In the game Okami, the demon Yamata no Orochi is written here, and also in a separate game here as ヤマタノオロチ, not やまたのおろち. Even the particle の is in katakana. I'm curious as to why this is. I know that it derives from a Japanese legend of Yamata no Orochi, so why is it written in katakana?


1 Answer 1


You are actually thinking the other way around. It is written in katakana BECAUSE the term is 100% Japanese.

Japanese mythology existed way before we encountered the Chinese. It existed only in the oral tradition because we did not have a writing system back then. In other words, only the sounds "yamatanoorochi" existed, so even after we encountered the Chinese and learned Kanji and created kana, it just was not very natural to write "yamatanoorochi" in kanji. With ヤマタノオロチ, we are just using the katakana as the pronunciation symbols.

There are kanji versions (八岐大蛇、八俣遠呂智、八俣遠呂知) for this term but they are ALL [当て字]{あてじ}. You may use one of them if you love kanji but it will not necessarily make you look more intelligent or educated. Contrary to what some Japanese-learners seem to blindly believe, writing in kanji the words that have no Chinese roots is often regarded as not being in good taste.


  • This seems to happen with animal and plant names too.
    – ithisa
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 18:58
  • 5
    Thank you, this explanation is very clear and insightful. However, I still have one question, and I realise I didn't word my original question very well: I meant to ask why is it in katakana and not hiragana? If the term is 100% Japanese, surely it would be written in hiragana?
    – Lou
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 21:23
  • 3
    I believe that the explanation might be that 1. Hiragana does not stand out from the particles and suffixes which all use hiragana 2. The demon name is remembered as a series of syllables, not as two words yamata-no orochi; the oral tradition thing may be relevant here - the katakana might emphasize that the name is this mysterious ancient series of sounds passed by tradition.
    – ithisa
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 5:53
  • @user54609 Sorry for the late reply, if you could work that into your answer I'll accept it :).
    – Lou
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 15:26

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