"Usually written using kana alone"

Frequently when I encounter a new Japanese word written in kana (used by my Japanese language partners, most of the time) and look it up in jisho it turns out it can be written using Kanji as well, but the most common meaning invariably carries the note “usually written using kana alone”. (Unlike someone said in this thread, I mostly find that jisho is mostly right in that my correspondents indeed write the word in kana.) A few recent examples I can recall off the cuff are ついて (concerning), じっと (still, motionless), and the very useful ほとんど (almost all), but it happens a lot.

I confess I am usually somewhat disappointed. Here I am learning kanji, but apparently Japanese people are somewhat reluctant to use them, at least for common words. :slight_smile:

What’s the reason, I wonder, for writing words in kana that can be written using kanji? All the reasons usually cited when arguing that kanji are useful - e.g. for disambiguation, determining word boundaries in a sentence written without spaces between the words, and so on - would apply. Very often in a long phrase written mostly in kana I have problems to separate the words, e.g. is に at the end of a word a particle or part of an adverb, and so on.

In learning kanji, are we maybe pursuing some traditional cultural technique that’s already a bit on the way out? :open_mouth:


See here plenty of kanjis. They are not going to disappear anytime soon.


I mean, yes, these words are usually not written with kanji (although I must say that I come across 殆ど (ほとんど)quite often)

Anyways, don’t worry about it. Just because you don’t have to use the kanji version doesn’t mean that other people wont.

I have seen loads of 此れ(これ)、其れ(それ)etc when reading lines from fictional characters. It gives of a certain vibe that probably wont suit your everyday LINE conversation with your friends.


A lot of words that are super commonly used as a kind of grammatical glue just don’t use kanji for largely practical (and aesthetic) reasons. The same thing happens when a word that is typically written in kanji gets used as an abstract auxiliary, like 行く > いく.

If some day it became very unusual for 行く to be used for a concrete motion meaning, its kanji would likely get rarer.


If it makes you feel better, I see 殆ど from time to time. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:



not at all.






I think it is for aesthetic reasons. “Maximum Kanji” is possible, but that’s just one approach, and the current usage still has a fairly high density of Kanji. All hiragana, or even all katakana have been approaches used as well.

I think the more particle-like the word gets, the less it deserves a Kanji, unless you are emphasizing the word. For helping verbs like なる, いる, ある, する (which presumably were around long before Kanji was introduced), the use of Kanji seems inauthentic (成る 有る 居る 為る).

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Also, if you want kanji just spend some time with Japanese pop music and you’ll be assaulted with not only kanji but irregular kanji and archaic kanji.

And if you look up Ringo Shiina’s songs you’ll be treated to archaic kana usage AND English words with kanji!

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Trust me. Kanji is used all day every day here. If you ever come to Japan, you need to know kanji to survive.

For some reason, it does seem like a lot of adverbs use hiragana over kanji (like とにかく instead of 兎に角), but most things use kanji. They’re really useful because Japanese has so many homophones. It would be incredibly difficult to understand a lot of texts written exclusively in hiragana.

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I think that to a certain extent autocompletions on smartphones may actually lead to an increased use in kanji as they suggest kanji for words that are frequently (but obviously not exclusively) used in kana or that people would write in kana when writing by hand, e.g. 綺麗 instead of きれい, 美味しい instead of おいしい, 出来る instead of できる etc – at least that’s what I’ve noticed specifically when texting with Japanese friends.

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Pretty much all non-する verbs where. The use of kun’yomi (not to mention the okurigana) is a giveaway.

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You will still see kanji for those words from time to time. For example, even if only 1% of people write 有り難う御座います instead of ありがとうございます, because it’s a common expression you still see it a lot.

Is this a reference to something like The Tale of Genji? Japanese people read versions that are translated into modern Japanese when they do read it, unless they are specifically studying the classical version.

But you might have had something else in mind.

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I think I read actually earlier today that even when Tale of Genji was written, the language she used to write it was already out of date by 200~ years. So if it was out of date when it was written then I’m sure that hardly anyone reads it in that format. A bit like not many people read Beowulf in Old English.

Funnily enough, I have a friend here who had the same exact thoughts on kanji - why are we using kanji when so many people just use the kana for them, particularly online and in messaging? What’s the point in putting in all this effort to learn them? Then she started taking online Japanese classes and has been sending me messages on the regular about how much she hates that there’s little to no kanji being used. To quote her, “It’s so hard to read sentences. I never thought I would miss kanji this much.” So keep that in mind. Kanji are annoying until they’re not there :joy:


Yeah, that’s the standard pattern we’ve been coming across time and time again in the なぜ?どうして? book clubs.

  1. Why are there so many kanji?
  2. Why are there so few kanji!?

I mean…yes, there are…when they study them as high school students, or at university, or if they read them in a modern Japanese translation. Most Japanese people I know can’t read bungo/kobun.