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Kanji aficionados and educators are buzzing over the biggest kanji news in nearly three decades: Next fall, for the first time since 1981, Japan’s government is expected to announce a revision of the joyo (general-use) kanji list. Currently numbering 1,945, these kanji comprise the official list allowed for use in newspapers and government publications, and Japanese school children are meant to learn them all during their compulsory education.

Since 1981, a tsunami of kanji has crashed into Japanese daily life, creating a pressing need for the government to reassess exactly how many and which kanji its citizenry should be expected to read and write. Due to advances in Japanese software technology, 10,000 characters — five times the current number of joyo kanji — can be called up on cell phones and personal computers with the tap of a finger.

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