Today, kanji is used for most Japanese words. Although the number of unique kanji is estimated to be around 50,000 characters, you do not need to know nearly as many to be able to read everyday Japanese. According to the Japanese Ministry of Education, you only need to know 1,945 characters to be able to read a newspaper or magazine.

Of course, even 50,000 characters are not enough to cover all of the words in Japanese, so many words are combinations of kanji characters. With some words, you can figure out what they mean by knowing the meaning of each kanji, such as in 借金 (shakkin). In this word, the first kanji means borrow and the second kanji means money. Together, they mean debt or loan. But with other words, only knowing the meaning of each kanji will not help very much, such as in 切符 (kippu). The first kanji means cut and the second kanji means ID tag, but the word means ticket or coupon.

In a primary school, or an elementary school, a Japanese student will be required to learn 1,006 characters. 939 more kanji are taught in secondary schools.

←Intro to Writing Systems | Intro to Hiragana→

←Go to the Kana quizzes site