I have been looking into the different types of Japanese (hiragana, katakana, kanji, romaji) and am unclear which would be the best choice for a nonfiction novel to be translated into. The original text is in English, with an occasional word or phrase from a different language, like Hindi, Cherokee, and Hebrew. It is around 85,000 words, and is a spirituality/self-help type of book, if either of those points make any sort of difference.

Because I can't read, write or understand any Japanese, are there other things that would he helpful for me to know in overseeing this translation process?

  • Are you asking whether your book should be written in only hiragana / only katakana etc?
    – oals
    Jul 21, 2016 at 10:45
  • Those are not different types of Japanese - they are different scripts used in Japanese, and typical Japanese text usually contain a mix of hirakana, katakana and kanji (no romaji - this is for transcription for non-Japanese speakers/readers). I'd imagine that the phrases/quotes would be retained in their original language, accompanied by an equivalent expression in Japanese.
    – nhahtdh
    Jul 21, 2016 at 10:57
  • Take a look at en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_writing_system If your translation uses only one of these three scripts, it is not standard Japanese.
    – Earthliŋ
    Jul 21, 2016 at 11:00

1 Answer 1


I think you have a basic misunderstanding about how Japanese is written. What you listed are not "types of Japanese", but several writing systems used in combination to serve different purposes within written Japanese (with the exception of romaji, which is not commonly used in written Japanese). A typical Japanese sentence can contain all three scripts (kanji, hiragana, and katakana).


彼、人: kanji

は、です: hiragana

アメリカ: katakana

So ultimately, your question is based on a false premise. There is no other practical type of Japanese that your non-fiction book could be translated to other than standard written Japanese.

  • Yes, you are right, I had this completely wrong. This clarifies so much and makes this seem like a less daunting prospect. Thank you for educating me!
    – L.Davis
    Jul 21, 2016 at 11:22

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