Well if I'm not wrong, usually when a word has multiple kanjis one of them is selected as the "main" or more commonly used one.

But is it true that 才 and 歳 are both the "main" kanji for さい?

  • Watch out because one "sound" can be used for two words. Compare English "bow" and "bough". This is different to two ways to write a word that always has the same sound, like "draft" and "draught". Both situations are more common in Japanese than in English, and the same sound can have both multiple words and multiple spellings of the same word. This might not be the case for さい but is worth considering for questions of this type. Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 4:35

2 Answers 2


It seems that 歳 is the "official"character for the age, even though both it and 才 are reglementary (常用漢字). However, it is too difficult for the pupils (小学生) who are supposed to learn it since it's a very common word. Therefore, the different (but not simplified) character 才 is taught instead so that they can learn a necessary character until they see the "hard" one a few years later.

So, the "official" one would be 歳. Same goes for 令 instead of 齢

  • 3
    @Pacerier He means that 才 is not a simplified version of 歳, but rather, simply an unrelated character entirely -- at least, that's how I understood it. :)
    – rintaun
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 0:15
  • 1
    And any kanji whose radical is 門【もんがまえ】can have the 門 abbreviated as ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/… . Here is a list with more common ones: ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – istrasci
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 19:54
  • 1
    @Pacerier: No official list for shorthands, even though some are common. Have a look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryakuji which may be more accessible for you and others than the Japanese page.
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 6:04
  • 2
    Students and professors in the law department use "木又" (as a single character) for "権". Universiry dormitories "[寮]{りょう}" are sometimes written as "宀 R" (vertically aligned as a single character). I have also seen "广K" (as a single character) used to mean "[慶]{けい}" of Keio University.
    – user458
    Commented Nov 13, 2011 at 23:55
  • 2
    Adding a new comment to a really old conversation, but I have seen 魔 as in 魔法 written with 广+マ too
    – ssb
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 1:12

I agree with Axioplase, but is also とし, which is also the same reading for .

If I say, "Because I'm getting old," I will use 歳{とし}だから


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