The recent popularity of the Japanese Kanji tattoos has skipped over the fact that the Kanji writing style was actually imported from China. The tattooed “characters” that can be found on many an arm or shoulder are not letters, as Western body art lovers think of them.
There are several versions of the Japanese writing style that attract many a person when they visit a tattoo parlor to decorate their body. The most popular is Kanji, but two more, Hiragana and Katakana, have been seen often on arms and shoulders.
The Kanji writing style is actually composed of borrowed Chinese ideograms that express total concepts or thoughts, rather than individual letters, as most Western people think of them. Kanji is the oldest and most complicated of the three writing systems and is used most often to write foreign words, including scientific terms and foreign names.
The one thing to remember when choosing Kanji symbols to decorate your body is that each symbol can mean at least three different things and that there might be several different symbols for the same expression. A little research might be a good idea before you make a permanent statement on your arm with a tattoo.
Hiragana and Katakana are composed much like the Western alphabet and actually spell words in a phonetic manner, from a Japanese point of view.
Katakana, the simplest Japanese script, came from the abbreviated Chinese characters the Buddhist monks used to correctly pronounce 9th century Chinese texts. Over the next 500 years, this writing system was refined until there was little difference between the written and spoken word. Katakana was originally considered to be men’s writing and was not used by women.
The Hiragana script is used for words that do not translate into Kanji. This script was not easily accepted by everyone, particularly by those who believed that the language of the educated class was Chinese. Hiragana has its roots in the cursive script used in Chinese calligraphy and was mainly used by women, who were not allowed to access the same levels of education as men.
Men were allowed, however, to use the flowing style of Hiragana for personal letters and the books they authored. Today, simple Japanese sentences will be a blending of Kanji and Hiragana. That trait will make it confusing to find your perfect Japanese tattoo because simple sentences or words because Kanji symbols will be used for nouns and the verbs would be Hiragana.
In order to have a tattoo that expresses exactly what you want to wear on your body, spend a little time to research the real meanings behind any foreign language symbol or statement. A little time spent researching could save you some embarrassment later on and the expense to have your tattoo covered up or removed.