Tsu (ツ) kana is sometimes used on the internet as a smiling face, such as in the emoticon ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I'm wondering if Japanese people notice it or is just another character for them?

The reason I'm asking is that my native language is Arabic, and it has the letter Ta' (ت) that some people think looks like a wide grinning face, but I'm simply unable to see it. It's just a letter to me. Do Japanese people see ツ the same way?


6 Answers 6


I read your question "Do Japanese people see [tsu] as a smiling face" and read over the question several times before I got it. And I'm not a native Japanese reader (or speaker).

Just like your ت (which sort of looks like a smiling face to me) and the German ü (to Japanese eyes, say), the Japanese ツ doesn't look like a smiling face to any eye who has become used to reading it as a letter.

So I think if you ask a Japanese native reader whether ツ looks like a smiling face, I would say the answer will invariably be そう言われてみれば、確かに… "Now that you say so...". In other words "No!"

  • 5
    Admittedly, as an English speaker, "ü” does not look like a smiley to me. Which is kind of odd, because I can see why some people might think it does.
    – Cat
    Mar 19, 2015 at 18:48
  • 1
    @Eric I've been told that by native Japanese speakers. To English speakers, it probably looks too much like u =)
    – Earthliŋ
    Mar 19, 2015 at 20:21
  • 2
    I have no problem seeing ツ as a face
    – ssb
    Mar 20, 2015 at 5:03
  • @Earthliŋ, ツ What about "shi" シ ?
    – Pacerier
    Feb 21, 2016 at 22:37
  • 1
    See, there's ツ as a face, but then there's へのへのもへじ
    – psosuna
    Jul 17, 2017 at 20:51

I never see it used this way in Japanese emoticons, and I just went ahead and checked every single entry for かおもじ in Google's Windows Japanese IME, and there wasn't a single example of one using it as a face.


I know this is an old post, and I'm not Japanese, but I did some research and I found out this:

Japanese don't look at the mouth to notice emotions, rather the eyes. Since the "eyes" here are literally just stripes, I doubt they'd see anything.

Example of Japanese emoji: (^_^)

Example of English emoji: :)

These represent the same feeling (happy), but there's a stark difference, as you can see.

This is because the Japanese learn to read eyes more than mouths, because in Japanese culture, people tend to suppress emotion, but eyes are harder to control than mouths, so they're often easier to read in that case.

"when Yuki entered graduate school and began communicating with American scholars over e-mail, he was often confused by their use of emoticons such as smiley faces :) and sad faces, or :(." - https://www.livescience.com/1498-americans-japanese-read-faces-differently.html (Thats a source, btw)


I know one guy at work using it a lot. Can be either ツ (ツ) (ツ)/ etc.
I joked creating a cyclope version with the (ソ).

As you can see from the other answers, it is not common knowledge and I then think it is mostly used by people close to the IT world, not the most famous trend around here.



の の



Is a popular face to make for Japanese Children, I'd say yes, I'm sure Japanese people notice that it looks like a smiley face.

Edit: I suppose it could depend on the mindset. Even though no single English letter looks like anything, when I was a child, I would always think ""C" looks like a smile" or ""E" Looks like teeth."

Perhaps some kids/people think that at some point (especially since the ¯_(ツ)_/¯ is popular in Japan), but maybe some don't.

  • 1
    I'd argue that this is true for all languages, not just for Japanese. For example, XD is commonly used as a "laughing emoji" in English, despite X and D not usually referring to parts of faces on their own. Although this answer is okay, I think the OP was asking about tu and si as single characters, not as a group of characters. Sep 9, 2018 at 10:34

Well I think only kids and artists see it as a smiling face. Often artists and children would draw characters using that character

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