History of Kanji
The characters in the Japanese language known as Kanji（かんじ）originated from China. Each kanji has its own meanings and sounds. They are said to have been created in China between the 14th and 12th centuries BC.
Japan had no writing system until the 4th century, when kanji was imported through the Korean peninsula between the end of the 4th century and early 5th century.
Number of "Jōyō Kanji"
Common use kanji (じょうようかんじ jōyō kanji) are those officially recognized by government as being necessary for daily communication. Today, the number of official common use kanji in Japan is 2136! Phew!... On top of that, each kanji has several readings.. Just thinking about learning them all is enough to make you feel dizzy!
In addition, you have another 92 phonetic characters that make up the other two Japanese alphabets (
Hiragana and Katakana). Just these characters alone are three times more than the 26 characters that make up the English alphabet! Even if you count both the number of capital and lower case letters in the English alphabet, there are still only a mere 52 characters to learn.
How do Japanese people learn all these characters?
Children begin by learning the 92 hiragana and katakana over the time they enter Kindergarten up until the first grade of elementary school. Then, during their elementary years (from 7 to 12 years old), they learn 1026 kanji. They learn the remaining 1110 common use kanji throughout their junior high school years (from 13 to 15 years old).
I remember it as if it was yesterday. We had kanji tests every morning in elementary school...
But these days, working on a computer every day, people have less and less opportunities to actually write kanji.
It's just the same for me. These days, the number of kanji that I can read but not write is increasing... 😅
Agency for Cultural Affaires, Government of Japan's website:
Japanese Ministry of Education's website: