I've been reading since a long time ago that reading hiragana only texts is quite difficult or frustrating because you don't know where a word begins or ends, I understand that and the importance of kanji to read more easily.

So I was wondering, how do Japanese people play hiragana only games like pokémon or those of the famicom (NES) that use only kana. I know this games are oriented to children because they don't know kanji, but how do the adults understand these games?

On average, do Japanese speakers find it more difficult to read texts without kanji? Are there any methods to improve the legibility of hiragana-only texts?

  • 3
    Pokémon spaces its hiragana words. Also, if you know a language well enough, youcanreaditwithoutspaces.
    – Cat
    Mar 16, 2015 at 2:53
  • I believe some will find it strange but just lived with it. The first mobile phones didn't handle kanji, which made for bizarre texts and name entries. Just be glad there is hiragana and katakana. I think some of those games did katakana only. Phantasy Star on the SMS for example. Ouch. Mar 16, 2015 at 14:23

1 Answer 1


In the famicom/NES era, kanji was not available, and many games used some spaces between phrases. Spaces are usually inserted before nouns and verbs, but not before particles.

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With the aid of spaces Japanese adults can understand kana-only sentences easily, just like in English. Actually native speakers can even read this broken kana-only passage very fluently.

Another common strategy is to use katakana a bit more than usual.

  • Sometimes more modern games use spaces, even with some kanji: i.sstatic.net/Agt8Q.jpg
    – user1478
    Mar 16, 2015 at 3:52
  • By the way, this way of writing with spaces between phrases is called '分かち書き' in Japanese.
    – dinogeist
    Mar 16, 2015 at 14:41
  • 1
    I find it fascinating that the broken kana works the same as scrambling letters around in English. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It looks like it follows the same rule of the first and last "letters" needing to be in the same place.
    – lukini
    Mar 16, 2015 at 16:59
  • 1
    I find it even more fascinating that I found it rather easy to read the scrambled kana even though I'm not a native speaker. It seems as long as I just read it without thinking about it or looking at it too closely, our brains do what they're good at. I knew you could do it in English, but it never occured to me to try it with Japanese...
    – blutorange
    Mar 16, 2015 at 18:04
  • Does it work with kanji? --「特別 の 理由 により 陽射診撮子位性断用電元素用療同使影放層室 にいおて 診線射放照用装療射置 又は 診照療線放用器射射具 を 使用 する 場合 とは 陽撮元影放診療層射用性同位子断電素 が 投与 された 患者等 の 画像診断 の 精度 を 高める ために 診照放用射射療線装置 又は 診療用照器射線放射具 を 陽射影放装撮断層子電置 の 吸正補収用 として 使用 する 場合 に 限定 される こと。」
    – blutorange
    Mar 16, 2015 at 18:28

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