Flowers in Japan

Writing systems

There are three main types of written characters in Japan: kanji, hiragana and katakana. Roman letters are also used, but to a much lesser extent.

Kanji characters are ideograms which were brought in from China. On the basis of the Chinese and Japanese readings of these characters a system of phonetic manyogana characters was devised. This in turn was simplified int the hiragana and katakana systems in about the ninth century. The characters of the hiragana and katakana systems represent single syllables. Each system presently has 46 characters.

In writing Japanses, most nouns, verb roots and adjectives are represented by kanji while the verb and adjective endings indicating the various tenses etc., auxiliary verbs and the particles are written one of the kana systems (hiragana or katakana). Adverbs can be written in either kanji or kana characters. Of the two kana systems, hiragana has by far the wider usage in modern times. Katakana characters are used mostly for spelling of loan words brought into Japanese from other languages.

The first characters taught at school are those of the hiragana system. In fact, however, a fairly large percentage of Japanses children are able to read and write kana characters even before they enter school.

All three types of Japanese characters are designed to be written in vertical lines, though they can also be written horizontally. When written vertically, the first line comes on the right of the pagae and succeding lines follow it to the left. Years ago, almost all writing was vertical but the horizontal style has gradually becomeĀ  more populer since it is more adaptable to inclusion of Arabic numerals and passages in foreign languages. From the reader’s point of view, however, vertically written sentences are easier to assimilate and for this reason most newspapers, magazines and popular books are printend in this style.

**Japan, the land and its people, Gakuseihsa Print**

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