The Most Popular Writing System in Japan: An Overview

Choose the writing system you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 18, 2024 07:44
Welcome to StrawPoll, the ultimate platform for sharing your opinions and discovering the most popular choices! Today, we invite you to dive into the rich world of Japanese writing systems and help us rank "What is the most popular writing system in Japan?" From the intricate strokes of Kanji to the simplicity of Hiragana and the versatility of Katakana, which one holds the top spot in your heart? Cast your vote now and make your voice heard! And if we've missed a hidden gem, don't hesitate to suggest it as an option. Let's embark on this fascinating linguistic journey together, and unveil the true fan-favorite writing system of the Land of the Rising Sun!

What Is the Most Popular Writing System in Japan?

  1. 1
    Hiragana is one of the two syllabic writing systems used in Japan. It is the most basic and commonly used writing system in Japan. It is used to write native Japanese words and grammatical elements.
  2. 2
    Katakana is the second syllabic writing system used in Japan. It is used to write foreign words and loanwords in Japanese. It is also used for emphasis and for words that are not commonly used.
    Katakana is a Japanese writing system that is one of the three scripts used in the Japanese writing system along with Hiragana and Kanji. It is a syllabary, consisting of 46 characters that represent specific sounds or syllables.
    • Usage: Katakana is primarily used for loanwords from other languages, onomatopoeic words, scientific and technical terms, and emphasis in written text.
    • Appearance: Katakana characters are angular and have straight strokes compared to Hiragana characters.
    • Sound: Each Katakana character represents a specific sound or syllable in the Japanese language.
    • Characters: Katakana consists of 46 basic characters, including syllables from 'a' to 'n', with additional characters for extended sounds.
    • Transformations: Katakana can be transformed into different forms, such as small characters (dakuten) or elongated characters (chōonpu), to represent different sounds.
  3. 3
    Kanji is a system of ideographic characters borrowed from Chinese characters. It is used to write Japanese words and can be used to express complex ideas. It is considered to be the most difficult writing system to learn.
    Kanji is a writing system used in Japan that consists of Chinese characters. It is one of the three writing scripts used in the Japanese language, along with Hiragana and Katakana. Kanji characters are ideograms, representing ideas or meanings rather than individual sounds or phonetic elements.
    • Number of Characters: There are approximately 50,000 Kanji characters, but the education system in Japan focuses on a set of around 2,000 characters that are commonly used.
    • Complexity: Kanji characters can vary in complexity, ranging from simple strokes to more intricate combinations of radicals.
    • Usage: Kanji is used for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and parts of sentences in written Japanese. It is widely used in literature, newspapers, signs, and official documents.
    • Readings: Kanji characters can have multiple pronunciations, known as readings. These readings can be categorized into on'yomi (Chinese readings) and kun'yomi (native Japanese readings).
    • Stroke Order: Each Kanji character has a specific stroke order, which should be followed to maintain proper form and readability.
  4. 4
    Romaji is the romanization of the Japanese language. It is used to write Japanese words using the Roman alphabet. It is commonly used in textbooks, street signs, and other materials for non-Japanese speakers.
    Romaji is a writing system used to represent the sounds of the Japanese language using the Latin alphabet. It is derived from the term 'romanization'.
    • Phonetic Representation: Each character in Romaji corresponds to a specific sound or phoneme in the Japanese language.
    • Alphabet Adaptation: Romaji is based on the modern Latin alphabet with a few modifications to represent sounds unique to Japanese.
    • Reading Aid: Romaji is often used as a tool to assist non-native speakers in learning Japanese pronunciation.
    • Pronunciation Clarity: Romaji provides a clear representation of Japanese sounds, avoiding the ambiguities present in other writing systems.
    • Limited Usage: Romaji is mainly used in contexts where writing systems other than Japanese characters are required, such as in international communications or language learning materials.
  5. 5
    Furigana is a small kana syllabic script placed above or beside a kanji character to indicate its pronunciation. It is used to help readers who may not know the pronunciation of the kanji.
    Furigana is a Japanese writing system that provides phonetic readings of kanji characters. It is typically displayed above or beside the kanji to aid in their pronunciation and comprehension.
    • Usage: Common in printed materials like books and newspapers
    • Purpose: To assist readers in correctly pronouncing difficult kanji characters
    • Display: Furigana is displayed in small kana characters above or beside the corresponding kanji characters
    • Kana Types: Furigana can consist of hiragana or katakana characters
    • Applications: Used in educational materials, children's books, and dictionaries
  6. 6
    Braille is a tactile writing system used by people who are blind or visually impaired. It is used to write Japanese words and is based on the Japanese braille system.
    Braille is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired. It is widely recognized as the standard method of reading, writing, and communicating for individuals with visual disabilities. Consisting of raised dots embossed on paper, Braille allows users to feel the characters with their fingertips, enabling them to interpret and understand written information.
    • Invented in: 1824
    • Characters: Consists of combinations of six dots arranged in two columns of three dots each
    • Languages supported: Braille can be transcribed into various languages, including English, French, and many others
    • Reading direction: Read horizontally from left to right
    • Literacy rates: High literacy rates among Braille readers due to its effective communication method
  7. 7
    Handwriting is a form of writing that is unique to each individual. It is commonly used in Japan for personal communication and for writing notes.
    Handwriting is a beautiful and unique style of writing in the English alphabet that combines artistry and personal expression. Each individual's handwriting is distinct, making it a personal and intimate form of communication. Handwriting can be both cursive or print, and it is often used for personal letters, notes, and signatures.
    • Variety: Handwriting encompasses a wide range of styles and variations, each reflecting the personality and preferences of the writer.
    • Artistry: Handwriting allows for artistic flourishes, decorative elements, and personalized touches that can transform the written word into a visual representation of the writer's creativity.
    • Legibility: While handwriting can vary greatly, legibility is an important aspect. Well-formed letters and consistent spacing contribute to the readability of the text.
    • Emotional Connection: Handwriting carries a sense of intimacy and emotional connection, as it is a physical representation of the writer and their thoughts.
    • Authenticity: Handwriting is a form of self-expression that cannot be easily replicated digitally, emphasizing the uniqueness and authenticity of each individual's writing.
  8. 8
    Emoji are small digital images or icons used to express emotions or ideas. They are becoming increasingly popular in Japan as a form of communication.
    Emoji is a widely-used and highly popular writing system in Japan. It consists of small pictographs or icons that can be used to express emotions, ideas, or objects. These pictographs are commonly used in text messages, social media posts, and digital communication to enhance the meaning and tone of the message.
    • Origin: Emoji originated in Japan in the late 1990s.
    • Unicode Standard: Emoji characters are encoded within the Unicode Standard.
    • Variety: There are currently thousands of emoji available, including smileys, animals, objects, flags, and more.
    • Compatibility: Emoji can be used across various platforms, such as smartphones, computers, and web applications.
    • Global Usage: Emoji is not limited to Japan and has gained widespread usage globally.
  9. 9
    Calligraphy is a form of handwriting that is considered an art form in Japan. It is used to write kanji and other scripts using a brush and ink.
    Calligraphy is a visual art form that involves the design and execution of elegant and decorative handwriting. It is characterized by flowing lines, precise strokes, and attention to detail. Calligraphy is often used in artistic and ceremonial writing, such as wedding invitations, certificates, and religious texts.
    • Styles: Calligraphy encompasses various styles and scripts, including Gothic, Italic, Copperplate, Uncial, and more.
    • Tools: Calligraphy is executed using specialized tools, such as pens, brushes, quills, or reeds. Each tool offers a unique effect and flexibility.
    • Ink: Ink is an essential component of calligraphy. Traditional calligraphy ink is made from natural materials, such as carbon black, while modern variations include various colors.
    • Letterforms: The art of calligraphy emphasizes the beauty and proportions of letterforms. Each letter is carefully crafted using specific strokes and techniques.
    • Line Variation: Calligraphy showcases a wide range of line thickness and variation. Thin and thick lines are achieved through pressure control or pen angle adjustments.
  10. 10

    Sign Language

    Japanese deaf community
    Japanese Sign Language is a visual language used by the deaf community in Japan. It is used to communicate ideas and emotions through hand gestures and facial expressions.
    Japanese Sign Language (JSL) is the most commonly used sign language in Japan. It is primarily used by deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to communicate with one another and with the hearing community.
    • Origin: Developed in the early 20th century by merging various regional sign languages.
    • Handshape: Uses a combination of handshapes, movements, and facial expressions to convey meaning.
    • Word Order: Follows a subject-object-verb (SOV) structure, similar to Japanese spoken language.
    • Grammar: Incorporates visual grammar elements such as classifiers, spatial agreement, and topic-comment structure.
    • Vocabulary: Has a lexicon specifically developed for everyday conversation and a separate set of signs for technical and specialized terminology.

Missing your favorite writing system?


Ranking factors for popular writing system

  1. Education
    which writing system is taught in schools, and to what extent?
  2. History
    how long has each writing system been in use and how has it evolved over time?
  3. Cultural significance
    which writing system has the greatest cultural importance and impact on Japanese society and history?

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular writing system in Japan. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or Orthography is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 176 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each Orthography once every 24 hours. The rank of each Orthography is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most popular writing system in japan

Japan has a rich and diverse culture, and its writing system is no exception. The Japanese language uses a combination of three scripts: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are syllabic scripts that are used to write native Japanese words, while kanji is a logographic script borrowed from Chinese characters that are used to represent concepts and words. Hiragana and katakana consist of 46 characters each, and they are relatively simple to learn. Hiragana is used for grammatical particles and verb endings, while katakana is used for loanwords, onomatopoeia, and emphasis. Kanji, on the other hand, consists of thousands of characters, and it takes years of study to master. Each kanji character has its own meaning and pronunciation, and it can be combined with other characters to create compound words. Despite the complexity of the writing system, it is an essential part of Japanese culture and communication. Understanding the nuances of each script is crucial for reading and writing in Japanese, and it is a lifelong pursuit for many Japanese people.

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