Difference between Kanji and Kana

Kanji and Kana are two different Japanese scripts. A common man often gets confused between the two as they appear to be quite similar and belong to the same genre; however, there are more differences between the two as compared to similarities.

Kana are syllabic Japanese characters; whereas, Kanji are logographic Chinese scripts. Kanji, having about two thousand to three thousand characters, is considered to be more difficult and complicated than Kana. Scripts of Kanji have different meanings and pronunciations, which depend on how they are combined with other Kanji scripts or Kana.

According to historians, the Kana script was invented by Buddhist priest Kukai in the ninth century. Representing one syllable, Kana scripts come in katakana and hiragana. On the other side of the coin, Kanji was introduced in the fifth century in Japan.

The rules of the current form of Kana came into effect in 1946, although the script was codified in 1900. Japan’s government came up with Joyo Kanji Hyo in 1981, which consisted of 166 special characters for people’s names and 1945 characters.

Another difference between the two scripts is that Kana is just like English alphabets, having no specific meaning; whereas, like English words, Kanji have some meaning.


  • 1


    The literal meaning of Kanji is Han characters and it was introduced in the fifth century. Kanji consists of pictographic, phonetic and ideographic characters. It was mostly developed in China but some characters of Kanji have their roots in Japan. This script is considered to be a lot more complex as compared to Kana. By combining with other Kanji scripts or Kana, the pronunciations and meanings of Kanji can be changed. Each Kanji script is believed to have a specific meaning, just like English words.

  • 2


    This script comes in different forms like katakana and hiragana. A syllable is represented by each character of Kana. As mentioned earlier, the present-day form of Kana used in the world was codified in 1900 and its rules were established in 1946. Unlike Kanji, Kana script has no specific meaning and it is just like English alphabets.

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