Japanese Language/Hiragana help


I'm sure that this question has been asked and answered thousands of time but I am still struggling with the differences between kanji and hiragana, and more specifically why kanji is even necessary, given that the language can be written entirely in hiragana. And, are dates ever written out in hiragana, as such...にせんじゅにねんじゅういちがつにじゅうごにち.

And last question, how would this phrase be translated into written Japanese? Would it be kanji, hiragana, or a mix of both?
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
I guess this is the last question. If i were to go out and get a newspaper, what style would it be written in?

Thank you so much. I have been spending alot of time on this and sincerely appreciate any help!

Kanji is "necessary" to the extent that it has traditionally served several linguistic roles for the Japanese. What began as the only written form of the language once imported from written Chinese, eventually gave way to a writing system that had to be simpler in nature for practical and educational purposes. Since hiragana and katakana are essentially radically simplified forms of kanji characters and limited to 50 in number to match the 50 or so sounds of the Japanese language, they are much easier to learn at the outset than a few thousand characters. By way of example, it typically takes a foreign learner a week or so of concentrated effort to learn each of the kana systems, while it takes a number of years to make their way through memorizing the 2136 everyday "joyo" kanji.

That said, kanji serve at least two basic functions:

1. Condensing multiple syllables into a more economic, easier-to-read format. It's the same reason native speakers prefer to use the numberical symbols '11/25/2012' when writing dates instead of the longer "November twenty-fifth, two-thousand and twelve", it looks better and takes up less space to convey the same amount of information. The Japanese use modern numerics, but even if they didn't, I would still prefer reading 二千十二年十一月二十五日 instead of reading it all spelled out phonetically in hiragana.

To answer your question about hiragana as it pertains to dates specifically, the only time the long-form such as this are used is typically in instructional materials or those marketed towards small children, and it often takes the form of using furigana, which are small hiragana characters written over the kanji to aid readers who may not know how to read them.

2. Providing clarification of meaning when words can have more than one meaning. Since kanji are generally used in writing the root meaning of the verb, it is clear which one the author intended. Consider "miru" (to look). If only みる was written, you might miss out on a more specific meaning that the writer had intended, for example: 看る too look after, 観る to view (e.g., a painting, a movie), 見る to see (generally), 視る to observe, 診る to examine.

Concerning the Buddhist quote, you would likely encounter it written using both kanji and hiragana. Since no foreign loanwords appear to exist in the English version you have provided, I would expect no katakana to be present. I do not own or have reference to a copy of the original writing of "Teaching of Buddha (the Buddhist Bible), a Compendium of Many Scriptures Translated From the Japanese" from 1934 that apparently references this quote for the first time, but what appears to be a rough translation from this social networking site selling shirts with these quotes is here (http://www.rakuten.ne.jp/gold/ecotova/h_od_28.html). It writes it as such: 出典/過去に生きるな、未来を夢見るな。今の瞬間に集中しなさい。

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Michael DePaula


Anything pertaining to daily conversation, music, historical/modern forms of Japanese-character writing, computer/IT-related vocabulary, and aquatic sciences.


14 years of Japanese study with about 10 of those years in Japan.

Global Underwater Explorers, Okinawa Underwater Explorers, Okinawa Freethought Society

Degree in Music Performance, University of Southern California. 10+ years working the IT/computer programming world. 8 years of amateur translation assistance. 8 years in marine conservation/technical dive exploration in Japan.

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