I posted a photo of my new Japanese idioms book and was saying that it was hard for me to read the print because it was so small.  My cousin told me I need some “readers” as she put it.  I have horrible eyesight in general, but there’s a really good reason that Japanese print can be hard to read.  And no, it’s not because it’s all weird and squiggly.

There’s something called “furigana” and it’s the furigana that I have trouble reading.  Furigana is really small print next to a kanji character.  It gives the reading of the character. You will only see furigana in material for learners, i.e. children’s books.  Furigana can also be called “Rubi.”


Look at the above photo. See that small print above the characters?  That’s furigana.

So yeah, that’s the secret to how Japanese kids learn all those thousands of kanji characters.  They have the help of furigana.   You don’t go from babu babu baby books to the Asahi newspaper overnight.

Furigana is helpful, but also a pain, in my opinion.  I shouldn’t use it unless absolutely necessary, but I always find myself peeking at it.  It’s bad to depend on furigana, especially as you progress.

I think that eventually Japanese people will embrace ebooks so they can click on a kanji and see the furigana.  It will only appear if they click.  They have not really embraced ebooks yet.  I think they are so wrapped up in their Iphones that they forgot how to read.   (Honestly, it used to be that on a train everybody had a book or a comic book.  Now they ALL have their phones out.)