If you watch Japanese shows, you may notice there are 3 scripts in the Japanese language. Even some character names sound exactly the same, some are written in Kanji, and other are written in Hiragana or Katakana.
If you have ever had questioned that, you are not the only one! I received that question from a follower!
What’s the differences between Kanji and Hiragana(or Katakana) names?
OK! Let me explain about the basic idea! (*’▽’)/
Differences between Names in Different Japanese Scripts
Kanji (漢字) Names
Kanji came originally from China. Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people usually never understand each others languages at all, but they use some of same kanji in their own language.
In real life today, Kanji is the most common script being used for Japanese people’s names. Technically, ALL Japanese family names are written in Kanji. And also Japanese people, who don’t have Kanji first name, are kind of rare today.
Every Kanji can hold many meanings and parents choose nice Kanji when they name their kids, praying for a kid’s future personality and hoping they have a wonderful life.
健司 (Kenji): This is a typical boy’s name. 健司 means something like “Healthy boy who has good spirits”.
真理亜 (Maria): This is a typical name in Anime. Also, in real life, there are some parents try to name their daughter something that anybody outside of Japan can pronounce easily like “Maria”.
Hiragana (ひらがな) Names
Hiragana is one of the Japanese script that was born in Japan. Each 50 Hiragana letters represent 50 Japanese sounds that people use in Japanese language.
As you know, most of Kanji script is very complicated. Each Hiragana character was originally Kanji but ancient Japanese people invented an easier way to write. Hiragana represents sound only and it basically makes sense by constructing words.
So, all Japanese Kanji names can be written in Hiragana as well. The name written in Hiragana gives a cuter and softer impression. I’ve always seen girls who have Hiragana names, but NO BOYS.
On the other hand, I see a lot of fictional character names written in Hiragana or Katakana.
けんじ (Kenji) and まりあ (Maria) look cuter than Kanji version. Especially boys name in Hiragana reminds me a little boy who can’t write Kanji yet. A girl’s name in Hiragana has a girly image. It also suits an Anime character who is acting cute.
Katakana (カタカナ) Names
Katakana is also one of the Japanese script that was born in Japan. Each 50 Katakana letters represent 50 Japanese sounds that people use in Japanese language as well.
Basically, Japanese people use this script when they write names of things or people that originally came from other country. Japanese people force a change of the original pronunciation to fit a possible Japanese pronunciation in order to write it in Katakana. So, Katakana names often sound very off from the original names. (-_-;)
And also, Katakana is commonly used to write how to pronounce a person’s Kanji name. If you see the word “フリガナ” in a Japanese application form or something, that means you write how to pronounce your name in Katakana there. (When they want you to write it in Hiragana, you see the word “ふりがな” there!)
I personally like to write my first name “トモ” in Katakana. Because Kanji “智” is too heavy and Hiragana “とも” is too girly for me.
ケンジ (Kenji): Kenji is a typical boy’s name but Katakana version looks fictional like Anime character or something. He might be avoiding using his Kanji name to hide his identity, or it could be his nickname.
マリア (Maria): In real life, Katakana version of this name is regular “Maria” everybody knows. Maybe she is not from Japan and her name is Maria, then Japanese people write her name in Katakana like this.
Do you get the basic idea now? Thank you for the question!
Today’s Kanji Shirt is “Freedom”! Japanese language is so flexible and its freedom of rules is confusing learners! (+_+)
If you want to know the meanings of any Japanese kanji that you don’t see English subs for in a particular animation or live action movie, tell me “Name of the Show”, “Season and Episode #” and “the Exact Moment (Minute: Second) if it’s available”!
If it’s just Japanese kanji that you see around you, like a shop sign or a tattoo, you can send me the photo as long as you are allowed to take picture of it.
I can’t promise to reply to everyone but I’ll try my best!
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org