There are kanji, katakana and hiragana, but is there a native word or phrase for the union of these sets?

6 Answers 6


Unfortunately no word exactly represents only the union of kanji, hiragana and katakana.

  • 漢字: kanji
  • 仮名: kana; hiragana & katakana
  • 字/文字: kanji, kana, punctuation, other written symbols
  • 和字/和文: (typography term) kanji, kana, punctuation, fullwidth Latin letters etc. used in Japanese typesetting (as opposed to 欧文, or ordinary Latin typesetting symbols)

I tend to agree that it'd be convenient if we had an exact blanket term of kanji and kana, but they are too heterogeneous (logogram and syllabary) to be lumped together by nature, especially in relation to other writing symbols used at the same time. That said, 日本語の文字 would convey your intended meaning in most of the time.

PS The obviously correct way to refer to them is 漢字と仮名.

  • Interesting. If that's the case could you tell me what's wrong with my answer and why/how "Japanese writing/notation system" does not carry the meaning of the union of kanji, kana etc? Isn't by definition a writing/notation system the collection of every type of character and sign that is used to write and convey meaning? I'm sure you know better than me so I'm just honestly curious to know your opinion. Thanks.
    – Tommy
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 4:47
  • 3
    @Tommy OP is explicitly asking about characters only, not the orthography (system) as a whole. 表記体系 includes even something like "Japanese sentence can be written vertically," but that's not what OP is referring to. Honestly speaking, I cannot think of better phrase than 日本語の文字.
    – naruto
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 4:57
  • @naruto I see. Could the word 文字体系 I report from the linked reference be close as well? If you think so I could edit the answer to make this clear in light of these comments. Otherwise, if my answer turns out to be not correct should not be the accepted one I think. Thanks for the comment again.
    – Tommy
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 5:19
  • @Tommy 文字体系 refers to the system as a whole. You can say カタカナ/漢字を書く or 日本語の文字を書く, but not 日本語の文字体系を書く. So 文字体系 is not the simple union of kana and kanji.
    – naruto
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 5:22
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    @Tommy In some definition (by engineers) it might mean "set of graphic characters used for the written form of one or more languages" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_15924 but generally it's what naruto said. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 5:56

What is a native word or phrase for the union of kanji, katakana and hiragana?

表記{ひょうき}文字{もじ} is a close word for your request.

I said "close" not "exact", because 表記{ひょうき}文字{もじ} includes not only kanji, katakana and hiragana, but also includes alphabets and even 絵文字{えもじ} which means emoticons.

If you want to study further, 日本語の表記体系 in Tommy's answer is the best.

In order to help you use the word 表記{ひょうき}文字{もじ} properly, I will give you some information.

  1. Originally the word 表記{ひょうき}文字{もじ} does not have the direct relation to kanji, katakana and hiragana, so you have to particularly say 日本語{にほんご}の表記{ひょうき}文字{もじ} to refer these character sets.
  2. Though the word 表記{ひょうき} is a relatively, not very, common Japanese word used such as 「表記{ひょうき}する」 meaning "to describe", the word 表記{ひょうき}文字{もじ} rather belongs to technical terms, so you are better not to use it in your conversation. Even Japanese do not use it in their conversation. If we hear the sound "hyohki-moji" abruptly, we could not image those character sets.
  3. Then, how do you say to others?
    -「ひらがなで書{か}いてください」, 「ひらがなだけで書{か}いてください」 or 「全部{ぜんぶ}ひらがなで書{か}いてください」
    -「カタカナで書{か}いてください」, 「カタカナだけで書{か}いてください」 or 「全部{ぜんぶ}カタカナで書{か}いてください」
    -「読{よ}めますので、漢字{かんじ}を使{つか}って書{か}いてください。」 or 「読{よ}めますので、漢字{かんじ}を入{い}れて書{か}いてください。」 Don't say 「漢字{かんじ}仮名{かな}交{ま}じり文{ぶん}で書{か}いてください。」because it is too technical. 
  • 1
    Upvote for reference to 仮名交じり文 though you don't seem to recommend it.
    – user4092
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 7:44

I believe that maybe what you are looking for is actually (日本語の)表記体系{ひょうきたいけい},that could be translated as "(Japanese) notation system".

In fact, the answer 文字{もじ} that was given before is not incorrect but, in my understanding, that usually indicates a character (whatever the type) alone rather than the union of the sets [hiragana], [katakana], and [kanji]. From the way you ask it seems you are more interested in this second.

Actually, if you look at the Japanese version of the Wikipedia page Japanese Writing System, you will see that it is indeed 日本語の表記体系. So this also makes me believe that this is the closest thing to what you are looking for.

For completeness, let me quote Wikipedia below:


Also, if you look at the column on the right you will notice the first entry:

類型 : 表語文字(漢字)と音節文字(平仮名と片仮名)の併用

which basically describes the pattern of this system as "the joint use of kanji and syllabic characters".

Ps. I found also another source where also the following words come up:


Not sure exactly what is the difference (notation system and writing system), but we're probably talking about the same thing. Anyway regarding your answer I would stick with what I said above and the Wikipedia reference.

EDIT: In view of the answer by Broccoli Forest and the comments by Naruto below, it's better I make clear that it seems that what I have been talking about above refers to the writing system as a whole, hence it includes things like (quote) "Japanese sentence can be written vertically," etc. In view of this, if you are interested only in a union of characters it seems that the correct answer is that there is no word that describes such union (of characters only). The closest thing could be 日本語の文字 as stated in the comments as well.

If you were interested to know about the whole writing system in general, my answer probably still holds.


I think 字 is sufficient to cover 漢字、平仮名、and 片仮名。 When we say "彼は字が書けない、(読めない)- He cannnot write and read," we are not specifying which of three styles of Japanese letter.

"彼は字が読めない" also means he is illiterate. We don't deliberately say 彼は"文字"が書けない(読めない)。


I lived in Japan for a couple years, and I frequently heard (and read) the word 字{じ} (same "ji" as in "kanji") used by native and foreign speakers to describe hiragana, katakana, and kanji characters.

However, after some research, it appears 文字{もじ} may technically be more correct.


Also, you're asking for the Japanese term, so this is slightly off topic, but in English, Japan's writing system encompassing hiragana, katakana, and kanji, is termed a "syllabary" rather than an alphabet.

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    I believe only two kanas are syllabaries, while kanji is a logographic system.
    – Neith
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 17:02

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