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A friend of mine shared this poetry to me, and just for fun I decided to translate it in my first language, Italian. The author is 穂村 弘 Homura Hiroshi, a contemporary writer.

あした世界が終わる日に

あした世界が終わる日に
一緒に過ごす人がいない
あした世界が終わる日が
夏ならいちごのかき氷
舌をまっかに染めながら
輝く雲を見ていたい

あした世界が終わる日に
一緒に過ごす人がいない
あした世界が終わる日が
冬ならメリーゴーラウンド
つやつや光る馬たちの
首を抱えて廻りたい

あした世界が終わる日に
一緒に過ごす人がいない
あした世界が終わる日が
今日なら蝶のアロハシャツ
汗ばむような陽炎の
駅であなたと出逢いたい

As you notice, the poetry is very simple, with no difficult or hard words, but one thing stands out: tomorrow is written in hiragana and not in kanji. After some thinking, I thought of these two main reasons:

  1. 明日 has actually two readings, あす and あした, and the reader with the kanji had to choose one or another, but in hiragana this problem does not occur (also it may be that あす is a more formal/polite word(?), and perhaps it contrasted too much with the plain of the poetry)

  2. hiragana is a "Japanese thing", so it may convey different and more deep meanings in the Japanese view, while the kanji may be more "rational" or "mental" kind of things (and on this I recall a book of Natsume Soseki, こころ).

What do you think about this? How do you feel when you read a word in hiragana vs in kanji? Is what I thought right or totally wrong?

5 Answers 5

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"Tomorrow" is seldom written as あした in daily usage. It may be that the writer would like emphasize the word "tomorrow" as the main subject of this poem, and write it in a "special" way on purpose in order to catch people's attention to the word - However, no one but the writer can tell you his real intention.

In daily usage, sometimes the words that are usually written in kanji are written in hiragana so that Japanese children and foreigners who know limited Japanese can read it as well. For example, in the emergency announcement on NHK TV news when the tsunami comes, instead of writing "津波!逃げて", they write "つなみ!にげて!".

In addition, different train companies may used kanji and hiragana to differentiate the stations that have the same name. For example, in Sapporo, the names of the subway station and the JR station are both "Sapporo". The subway writes the station name in hiragana さっぽろ, while JR writes it in kanji 札幌.

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  • Differente companies use hiragana and kanji to differentiate the stations sounds new to me! I didn't know that. I think also is to emphasize a particular word among other. Thank you! Mar 30, 2023 at 9:31
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I wouldn’t have stopped to think why あした is written in hiragana. I might have if 今日 were written as きょう. I guess I’m simply more used to seeing あした than きょう.

We would have to ask the author why he chose あした over 明日, but one possible reason, other than those you listed, is that he might have thought the kanji sequence of 明日世界 would affect readability.

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  • きょう in hiragana vs kanji is a problem also ahaha. Readability is another important factor: when i write to my friends, they always point out my sentence for this ahahaha. Thank you! Mar 30, 2023 at 9:28
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I think both of the reasons you listed are right.

Probably the primary reason why he chose Hiragana instead of Kanji is that using Hiragana normally has an effect to convey softer, warmer, and more emotional feelings or images. Kanji has a little bit more formal images than Hiragana. If this poetry were more dystopian, he might had chose 明日世界が終わる日に

Japanese poetries or haiku usually contain much more Hiragana compared to the normal writings because of the same reason. They try to evoke soft and warm emotions or memories.

And also too much of Kanji in a text reduces readability because of its density. Even in the normal writings, it is recommended that writing a text with 30% Kanji and 70% Hiragana for easier readability.

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    When i red Matsuo Basho's poetrys, i didn't notice it, but you are right! Hiragana have a much more softness indeed. Thank you! Mar 30, 2023 at 19:52
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I think you're thinking too much, you should focus on other things to speed up your JP learning process, instead of wasting your time to pondering these stuffs.

  1. Imagine you're writing a letter for the Prime Minister of JP, if you use 90% hiragana in your letter as an adult, he would considers this as very impolite. (like you're a kid who don't know how to use kanji). Considers to use kanji in your writing most of the time (unless in the context that you're writing a letter for a close friend/ family members...)

  2. Here are the appropriate contexts as to whether you should use みょうにち/あす/あした:

    • あした: Casual everyday. Speaks this with your mom and she'll not slaps you :D

    • あす: A little more polite. You can use this to speaks with your teachers.

    • みょうにち: Extremely polite, when you're speaking with your company's bosses/government officials....

Hope this helps you.

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    Yeah, you are right for a learning process point of view, to not stick too much on a precise details. But in my case, i want to work in the ambity of translation, so this apparently insignificant detail may be important ahaha. But thanks anyway for the advice, i didn't know the みょうにち reading! Thank you Mar 30, 2023 at 9:21
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    "you should focus on other things to speed up your JP learning process, instead of wasting your time to pondering these stuffs." OP asked politely about some aspect of the Japanese language, and it's not for anyone of us to judge how they use their time
    – jarmanso7
    Apr 1, 2023 at 1:50
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From the meaning of the poem, it seems that it was used for emphasis. The use of hiragana could also possibly have been used to make the poem appear more uniform visually, with the lines not varying too much in length (isometric stanza).

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