Editorials

Revising the list of kanji

A panel of the Council for Cultural Affairs is working to revise the official list of Chinese characters in common use (joyo kanji). The final proposal is expected in February. The revision should draw the attention of not only Japanese but also foreigners interested in Japanese culture.

The current joyo kanji list contains 1,945 characters. The kanji panel plans to add 186 characters, including “kan” of “kankoku” (Korea) and “satsu” of “kosatsu” (ancient temple). But “mou” of “mouko” (Mongolia) is one of six kanji to be dropped, since “mou” is hardly used anywhere except in the combination for Mongolia.

The kanji for “go up a stream, or go back to the origin” will also be added. Since the “road” radical of this kanji has two strokes on top, unlike the usual “road” radical, the council may face difficulty in deciding on an acceptable form.

New on and kun readings will also be added to the list. For example, the character that means “I” will get the new kun reading of “watashi” in addition to the currently allowed kun reading of “watakushi.”

A Japan-made kanji for “smell good,” with a kun reading of “niou,” will be added to the list, and the kanji already on the list for “smell bad” will be allowed a new kun reading of “niou.” This will enable the use of different kanji for sentences referring to “sewage odors” and the “smell of roses.”

In 1981 the joyo kanji list superseded the old toyo kanji list — the list of Chinese characters, which was announced in November 1946 and designated for daily use. Since the latter was compiled rather hastily after World War II, it contained kanji with incorrect forms, so the joyo list took over some incorrect forms. The council should carefully discuss this matter.

But the council will have a difficult time deciding which forms should be accepted as correct in the new list. Some kanji planned to be added to the joyo list contain radicals whose forms are different from the ones usually used by mass media and in computers. The council may need to accept different forms, assigning priority to avoid unnecessary burdens and rigid uniformity.