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I always assumed that Japanese uses a minimum amount of hiragana until I opened this Life and Death Dictionary (Game of Go) and everything is in kanji. Are there kanji for the particles (は が で に も etc...)? If not, can one write Japanese without particles? In the image text, are the particles implied but not written? page of Everything about Life and Death by Cho Chikun

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    This book is not Japanese. This is a Chinese book. – Peco Apr 14 at 19:23
  • @Peco Yes you are right: Jack Kendal in his answer below (one day before you posted) already said this and I agreed with him. – Sergio Parreiras Apr 16 at 2:30
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Update: to address the broader question in the headline, rather than just the specifics of the sample text.

Can Japanese be written without any kana (kanji only)?

That question has been asked and answered before:

Please see that post for a fuller discussion of the general question.


As noted by Jack Kendall, this looks a lot like a Chinese-language text.

Hints include the following:

  • Complete lack of kana
    Outside of newspaper headlines, modern Japanese generally cannot be written intelligibly without kana. Old Japanese was written entirely in kanji, but that's a different matter -- see the Wikipedia articles on man'yōgana and the Man'yōshū poetry compilation of roughly 759 CE.
  • Non-Japanese variants of certain characters
    • Japanese kanji have specific shapes and forms, which may differ slightly from the Chinese forms. For 黒・黑 ("black"), notice the difference in the box-like portion on top of each character (apologies for the abuse of headers, it's the only way to display the characters in a larger font size):
      • The Japanese form
      • The Chinese form, which we see in the text in your photograph
  • A high incidence of the character 是
    • This is not a very common character in modern Japanese usage, appearing in a few set terms like 是非【ぜひ】 ("absolutely"), 是正【ぜせい】 ("a correction"). In Chinese, however, you'll find it all over the place, as [是]{shì} is the copula, the "is" verb. And, indeed, we see [是]{shì} all over the place in your sample text.
  • Non-Japanese punctuation
    • The Japanese comma looks like , a small diagonal tick on the bottom of its text layout area. The Chinese comma looks like , more similar to a Western comma, sometimes even more specifically so, like a dot with a curly tail. It's often more commonly laid out in the exact center of its layout area, which again is what we see in your sample text.

Even without reading the text, the above factors all point to this being a text in Chinese -- not Japanese.

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  • @Downvoter, on the theory that you were motivated by the concern that this post did not address the more general question, I have updated to address that as well. – Eiríkr Útlendi Apr 13 at 22:34
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    Chinese also uses 、 but for enumeration purposes only. Something like, “The shop was closed today , but the local farmer’s market was filled with vibrant activity ,and we were able to buy apples 、tomatoes 、and onions.” Chinese originally used 、 for the comma sense but shifted to the symbol , later. – dROOOze Apr 14 at 0:29
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    I realized after a second read that you actually answered the question in the title in your original response: "Old Japanese was written entirely in kanji, but that's a different matter [...]". But couldn't undo the downvote right away. I did it now. Anyway, thank you very much for providing a link to a detailed answer in your edit. – jarmanso7 Apr 14 at 11:06
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At the risk of sounding condescending, is the book definitely intended for a Japanese audience? As far as I'm aware standard, formal, modern Japanese basically always contains hiragana. Is it possibly a Chinese language?

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  • I'm going to check. I also always assume that is Chinese if I don't see any hiragana but Cho Chikun lived and works in Japan. – Sergio Parreiras Apr 13 at 21:18
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    I'm new too, so I'd just wait for a mod to see this and decide what to do with it. Don't feel stupid, by the way - you've learned something from asking this question, so it served a purpose. – Jack Kendall Apr 13 at 21:27
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    Late to the party, but since hiragana and katakana originated from kanji, at some point in the past (i. e. before hiragana and katakana came to exist as we know them today) everything in Japanese was written in Kanji. – jarmanso7 Apr 13 at 21:41
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    @SergioParreiras, I think there may still be benefit -- beginning students of Japanese, much like yourself, may have the same (or a similar) question. – Eiríkr Útlendi Apr 13 at 21:42
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    Downvoter. I am sorry to be picky here, but while this answer clearly helps the OP, I don't think it's answering his question, namely Can Japanese be written without any kana (kanji only)? – jarmanso7 Apr 13 at 21:49

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