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How to Choose a Japanese Calligraphy Character

If you're looking for a Japanese symbol to adorn a personal item or to tattoo on your body, this guide will help you pick a symbol for any occasion.


  • Step 1: Decide on an alphabet Decide between three different alphabets -- the cursive-style Hiragana, the pointed block-style Katakana, or the complex Kanji symbols.
  • Step 2: Go for simplicity Go for simplicity when choosing a character. Avoid complex sentences from a poem or song, as the translation isn't exact and can be awkward.
  • Step 3: Stick with an adjective Stick with an emotion such as happiness, joy, or sorrow, or an adjective to describe someone or something.
  • Step 4: Ask a native speaker Ask a native speaker for suggestions or a translation of words and have them write everything down for you.
  • TIP: Translate your family name or the name of a loved one by visiting the foreign language department at a high school or college.
  • Step 5: Visit library Visit your local library and search for calligraphy artwork you enjoy or print out any words you find interesting from a dictionary.
  • Step 6: Evaluate each option Evaluate each option before making a final decision, or start over and try again with new words.
  • FACT: There are nearly 300,000 U.S. veterans of Asian-American descent living in the U.S.

You Will Need

  • An alphabet
  • A native Japanese speaker
  • A library
  • A school's foreign language department

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