The Three Japanese Writing Systems
1.) Kanji Characters: Kanji
(literally, "Chinese characters") are pictograms developed from concepts.
Each Kanji character has both a sound and a meaning. Each "syllable"
of your name will be represented by a character with a meaning. For example,
the three Kanji characters below represent the name "Smith". In Japanese,
the sound is SU MI SU. The left-most character, "SU" means "master",
the middle character,"MI" means "see", and the right-most
character "SU" means "sandbank".
2.) Hiragana Characters: Hiragana
is nearly 100% phonetic and it is used mainly for representing words native
to Japanese. Hiragana is a syllabary, so each character represents a sound only,
without any meaning, in the same way that the syllable "bab" in English
gives a sound without meaning. The Hiragana style is simple and curvy. Below
is the name "Smith" (SU MI SU) in Hiragana characters.
3.) Katakana Characters: To
write foreign-borrowed words (such as "KON PYU TA" -- "computer")
and foreign names, Katakana is used. Katakana is a syllabary that is virutally
identical to Hiragana, but the lines are more angular. Here is the name "Smith"
again, this time in Katakana:
4.) Mixed Characters: This would be a combination of two or all three
of the above writing systems and is necessary when including something such as a non-Japanese name with a discipline, such as "Karate".