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Texas ISD School Guide
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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Japanese Symbols
By:Richard Truthteller

Japanese symbols are broken down into three major categories; kanji, katakana and hiragana. Kanji symbols are the more intricate ones that you are probably used to seeing. Kanji is used to express words only in Japanese by representing sounds that make up a word. Japanese Kanji find their origins in Chinese kanji. Japanese Kanji can be used on their own or in conjunction with other kanji and can be a noun or verb or adjective. They can have multiple meanings and can be used alongside hiragana.

Hiragana is used primarily to express words native to the Japanese language. Hiragana can be used to express vowels.

Katakana is used to represent foreign words, which could not be expressed using kanji. Katakana can be used to express sounds. Since the Japanese pronunciation of foreign words is frequently different than their native pronunciation, the katakana can represent something that sounds very different to those outside Japan.

Taken together, Japanese and Chinese symbols have become very popular in western society as artwork, tattoos and decor on household articles. While most people in the west have no idea of their meaning, their intricate design, especially kanji, is fascinating and appealing. Accurate translation of Japanese characters becomes necessary though, since many an unsuspecting westerner has displayed their new kanji tattoo, only to later find out that it means something entirely different.

The author is an American married to a Japanese woman. They were married in Tokyo, Japan. The author and his wife spend a lot of time translating Japanese and English documents and websites. The author's wife owns an on-line store that sells products displaying Japanese symbols Examples of Japanese symbols can be found at Symbolic-symbols.com

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