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Should Japan Abolish Kanji?

Do you think kanji should be abolished ?

  • Yes (kanji make it difficullt to read and write Japanese)

    Votes: 46 13.1%
  • No (kanji are useful and fun to learn)

    Votes: 270 77.1%
  • Maybe

    Votes: 34 9.7%

  • Total voters


5 Mar 2005
This issue was raised up I think sometime before in Japan but it never got passed.

Do you think they should keep kanji? Kanji is makes it more difficult to learn Japanese, and hiragana and katagana could be used to write any word. Since Kanji is basically a copy of Chinese and hiragana and katagana are more Japanese unique, I don't see why kanji should be kept.

What do you think?
Without Kanji, Japanese would be much more difficult to read. I would think Japan would have gone insane if they do something like this or even consider it. Kanji is only an problem at first, but just because ti is hard doesn't mean it is there for no reason.
I am sure there are at least a dozen practical reasons to keep the kanji a part of Japanese orthography. Leaving those to the experts, I'll only comment on my personal interest in the kanjis.

The Chinese characters were borrowed by neighboring countries and cultures for over 2,000 years and possibly longer. While Japan, Korean, and old Vietnam preserved much of the language information in the form of various "kanji" readings, those of the Northern empires such as the Xiongnu, Xianbi, Norther Wei, Kitan, Xixia, Jin (Jurchen) and many others failed to preserve either language or ethnic identity.

As one of few remaiming depositories of ancient language infromation, the kanji tradition must be preserved for the study of the Japanese language and for comparative linguistics. If Japan should decide to forego with kanji altogether, that would be a great loss to Japan's cultural heritage of which modern science has only begun to scratch the surface. Hence I am all for preserving kanji, and strongly against abolishing it.
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I heard the abolishment of Kanji had been under consideration cause it takes a lot of space to program it into a computer or electronic. Also that many Japanese people are forgetting how to write Kanji, due to computers making it easier. I don't think the abolishment of Kanji would make reading a lot more difficult. Just reading a word in context, much like English people do with the words that have the same spelling. Although I'm wondering if spaces or dots might be needed between words, as Kanji provides an easy way of telling what is the verb, noun, etc, and what is particle.
I think that it is a ridiculous notion to suggest that kanji be abolished. As Emoni stated, without kanji, reading Japanese would be a lot more difficult. Kana only represent a sound, whereas kanji represent a thing, an act, or a concept, or a name, therefore it is much easier to recognize the meaning of a word in kanji than to read a string of kana and to determine the meaning through the context of the sentence (like we have to do in English). Furthermore, the finest state of fluency in the language is in its written form where a skillful writer, through the selection of kanji with slight variations in connotation, can create subtleties in the written word an order of magnitude beyond what we can accomplish with our meager alphabet.

I only wish that I could appreciate the written word of Japanese through my own ability to read, but alas, I am one of those who are thankful that on railway station signs, the station names are written in kana below the kanji to help keep the illiterate from getting lost.
Just take naming a newborn as an example.

With only Kana, a boy would only be Takashi without any meaning. Kanas are just letters.

If you use Kanji, you choose the one for "Taka" and one for "shi", each with a specific meaning, to form a name with a meaning that you want to imbue the child with.

"hiragana and katagana are more Japanese unique"

Yes, but they were derived from Kanji.
Japanese without kanji would be quite incomprehensible as a written language - there are just too many homonyms ! I would never want to read a book only in kanas. I have seen such books for children, but real literature would be a real pain to understand. Still don't know how the Japanese understand each others in daily life. It must be why they always use the same easy words, and why there are kanji subtitles in most TV shows, news, etc.

What's more it would lose its attractiveness. One of my favourite thing in learning Japanese are the kanji. Not to mention that it is more beautiful to have station names written in kanji than in any other script. Some lines only have hiragana and I hate it (not hiragana itself :p ).

If Japan wants to reform its writing system, I suggest that they abandon katakana and just write foreign words in romaji, as katakana lacks too many sounds found in other languages (r/l, v/b, y, w, diphtongs such as "eu"...)
Writing things just in kana would take up a lot more space too, which is a matter of practicality. As an example 私 vs わたくし.

Does anybody remember that Japanese tounge twister regarding gardens (にわ;庭),
some kind of bird (also にわ), and the fact that there were two of these birds there (this time 二羽 which is also にわ).

I think it was something along the lines of "there are two bird in my garden" ie. にわににわにわがいる、that is 庭ににわ二羽が居る, or something like that. It makes no sense in just kana.
Without kanji it's not so easy to read Japanese. It might be difficult to learn at first, but once you know a few you don't want to turn back, you want to keep on learning more and more Besides, the meaning behind each individual kanji is just awsome to learn. Gettig rid of these beautiful characters would be a tremendous cultural and historical loss :(
I cannot imagine kanji could ever be abolished...unless Japan turns into a totalitarian state sometime in the near future, which is unlikely.

In any case one wonders what the objective of abolishing kanji would hope to achieve....ease of study or reading for foreigners? Hmmm.

To state that "kanji is basically a copy of Chinese" doesn't suggest the writer has a good grasp of how all languages develop over time.
If somebody tried to abolish Kanji, they should be fixed. Sure it's hard to read for most, but it's a part of Japanese culture. Denying them Kanji is like what the Christian missionaries are doing to the Africans tribes in the South. Out of 200 languages, only 500 in each can speak their own respectively anymore. Sometimes forcing English on other people is a crime.

It just wouldn't work...at all. Kanji are integral components of all reading material, from signs, to subtitles, to, of course, literature and other important written documents. The syllabic system of kana restricts the amount of possible words that can be easily made differentiable (unless you started making nastily long strings of characters), so homonyms abound in Japanese. Kanji provide a feasible solution to this problem. Also, the nuance implied in the art of kanji itself is enough reason to keep them around.
There should almost be a secondary poll attached to this.

"How many of those voting here actually know how to READ the basic everyday Kanji?"

I'm not going to go too far in my assuptions, but a majority of those voting "no" most likely know very little about why Kanji is so critical to reading and the effect it has on the language as well. Once you get past about two or three years of Japanese language, you will understand this. Not to mention the other various reasons mentioned above. I would be EXTREMELY surprised if anyone who knows Kanji is going to suddenly say that it should be removed entirely. Removing Kanji from Japanese doesn't quite have a comparision in English, but I guess the closest guess would be removing all spaces and puctuation marks cause, "They just get in the way and take too long to put in and learn to use correctly."

I find it hard to believe any Japanese person who is sane would propose the idea of removing Kanji from the language. Unless he is just evil, or thinks it is funny. Yahoo! Most of our country is now unable to read any books from the past years because they don't know the kanji anymore! Only the most elite in 50 years or so can read 5th grades level reading books due to their kanji reading ability remaining. Not the best of plans for a language...

By the way, the poem is this I believe. I'll put it without Kanji *evil laugh*


I think that says it all.

(BTW, Most Hiragana and Katakana also come from Kanji, thus Chinese characters.)
Attention Originator!

I hate to say this, but the poll attached seems to be flawed.
Let me tell you why.

The title of this thread/poll is "Should Japan Abolish Kanji?"

The question in the poll page is "Do you think they should keep kanji?"
with options "Yes/No/Maybe"

Don't you think this can be misleading ? Depending on the member's forum screen setting, the question might not show very clearly. Then there is a high chance that they answer "No" when they actually mean "Yes, Japan should keep kanji".

This is also proven by the fact that of the 14 posters, at least 12 of them were skeptic of the view that kanji should/could be aboished. But the current poll result as of 14:30, Mar. 8, Tokyo Standard Time, there are 8 participants who answered "No" and only 6 who answered "Yes."

My hunch is of the 8 "No" votes, at least 6 (12-6=6) meant "No, Japan should not abolish kanji." Do you see the problem here ? Because the thread title and the poll question have exactly opposite meanings, at least 6 posters were mislead, and voted "No" when they actually meant "Yes, I think they should keep kanji."

I don't know how it can be done, but please ask the administrator or moderator to help you rectify this error. There must be a way to preserve the posts, but redoing the poll page (actually recreating a blank slate=originating post; everyone need to vote anew, I think.). Cheers.

As for the options, simple Yes/No/Maybe will not do.
Because of the confusion that already undermined the polls crdibility, might I suggest spelling out the options to the letter? As

"Yes, Japan should abolish kanji."
"No, Japan should not abolish kanji."
"Maybe Japan might abolish kanji." (This probably means "don't know" or "not sure." right?)

@ Emoni: While I was writing this, you also added some comments. We both seem to be surprised at the poll result. So let's talk to the thread originator to resolve this obvious discrepancy, Emoni. :)
Maybe it was a trick question, to insidiously get the result he really wanted....you should be a politician Silverbackman. :)
あっ、間違えた。 :p
漢字は、面白いから。 :)
Oh, I made a mistake. :oops:
Please do not abolish a kanji.
A reason?
Because kanji are interesting :oops:
lexico said:
I hate to say this, but the poll attached seems to be flawed.
Let me tell you why.

The title of this thread/poll is "Should Japan Abolish Kanji?"

The question in the poll page is "Do you think they should keep kanji?"
with options "Yes/No/Maybe"

It's so misleading that I voted for the wrong one myself. Reading the comments so far, it seems that almost everybody agrees that kanji should NOT be abolished, which didn't match the poll results. So I reset the poll. 😌

Anybody for the abolition of the kanji that has already voted ?
the kanji for me adds to the whole mysterious and mystical nature to the country for me... if i could read it as the strict 27 characters that we use, it would definately seem less magical. i want to have to work to be able to read this fantastic language...!
I voted 'Maybe' but what I wanted to vote for was 'None of our* business.'

* For values of 'our' that don't include native speakers of Japanese.
PaulTB said:
I voted 'Maybe' but what I wanted to vote for was 'None of our* business.'

* For values of 'our' that don't include native speakers of Japanese.

it doesn't mean we can't express an opinion...

ok, why not make EVERYTHING western...I think kanji is one of the things that make Japan Japan...if everything would be in romaji it would be dull ☝ Kanji rulez !!
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