to give the player character a voice since he’s silent. At least from the English translation, he doesn’t make the impression of being very young.

I guess for context I’d better put up the relevant screenshots:

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Maybe first one is in kanji to avoid a line break, and second one is in hiragana to fill the line and thus have 3 lines balanced in size ?

I got it explained like this by a Japanese woman. It’s solely a stylistic choice:

Using Hiragana: Cute
Using Kanji: Not cute

So it’s just down to what you want to convey. My friend often uses Hiragana for words that generally are written in Kanji, and she always just gave me the above explanation when I asked. Also I think older Japanese people tend to use more Kanji, I assume because it used to be more important to know and use many Kanji, which would fit with your above example.

You will also sometimes see katakana for words that have kanji or are usually written in hiragana. Murakami does this a lot apparently (I haven’t read his works in Japanese yet), a friend of mine had a whole class about it in Japanese literature. This also just gives a different emphasis on the word.


Looks like “rule of threes” to me. The old lady says three things, using about the same number of characters. The otter says three lines of text, about the same length. Of the Kanjiable words the otter says, だうじょうぶ is the most kana-able, so it gets booted down to kana in order to make the lines about the same length and pleasing to the eye,


Complimenting what @staubhold mentioned, hiragana has a more cutesy feel to it, excessive kanji has an academic/stuffy/old/arrogant feel to it, and katakana has a bit of an italics feel to it. Then, on top of that, writers may mix between them just to avoid an ugly block of kana or kanji, or for formatting reasons.


Yesterday when I was reading Murakami, I actually noticed the same character say かもしれない three times in the same ‘monologue’ (part of a conversation, but he was uninterrupted), but the first instance was in kanji (かも知れない), while the others were in kana… No idea why, though!


In the VN I’m playing now (Sakura Strasse) yesterday I’ve seen a line in protagonist’s internal monologue (aka narration :wink: ) that had something like […]金かねカネの世界[…] - I assumed that he wanted to emphasise that the world is all about money (and money and also money :wink: ), but at first I was like… ちょっと待って?


the manga I was reading today seemed to have some random switching. Pretty sure there was おれ オレ and 俺 within a few pages.

It’s the same in Ace attorney, maybe even worse, because the writer seems to strive to always have a balance of 1/3 kanji 1/3 hiragana 1/3 katakana on every screen, so every rules fly out of the window :grinning:


Wild katakana appearing out of nowhere always breaks my flow :stuck_out_tongue: I think I recently saw a line where there was kanji, hiragana, and katakana mixed in single word - perhaps to convey the mayhem that was happening around and general confusion of the speaker.


I like that, it’s better than looking up too many unknown Kanji. You’re level 60 already so, who knows :smiley:

On the topic: I wonder if the average Japanese person even notices or cares? I seriously have no idea :smiley:

This is the first time I’ve come across “rule of threes” regarding language. Can someone explain the concept to me? Cursory googling provided nothing.

I meant that it makes the video game text look nicer


This phrase made my day/night. It just gave me the silliest image in my head … I think I’ve probably been playing PokémonGO too much. :crazy_face: