August 13, 2019 100

Why Do Japanese Still Use Kanji? Complicated Writing System…

Why Do Japanese Still Use Kanji? Complicated Writing System…

hey guys it’s Utah so the other day I showed you guys that kanji is not always easy to write for Japanese people and many of you asked why do Japanese people use kanji in the first place if it’s so difficult I’m going to answer that question first the basics japanese has three types of scripts hiragana katakana and kanji hiragana and katakana are completely phonetic well almost but this letter R is always pronounced as part no matter where it appears for example I be a good hobby you okay it’s always ah this is very different from English a witch doesn’t have one single sound father angry important to debate they are all different sounds hiragana and katakana represent exactly the same set of sounds and you can write every single Japanese word with either hiragana or katakana but katakana is mostly used to write foreign words like correction collection complete or complete so why do we need both of them well we don’t exactly need them but they’re a bunch of reasons like historical reasons and other reasons and I’m going to give you one very practical reason which is readability this sentence uses both hiragana and katakana but it can be written entirely in hiragana like this but this is quite hard to read because Japanese doesn’t have spaces between words so it’s very hard to distinguish words but if you use katakana katakana functions as a word divider so let me use a different color for every other word and as you can see katakana makes it easier to separate words now we can talk about kanji and unlike hiragana and katakana kanji is not phonetic as a single country can have multiple readings like this one this one has more than 150 readings such as say show ha na ma Joe ki yo e ku you keep up or keep and many more so kanji are essentially symbols just like this one some people call it a number sign some call a a pound sign and other people may call it a hash and how you really depends on the context for example this is number one this is hashtag Utah is awesome well I just made up that hashtag because nobody else did don’t judge kanji it’s similar as it has different readings depending on the word so for example say cuts it and EQ and since a new concept often requires a new country there are just so many of them and nobody really knows how many they are exactly but at least we have tens of thousands and we use all three types of scripts to write Japanese sentences but why do we need kanji in the first place when we can just use hiragana and katakana to write everything again there are a lot of historical and cultural reasons but let me just give you two very important ones number one breathability just like katakana kanji helps to separate words in a sentence for instance this sentence can be written entirely in hiragana but then again it will be very hard to really because it’s not obvious at all or two separate words so kanji can function as a word divider reason number two homophones in this is what makes country different from capitana I’ll give you an example as you can see those roots have the exact same spelling in hiragana so it’s impossible to distinguish them by themselves but if you write them in country you will see that those are clearly different words now you might be wondering if we have a similar problem when we speak Japanese because you can’t see the letters well we kind of do but it’s much better because we have pitch accents so you pronounce can say and can say differently even though you don’t see that difference in hiragana and also if you are talking to somebody you can always clarify which is exactly what I did when she didn’t understand what I meant by settle part of the reason why we have so many homophones is the large number of Chinese words in Japanese because in the process of pronouncing Chinese words the Japanese way a lot of sound differences were lost actually the same thing happens with English words for example light and bright both become light though in Japanese so the word light though becomes a homophone even though the original words were different but do we really need that many kanji can we just use maybe a couple hundreds well we did try to reduce number of country and we have a limited number of official kanji that are taught in school currently we have two thousand one hundred and thirty six country on that list also we used to have more complicated kanji but we eventually stopped using them in favor of more simple ones but 2,000 kanji is still quite a lot can we just throw them away all together well actually there has been a number of attempts to abolish country in in its history most of those people were Japanese themselves but there was also an American general called John Powell from the Allied occupation of Japan and he tried to completely romanized Japanese his argument was that kanji would prevent Japanese people from becoming literate and it will slow down the process of becoming a democratic country to back up his reasoning they conducted a massive national contest but the results turned out to be surprisingly good the average school was seventy eight point three out of a hundred so they had to give up the idea of romanization I have the impression that today most Japanese people think the idea of abolishing country completely out of the question I’ll give you three arguments in favor of kanji number one historical integrity if we stop using kanji the normal Japanese people won’t be able to understand the vast number of documents available today in kanji so there will be a huge cultural disconnect in Japanese history number two semantic functions we partially covered this already but with kanji it’s often quite easy to guess the meaning of a word you don’t know actually you can do that in English for example this word metaphysics you can kind of guess why it means even though you don’t know what exactly metaphysics is but Japanese rely on kanji for that so without kanji it will be very hard to get the meaning some new words number three literary expressions you can add different nuances to the text by using different scripts for example this is entirely written in hiragana and it sounds like it’s written by a child and if you write this entirely in katakana it will look like that it’s written by a robot and this poem uses katakana along with the absence of kanji as a literary device and it won’t be the same if you just use the conventional style so with that kanji this type of literary expression will lose much of its significance so maybe it’s quite impossible to abolish country well that’s not necessarily the case because countries like South Korea North Korea Vietnam they managed to stop using kanji for daily communication and did you know the early video games in Japan didn’t use kanji at all because of hardware limitations and do you see what they did they added extra spaces and it’s actually kind of readable come to think about it’s our very first example this sentence was actually quite readable even though it doesn’t have any country because katakana works as a word divider as we discussed so let’s do some experiment together so we’ve got this properly written sentence and we will write this in hiragana this one’s quite hard to read but what if we use katakana in place of kanji hmm this is much more readable now let’s add some spices well kanji in katakana looks kind of weird so let’s just use alphabets see what I find is surprisingly readable actually but it is far from perfect but not using country is not as inconvenient as many people might think and who knows maybe we will end up writing Japanese like this eventually and free ourselves from years of kanji education and this makes me think maybe the real reason of using country it’s something else and in my opinion the real reason is attachment Japanese people just deeply deeply attached to kanji and the history and the culture that kanji is associated with and if I tell you how I feel well I haven’t always had a good relationship with kanji but if people stopped using kanji I think it will be quite sad so I guess it’s like an old marriage your partner is not perfect you guys fight a lot and you might occasionally forget her birthday so it might be possible to you find a new partner you know who is more agreeable healthier or even younger but you are sticking with her because you’ve guys have gone through a lot and you merge kind of words but above all at the end of the day you love her I hope I answered your question hey guys it’s Utah again well if you want to learn Japanese and especially the kind of Japanese that actual Japanese people use as opposed to the artificial textbook Japanese you should click link and subscribe to my list Japanese with Yuta and also my channel is made possible by your support so if you want to support me you can go to my patreon page alright see you guys soon ciao ciao

100 Replies to “Why Do Japanese Still Use Kanji? Complicated Writing System…”

  • That Japanese Man Yuta says:

    I know kanji can be intimidating if you want to learn Japanese. But don't be discouraged! Spoken Japanse isn't as difficult as many people may think. In fact, basic Japanese grammar can be pretty easy because Japanse verbs are pretty regular, unlike English. (If you are a native English speaker, consider this: see, saw seen, do did done, speak spoke spoken, give gave given, sit sat sat, hit hit hit–English verbs are pretty irregular!)

    In fact, you can start making Japanese sentences TODAY and I offer some free Japanese lessons. Interested? Subscribe here

  • Corporal Killjoy says:


  • 3 77 says:


  • Eric Housman says:

    As difficult as kanji is to learn, I feel the same way about it. I’m definitely attached to it, when I think about Japanese literature, part of what makes me excited about it is the beautiful kanji characters. Also, I may not know many kanji yet but the ones I do know make reading much easier. Great video, made me realize that I too have an attachment to kanji characters.

  • IwasUnknownUser says:

    The reason is simple: your Japanese history was recorded in Kanji, if you don't use Kanji like Korean did, you will totally lose your history, which is the most sad thing for a country and people!

  • Franck Yan says:

    Lol you are in love with a 3000 years old 🧓 Kanji 🇨🇳 Chinese woman 👈🤣👈. 😂👌. Poof that Japanese 🏯 literature is heavily influenced by Chinese coligraphfy. It's Hàn Zì 🇨🇳👈😊👌& I've been learning it for nearly 10 years. Thank you.

  • Pun Jab I says:

    Because there are so many words that sound alike.

  • C L says:


  • jinrounan says:


  • Jin Chen says:

    雅 – 么 – 嘚

  • Alex Friedman says:

    man Japanese seems hard.

  • たつきだお解放軍 says:


  • Ken Lai says:

    Kanji is the best in the world

  • Gary Guo says:


  • Jay ジェイ . says:

    That is why Chinese learning Japanese so easy.

  • Sweet Poison says:

    This Japanese language system is stupid. Why have 3 system for 1 single language? It's like learning 3 languages at the same time. Chinese system is hard to learn at first but will be much easier to master. it's quick to write and versatile (can be written/read in any direction), it's uniformed and can be adopted to any native tongue or dialog. In Chinese, you may have difficulty listening to different native dialog but you can always understand it once it's written out. Attempt to romanticized Chinese(kanji) to create some sort of language of your own will only confuse users and create chaos. Just look at Vietnamese and Korean. There is a reason why those language can never become influential.

  • Gris Ceniza says:

    *Dabs in japanese*

  • 晓立花 says:


  • The Shadow of Justice says:

    One of the worst primitive writing system on this planet is japanese……..

  • Maroš Goč says:

    the question is when use Kanji, hiragana and katakana …you said that besides other reasons hiragana and katakana and also kanji are used to differentiate individual words, at 09:39 you also gave an example of a properly written sentence..there is some kanji, hiragana and katakana, but what if i used katakana instead of those kanji in the sentence and the words written in hiragana replaced by kanji? would it be a correctly written sentence as well?

  • 李四 says:

    Japanese actually is a mix of Kanji and alphabet. This is real 漢字:大家好,我来自中国。

  • Kingsley Chen says:

    800 years ago, the Japanese scholars were in awe of Chinese civilisation. They stayed in China and studied for a few years and brought back
    1. Writing system (Kanji aka Chinese Characters)
    2. Tea ceremony
    3. Chopsticks
    4. Chinese calligraphy
    5. Chinese drawing styles
    6. Architecture

  • Steven Qiu says:

    汉字 is like a picture, with different elements in it, representing different basic meanings. for example, earth 土, fire 火, metal 金,water 水,wood木。

  • Taurus Capricorn says:

    kanji is funny

  • Big Mac says:

    For the same reason that the English, Spanish and Romans’ use their own language

  • Concord says:

    W-w-what's with this writing system? It's like one of my Japanese animes.

  • Wth do you want My name for? says:

    …… imagine having to learn over 2000 symbols by heart….. I'd probably kill myself xD

  • Sir Kraut says:

    マイ ネーム イズ カウボーイ たなか

  • jason wu says:

    Kanji are not just symbols, Each character carries the Chinese cuture in it. Another reason for Japanese to use kanji is kanji is more formal. As far as I know, Japanese always write their names in kanji. Also the new Japanese era 令和 is always written as kanji.

  • Tsuki Qian says:

    We also use 顏文字( ´▽` )ノ (˶‾᷄ ⁻̫ ‾᷅˵)

  • Humberto Mattiello says:

    Japan has a huge cultural heritage you should not throw that away just for the sake of making complaining students life easier

  • Hong A says:

    I need Japanese friends

  • Hong A says:

    I hope one day English just become accepted everywhere

  • Hong A says:

    Kani may be hard to learn at the beginning, but there are some huge benefits, once you've learned it, it makes reading much faster, (visual processing). You don't have to "spell" it , which takes one to many syllables, extending the time to process. That's why they are perfect for signs, making things hard to mistake. Look at how thick a book in alphabetic language is, while in Japanese or Chinese, much much shorter

  • Hong A says:

    Can I ask a question? Can Japanese understand some Chinese? If they look at a Chinese website or newspaper?

  • 唐卓越 says:

    Imagine you are living in a country using completely Kanji😂😂

  • Zhe Cheng says:

    Wuthout kanji, can you tell which language is more noble or glamorous? Korean and Japanese. Romanized Vietnamese is …… ouch …

  • TheBimp92 says:

    Internet: Talks about use of antiquated systems

    USA: Still uses Imperial system of measurements

    Japan: Hold my sake

  • James Royce-Dawson says:

    I feel like when Japan invaded Korea in WW2, they could've done with adopting Hangul for themselves. So much more simple than all this

  • Al G says:

    In this world, no language is a pure system. English has French words, and vice versa. And all most everyone in this world use 1, 2, 3, 4 to represent numbers, which are actually from India.

  • Al G says:

    Interesting facts to know about!

  • Samuel Abelha says:


  • Shawn ZHANG says:

    chinese is not hard to learn if you already want to learn japanese

  • haider alfadhel says:


  • Kev Pen says:

    Very well said. Yuta

  • Payton Zhong says:


  • Dubstomper divine says:

    Being an Indian looking at this makes me SOOOOOOO much thankful to my Devanagri script, it can cover every single problem of any language.

  • Hiro Takkan says:

    "生 has over 150 readings"

  • 冯丽龙 says:


  • Krešimir Cindrić says:

    Kanji is an insanely complicated, illogical system that is very difficult to learn. So what? Once you manage to learn it (and, as hard as that is, every Japanese child manages to do it, so it is clearly not impossible), you have something to be proud of. You managed to learn this difficult writing system, and now you a part of the centuries old tradition. Congratulations!

    So, after going through all that trouble, and feeling proud of your accomplishment, why would you now want to abolish Kanji? Only people who do not know Kanji would be in favour of doing something like that, in order to make it is easier for them. But those who already know Kanji have no problem with it, and they think: "if I managed to learn it, you can do so, too, you just have to really want it and work hard!"

    And there is nothing wrong with that. Kanji does not make life difficult for people who know it, it is only an inconvenience for the people who do not know it. And it is the people who use Kanji that should decide whether to keep it or not: the Japanese people. It is not up to the foreigners to decide that. It is not like they are hurting their children by making them learn it, they are giving them a difficult challenge and a sense of accomplishment.

    I am quite envious of the Japanese people, I wish we had something like that in my culture. 😀

  • Soko says:

    I fear for the future of kanji 🙁

  • Mozilla Proxima says:

    i like to use kanji for filenames. example: instead of typing out "hydroelectric power" which takes up 19 characters ( including the space ) i type 水電力 → 3 characters. though it may be grammatically wrong when read in Japanese, Chinese or even Korean, the essence of what it means is universally understood = )

  • 蔡子锐 says:

    oh there also many western country use Similar writing system, It's about history

  • cc cc says:


  • LernenInVerschiedenenFormen says:

    1:49 Just create spaces and remove katagana. Language simplified.

  • LernenInVerschiedenenFormen says:

    4:33 As you say, the problem remains if you're talking. So I'd say, there's a conceptual problem. Just stop using 漢語 and おんよみ. Problem reduced. And maybe add the line you used for hiragana writing

    E.g. instead of 生物 (せいぶつ), use いきもの. Instead of 成立 (せいりつ) use なりたつ.

    For me all that reasoning sounds like an excuse to not change the language for the better.

  • Xingdong122 Kao says:


  • zion chan says:

    :/ chinese still use hanzi still

  • Larho Cherqi says:

    Pretest for #yutaisawesome to be a real thing


  • Claptrap Claptrap says:

    Just watched this video out of interest as it turned up on my recommended list.. Japan could drop kanji out of e every day language but reserve it for literary use…

    Consider English language: the script is practically unrecognizable, as runic letters were used. The script had letters that do not have modern counterpart and likewise it lacked lettert that we have in modern alphabet. (Middle English has similar issues and hence it is still difficult to read by a layman.) Yet everyone can learn the history and read texts that are considered important – because they have been translated into modern English.

    Khmer (Cambodian official language and majority people) also doesn't officially use spaces but I nevertheless see them used quite a mot I newspapers for clarity and also in children's books. Not sure how much they occur in adult literacy, my Khmer isn't nearly as good as to be able to read real books.

  • あーソーモーストマクシマム says:

    I agree with readability, sometimes I know the meaning of the kanji but forget the word. Other times I can translate it like:
    今日 = now + day = today = きょう
    毎日 = every + day = every day = まいにち
    It's slow, but after a while of redundancy, the brain becomes quick and efficient, which skips all the steps when becomes inbeded in the vocabulary sector…

  • Simple Comment says:

    The only dumb thing I found about japan.
    Well .. nobody's perfect

  • 千户长 says:

    If American Pelzel did it, we will have another Vietnam. Sugoi kanashi

  • Mai Sarah says:

    It's all serious until this 2:58 .Lol Yuta you're funny😂 Here I make one for you.#yutaisawesome

  • Dragonz says:

    For me Learning Kanji or Traditional Chinese characters r really cool and very interesting to learn. I want to learn cursive writing and how to read it's more fun!

  • big bang says:

    تبا لوسامتي ما الذي أفعله هنآ العربي لايك😂

  • Mika Nick says:

    OK I accepted the fact that you don't have spaces between words, where simply you can make them… And I accepted the fact that there are tons of kanji characters with on yomi and kun yomi..
    BUT THIS….. 4:22
    Oh I am not going to learn Japanese anymore, wtf???
    So much things to memorize TwT

  • Whitter Wang says:

    it became sentimental afterwards

  • Ryan Steele says:

    The “a” in father and angry is the same, I know that isn’t the point of the video but I just thought I would point it out.

  • 省委书记蔡英文 says:

    Any Japanese know what i am saying ?

  • jiong168 says:

    Since Chinese is most spoken language, probably even more later, future generations of Japanese are well positioned to learn Chinese when needed because of Kanji is a native part of Japanese language. Not like today's Chinese people who have been struggling to learn English.

  • Jairo says:

    I been wanting to learn the language. I will give it a try.

  • Felipe Jhony says:


  • Dr0p_Anime * says:

    I am trying to learn Japanese at a very young age, I can do Hiragana and Katana but does that mean I have to learn over 2,000 letters of kanji as well?

  • Brandon says:

    The # is actually called a octothorpe or Octotroph.

  • Maureen Sun says:

    Because Kanji looks noble and elegant, writes neatly and gracefully.

  • Kyle Chine says:

    Thanks Japanese still use kanji. As a Chinese I could guess the basical idea of a paragraph Japanese text.

  • 千户长 says:

    日本人 don't need having a heart knot that kanji is a Chinese asset. Our country borrowed a lot kanji combination also like化学,出口,纤维。。。

  • godsNgenerals says:

    sinosphere brotherhood,unites

  • Silly Fool says:

    Your explanatioms are very clear.   I am Chinese, and I have learned a little bit Japenese, and felt Japanese talk long sentences but meaning little, because they use many symbols meaning one word.   So if you do not use Kanji, really to read a passage is painful.

  • NinJia says:


  • midnightblue says:


  • MTU says:

    I´ve spoken with japanese people in english and you are by far the easiest one to understand. You asked about your accent issues, when you speak "entirely" comes to mind.
    Must be difficult for japanese people because you have to snap the tongue to speak it.

  • J L says:

    I've no idea what's going on, but reading the exchanges between Chinese and Japanese people in English, is fascinating.

  • troy palmer says:

    my name is troy palmer i am 50years old. my Grandfather came back from WW2 and shot his head of with a 30CAL. when he was 52! Your GREAT GREAT Grand FATHER Attack! on Hawahe Priceless!

  • Bill Tao says:

    No please don't abolish Kanji, this is the only way a native Chinese can have some understanding of Japanese language LOL

  • AddictedToMusicGR says:

    Learning japanese it's like learning 3 languages… So easy right?

  • Felipe Bayona says:

    Start spacing the words for the love God that is not even that hard!! lol

  • supersexiest87 says:

    if not kanji,how do you write your Japanese name?

  • にしむら says:


  • DY4Y says:

    I've actually found Japanese to be easier to read than English when I understand all the kanji, and that's because I don't have a problem with dyslexia when it comes to kanji. I still have trouble with hiragana and katakana though.

  • Linn L says:

    Well, kanji is awesome!

  • MrDaudo Uchiha says:

    scroll of old japan book wrote from up to down and right to left

  • Akisina Ketchup says:

    All I can do is learn kanji so I won't complain

  • dave kim says:

    Because Japanese failed to come up with their own scripts. Japanese language will fall apart without Chinese Kanji.

  • DFTA (Don't Feed The Animals) says:

    "Not using Kanji is not as inconvenient as many people might think" 🙂

  • chase trowell says:

    Imo the complicatedness of kanji is why 10+% of Japanese is English borrowed words like how pink is pa i n ku and orange is o l/r I n ji . Forgive my English spelling but there isint really an R it's in between the starting l and ending r sound. I did my best. today's Japanese seems to have so much barrowed English to escape the need to elaborate or rely on written kanji/context. I mean 150 translation for the same word jesus christ what little context English needs would never end in with you pulling a gun on your mom after your dad says deer/dear…

  • Ismayil Arifoglu says:

    If Japanese people stop using Kanji, I will stop learning Japanese. Up to you.

  • 鉄化庍 says:

    now Japanese has too much katakana words.that is so stupid.

  • yishuo jiang says:

    I am Chinese traveling to America and took a Japanese class last year. I can feel that the Japanese have been primarily influenced by the most advanced cultures through history, and they combine these foreign cultures together to make a better but novel culture for themselves. As I read through books concerning the human civilization development, there were three major cultures have developed food production method and original writing system, which were considered widely by western historians as essential for the developing from hunter-gathering society to modern industrial society. The three major writhing systems are the western alpha-beta system, middle east Arabian writing system and pan-Chinese culture circle. Japanese borrowing Kanji is just like English, German and French borrowing words from the Latin system. The only difference is the Roma empire, who used Latin primarily, was collapsed thousands of years ago, while the Chinese empire (although they claim it as a republic with concentrated dictatorship), who proudly use the Chinese linguistic system, continue to exist today. No European country nowadays worries about being politically influenced by Roma empire through culture appealing. But many Asian countries, which have already appealed and adapted by American modern democratic ideology since the end of WWII, worry about the influence from China. I am not saying the pan-Chinese culture is better than other culture, but I am willing to see a more diverse world which multiple culture exchange and coexist together. The world, where only one ideology is politically correct and one culture is more advance for literature development, is not the one we can peacefully live in.

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