I typed hibakusha as "被爆者" in "被爆者:食べ物はあまり持っていませんでした。", and someone hesitantly suggested that I use kana.

Neither Wiktionary nor jisho.org suggest using kana.

Is there any linguistic or stylistic reason to use kana?

Update: The person actually said "被害者…かな?", which actually means "higaisha, perhaps?", and isn't to do with hiragana/katakana versus kanji.

  • Possibly related: Why is hiragana used in the middle of this compound word?
    – istrasci
    Aug 14, 2015 at 3:08
  • If someone's writing "かな", could they mean "perhaps?", rather than talking about writing systems? I think I might have misunderstood the other person.
    – Golden Cuy
    Aug 14, 2015 at 4:36
  • @AndrewGrimm Well, yes, but you need to show us the complete sentence for someone to make sense of it.
    – user1478
    Aug 14, 2015 at 4:37
  • For 被爆者 vs 被害者, the full sentence or context in which you would be either one would help.
    – Ninj0r
    Aug 14, 2015 at 4:49
  • @istrasci 被曝 (to radiation / toxic chemical) is sometimes written as 被ばく because 曝 is not a 常用漢字, but 被爆 (to A-bomb) is usually written in kanji, because both are relative easy 常用漢字. But if it were really 被害, this question makes little sense to me. 被爆 and 被害 are totally different.
    – naruto
    Aug 14, 2015 at 5:37

2 Answers 2


Some Japanese words are often written in katakana when people want to emphasize X-as-an-international-word or X-as-known-to-foreigners feelings.

ヒバクシャ is occasionally the subject of this phenomenon (e.g. 世界ヒバクシャ展, 国際ヒバクシャ医療センター), but in general, it's normally written in kanji. Depending on what and to whom you write, you may choose to use katakana.


It could be because 被 and 爆 are not part of Kyoiku Kanji. Kyoiku Kanji are the Kanji that are taught from 1st to 6th grade in Japanese elementary schools, and represent the Kanji that "everyone is supposed to know".

On Japanese TV, when non-Kyoiku Kanji appears in subtitles it will usually either have Furigana above the Kanji or be in Katakana. So depending on your audience, it might be a good idea to include Furigana or Katakana.

You can see the Kyoiku Levels by searching for that word on JDIC's kanji lookup. 被 and 爆 are both level 8, meaning they aren't taught in primary school.

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