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It may be a stupid question, but will a Japanese person understand if I write 'Fukushima' in hiragana?

Thanks

  • I'm not Japanese, but I think they can understand. – fefe Feb 14 at 14:36
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Since Fukushima is a Japanese word you should be completely fine. They will likely get what you're asking for or about from context.

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It’s ambiguous as there are many homophones in Japanese. If you refer to Fukushima-shi (the city) or Fukushima-ken (the prefecture) they should understand but the kanji would be more specific. It’s 福島 in this case.

There are multiple kanji with the same sound. For example 福 (blessing) and 服 (clothing) are both read as ふく. Using kanji in writing resolves this ambiguity (a reader cannot ask for clarification, a listener can).

If you really cannot use the kanji, for nouns I would use katakana so that it is clear that it is not a grammatical particle or okurigana. Katakana is not used exclusively for foreign words but also Japanese words with rare kanji, especially names for birds, plants, and fish. For example ウ for 鵜, クジラ for 鯨, シロイヌナズナ for 白犬薺.

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    How does the hiragana vs kanji relate to the ambiguity? – Leebo Feb 15 at 16:22
  • @Leebo see the updated answer. – Tom Kelly Feb 16 at 2:08
  • I guess I'm still not entirely clear on what else ふくしま could be confused for. It's true that there are multiple ふく kanji and multiple しま kanji, but are there really multiple ふくしま (other than the city and the prefecture, which as noted before, is ambiguous whether you use kanji or not). – Leebo Feb 17 at 0:15
  • In this specific case it should be clear from context. In general I recommend using Kanji if you are able to. One thing to note is that as Japanese doesn’t have spaces it’s not clear where one word ends and another begins. It’s hard to comment on specifics without an example of a sentence but it could be difficult to parse in hiragana. The only reason not to use kanji is if you or your reader cannot understand them. Native speakers will expect kanji if you are able to use them. – Tom Kelly Feb 17 at 0:23

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