"Shinjitai" (in Shinjitai: _ja. ; in Kyūjitai: _ja. ; meaning "new character form") are the forms of Kanji used in Japan since the promulgation of the Tōyō Kanji List in 1946. Some of the new forms found in Shinjitai are also found in Simplified Chinese, but Shinjitai is generally not as extensive in the scope of its modification as Simplified Chinese. Thus, modern Japanese Kanji more closely resembles Traditional Chinese characters. It should be mentioned that Japanese writing has undergone many other changes, a number of words are now normally written in Hiragana only (e.g. onomatopoeia, particles) or Katakana (loanwords, animals), some words are now more often written using Hiragana, thus the overall number of Kanji in use in modern Japanese is much smaller than in Chinese.

"Shinjitai" were created by simplifying the complicated "Kyūjitai" ( _ja. 旧字体/ _ja. 舊字體, "old character form"), unsimplified Kanji equivalent to the Traditional Chinese characters, also called _ja. 正字 "seiji", meaning proper/correct characters) through a process (very similar to that of Simplified Chinese) of either replacing the "tsukuri" ( _ja. 旁) (right-hand part of a Kanji) indicating the On reading with another character of the same On reading with fewer strokes, or replacing a complicated section of a character with a more simplified symbol.

There have been a few stages of simplifications made since the 1950s, but there have been no changes made since the promulgation of the Jōyō Kanji List in 1981.


The following forms were established as a result of the postwar character reforms - however, they were not completely created anew, but (like Simplified Chinese) many were based on widely used handwritten abbreviations ("Ryakuji", _ja. 略字) from the prewar era. This page [] shows examples of these handwritten abbreviations, identical to their modern Shinjitai forms, from the postwar era. Due to the complexity of Kanji, many abbreviations were used in handwriting, whose status rose to become official characters in the postwar reforms. Attention was paid to the aesthetic balance of the characters in their new form.

Kyūjitai: 鐵→Shinjitai: 鉄 ("TETSU"; iron)

與→与 (On: "YO", Kun: "ataeru"; to bestow, to impart)

學→学 ("GAKU", "manabu"; to learn)

體→体 ("TAI", "karada"; body)

臺→台 ("TAI"; [n.] stand; also used for Taiwan)

國→国 ("KOKU", "kuni"; country)

關→関 ("KAN", "seki"; involve, concerning)

寫→写 ("SHA", "utsusu"; to write or compose)

廣→広 ("KŌ", "hiroi"; expansive, wide)

圓→円 ("EN"; "marui"; round, circular; also used for yen)

Unofficial simplifications

There are other widely used Ryakuji of this sort, such as the abbreviations for 門 (in Simplified Chinese, this abbreviation, 门, has become official) and 第 (which exists in Unicode as [] ), but these have not been included in the Shinjitai reforms.

Unlike Simplified Chinese, which was applied to "all" characters, the simplification in shinjitai were only officially applied to characters in the Tōyō and Jōyō Kanji Lists, with the Kyūjitai forms remaining the official forms of Hyōgaiji (表外字, characters not included in the Tōyō and Jōyō Kanji Lists). For example, the character 擧 ("KYO", "agaru", "ageru"; raise [an example] ) was simplified as 挙, but the character 欅 ("keyaki"; zelkova tree) which also contained 擧, remained unsimplified due to its status as a Hyōgaiji.

Simplified forms of hyōgaiji do exist, and are referred to as Nihongo|extended shinjitai|拡張新字体. However, they are unofficial, a position reiterated in the National Language Council’s 2000 report on Characters Not Listed in the Jōyō Kanji Table.

The "Asahi Shimbun" newspaper is thorough in its simplification of Hyōgaiji, and its in-house simplifications are called Asahi characters.For example 痙攣 ("KEIREN"; cramp, spasm, convulsion) is simplified following the model of 經→経 and 戀→恋. This is also said to have been done because in the age of typewriter-based printing, more complicated Kanji could not be clearly printed. See the article on Asahi characters for more information.

The JIS standards contain numerous simplified forms of Kanji following the model of the Shinjitai simplifications, such as 﨔 (the simplified form of 欅); many of these are included in Unicode, but are not present in most kanji character sets.

Methods of simplifying Kanji

Adoption of grass script forms

Cursive script forms of Kanji were adopted as Shinjitai. Examples include:
*示 (religion/ceremony radical) →礻
*晝→昼The aforementioned 门 handwritten simplification also originated from a cursive script form, but is not generally accepted in official Japanese writing.

tandardization and unification of character forms

Characters in which there were two or more variants were standardized under one form. The character 島 ("TŌ", "shima"; island) also had the variant forms 嶋 (still seen in proper names) and 嶌, but the 島 form became standard. The 辶 radical was once printed with two dots (as in the Hyōgaiji 逞) but was written with one (as in 道), so the written form with one dot became standard. The character 青 ("SEI", "SHŌ", "aoi"; blue) was once printed as 靑 but written as 青, so the written form became standard. The upper ソ portion of the characters 半, 尊, and 平 was once printed as 八 and written ソ (as in these three examples), but the old printed form is still seen in the Hyōgaiji characters 絆 and 鮃.

Change of character indicating "On" reading

Kanji of the "Keisei moji" (形声文字) family contain a radical ("bushu", 部首) and a character indicating its On reading ("onpu", 音符). 清, 晴, 静, 精, 蜻 are all read with the On reading "SEI", as indicated by the onpu 青. In this method of simplification, an onpu that is complicated is replaced by a simpler Kanji with the same reading, for example, the character 圍 ("I", "kakomu"; enclose), in which the onpu is 韋 (read as "I"), is replaced by 井 (also read as "i", although this is actually the Kun reading) to become 囲. Other simplifications of this method include 竊→窃, 廰→庁, 擔→担. There are also colloquial handwritten simplifications based on this model, in which various non-kanji symbols are used as onpu, for example 魔 ("MA"; demon) [simplification: 广+マ {Katakana "ma"}] , 慶 ("KEI"; jubilation) [广+K] , 藤 ("TŌ", "fuji"; wisteria) [艹+ト {Katakana "to"}] , and 機 ("KI"; machine, opportunity) [木+キ {Katakana "ki"}] .

Removal of complicated portions

Some kanji were simplified by removing entire components. For example,
*The portion of was removed to become

One curious example is , meaning "dragon". It was simplified to , but the same character was "not" simplified when it appeared as a part of another kanji. A particularly curious example is 襲, meaning "attack", because it appears on the list of jōyō kanji (and is the only character containing 龍 to do so), although 龍 itself does not.

Like one of the controversial aspects of Simplified Chinese, some Shinjitai were originally separate characters with different meanings. For example, the Shinjitai 芸 ("GEI"; performance, accomplishment) which was originally a separate character read with the On reading "UN". Many of the original characters which have become merged are no longer used in modern Japanese: for example, 豫 ("YO, arakaji(me)"; in advance) and 餘 ("YO, ama(ri)"; excess) were merged with 予 and 余, respectively, both archaic kanji for the first person pronoun "I". However, 芸 poses a problem, in that Japan's first public library, Untei (芸亭) (built during the Nara Period) uses this character. This character also has significance in classical Japanese literature, and Japanese history books have had to distinguish between the two by writing "UN" using the old form of the 艹 radical, (十十). However, since the shinjitai simplification is more conservative, and generally based on already-in-use simplifications, these collisions are rare, and shinjitai simplification has generally met with less resistance than Simplified Chinese.

External links

* [ Kanji - Japanese Simplifications]
* [ "The 20th Century Japanese Writing System: Reform and Change" by Christopher Seeley]

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