Why Do Japanese Read Right to Left?

Japan has a different writing system than most of the Western world.

For starters, they read right to left instead of left to right.

Why is that? Moreover, why don’t they use the same alphabet as we do?

This blog post will tell you everything you need to know about the Japanese language and culture!

Is Japanese text read from right to left?

in short:

Historically, Japanese has been written in vertical columns, which were read from top to bottom and right to left. This style of writing is called Tategaki (縦書き). Modern Japanese can be written in both horizontal and vertical formats. In the horizontal format, it is written from left to right, the same way as in English.

How do the Japanese read?

You read vertical Japanese (tategaki) from top to bottom, right-to-left OR left-to-right, then from the top.

Historically (Pre WWII), horizontal text was treated as a single row of vertical text.

That means that you start reading from the right side of the paper.

Since WWII, this writing style has been replaced with a horizontal writing pattern, left to right (called Yokogaki).

It is not an uncommon phenomenon in writing systems; just about any language derived from Chinese is written in this manner.

Japanese can be written in two directions.

pratic kanji

1) In columns (Like Manga and some Magazines)

  • Each column of Japanese text is written from top to bottom.
  • Columns are regulated from right to left.

2) In rows (like in English)

  • The text in each row is written from left to right.
  • Rows are regulated from top to bottom.

What is Japanese writing called?

The Japanese writing system consists of two different types of characters: “hiragana” and “katakana,” which are syllabic, and the “kanji,” which has been adopted from Chinese.

All three are necessary for written Japanese.

Most Japanese text is composed of Kanji, Hiragana, and katakana.

Japanese written language is notoriously difficult to learn, but it’s worth the effort.

The Three Different Japanese Alphabets

  1. Hiragana
  2. Katakana
  3. Kanji

All those symbols come from the Chinese alphabet. 

Instead of developing their writing system, the Japanese imported a Chinese one. They read and wrote in Chinese initially.

But they had a hard time writing in Chinese and speaking Japanese.

So eventually, they applied Japanese phonetics to the Chinese characters, which allowed them to read and write using their language.

Hiragana was initially a cursive version of Chinese Kanji characters. 

As time passed, the Hiragana became more straightforward and unadorned until they became what you see today.

Why does Japan have three alphabets?

In Japanese, a word may have the same sound but different meanings. Kanji helps distinguish words and their meanings; knowing many Kanji enables you to deduce the meaning of new words.

Characters make words different. If you read the word in Hiragana, it can be hard to guess what it means.

What is the primary Japanese writing system?

Hiragana is the first form of Japanese writing that children learn. The introduction of Hiragana to Japan was an evolution in the complexity and versatility of its character set. They can both stand alone or be combined with Kanji to produce a single word.

What type of Japanese writing ‘Manga’ uses the most?

reding japan magazines

Like most Japanese texts, Manga can be written with a mixture of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Manga for kids might have fewer Kanji.

Is there a difference between Hiragana and Katakana?

Hiragana primarily represents Japanese words, while katakana represents foreign words.

Japanese have adopted many terms from other languages, and katakana immediately informs the reader of this fact.

What is Japanese calligraphy called?

Japanese calligraphy or shodō (習字) is a form of artistic expression that takes decades to master and can be valued in the same way as paintings, as it is more traditionally known.

The Japanese culture has had a long history of taking calligraphy seriously.

It takes years to master if you want true beauty within your writing.

If we look back at Japan’s origins, shodō was introduced into elementary school programs so children would learn from an early age. Children can learn how important it can be for them later in life when deciding who they should become.

What is the purpose of Japanese calligraphy?

Japanese calligraphy is more than just an art form or a communication method. It’s also practiced as meditation and spiritual practice because it helps evoke harmony, wisdom, beauty, and balance within each line of writing.

Calligraphy is passed down from generation to generation, emphasizing beauty with balance while acting as spiritual offerings through meditation.

Is Japanese calligraphy still used today?

Japanese calligraphy is still practiced today and is a popular class in school.

You can find students practicing their kanji characters from elementary to university levels as part of the curriculum or activity for fun.

Is handwriting important in Japan?

Japanese people have a long-standing tradition of handwriting as an art form. The importance of the culture in this ancient practice is evidenced by their high level of recognition and execution in calligraphy.

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