Kanji(漢字) is actively used to write most content words of native Japanese or (historically) Chinese origin, which consists of the following:
- most nouns, like 学校 (gakkō, “school”) and 川 (kawa, “river”)
- the stems of most verbs and adjectives, like 白 in 白い (Shiro-i, “white”) and 見 in 見る (mi-ru, “see”)
- the stems of many adverbs, like 上手 as in 上手に (jōzu-ni, “masterfully”) and 速 in 速く (haya-ku, “quickly”)
- most Japanese personal and place names, like 東京 (Tōkyō) and 田中 (Tanaka). (Certain names may be written in katakana or hiragana, or some combination of these and kanji.)
Some Japanese words are written with different kanji which depends on the specific usage of the word—for example, the word naosu(to cure, or to fix) is written 直すwhen it refers to setting an object and 治す when it relates to curing a person. Most kanji have more than one possible pronunciation, and some common kanji have many. Nonstandard or unusual readings may be glossed using furigana. Kanji compounds are sometimes given inconsistent readings due to stylistic purposes. For instance, in Natsume Sōseki’s short story The Fifth Night, the author uses 接続って for tsunagatte, which is the gerundive -teform of the verb tsunagaru(“to connect”), which would usually be written as つながって or 繋がって. The word 接続, meaning “connection,” is traditionally pronounced setsuzoku. There are even some kanji terms that have pronunciations that correspond with neither the kun’yomi nor the on’yomi readings of the individual kanji within the term, like 大人 (otona, “adult”) or 明日 (Ashita, “tomorrow”).
The Latin alphabet is commonly used to write the following:
- Latin-alphabet acronyms and initialisms, such as UFO or NATO
- Corporate brands, Japanese personal names, and other words intended for international use (for instance, in passports, on business cards, etc.)
- foreign names, phrases, and words, frequently in scholarly contexts
- foreign words deliberately rendered to impart an international flavor, like in case of commercial contexts
other Japanized words derived or originated from foreign languages, such as Tシャツ (tī shatsu, “T-shirt”), Jリーグ (Jei rīgu, “J. League”) or B級グルメ (spelled as bī-kyū gurume, “B-rank gourmet [local and cheap cuisines]”).
Arabic numerals (as opposed to traditional kanji numerals) are generally used to write numbers in the parallel text.
Hentaigana(変体仮名), represents a set of archaic kana made obsolete after the Meiji reformation. It is sometimes used to impart an archaic flavor, like in case of different items of foods (esp. soba).
Jukujikunrefers to instances in which words are written using kanjireflecting the meaning of the word through the pronunciation of the word is entirely unrelated to the usual pronunciations of the constituent kanji. Conversely, atejirefers to the employment of kanjithat appears only for representing the sound of the compound word but is, conceptually, unrelated to the signification of the word. Such admitted oddities, with the necessity for the furigana mentioned above, a script component that annotates another script component for the assistance of the non-scholar were too complicated. The complexity led the British diplomat and linguist, Sir George Sansom, to express his opinion by saying that it is hard to find an epithet to describe a system of writing, which is so complex that it requires the aid of another method to explain it. There is no doubt that it provides for some fascinating field of study, but as a practical instrument, it is undoubtedly without inferiors.