Common Japanese Symbols

Japanese, though not difficult to learn to speak, is an extraordinarily difficult language to master in reading and writing. The Japanese language has three character sets: the traditional Chinese Kanji; hiragana, a Japanese script for native words; and katakana, a script for foreign loan words. If you are traveling in Japan, knowing some common characters will make your journey more enjoyable.

One of the more common symbols you will see is pictured below. These are the Chinese characters (kanji) indicating Japan. The first character is sun and the second is land or origin. Japan is the land of the rising sun.

Woman and Man

To prevent an embarrassment, it is important to know the characters for male and female. This is especially important when you visit the restroom or a Japanese spa (onsen).


Another ever-present symbol in Japan is "osake" or alcohol. Above most convenience stores and bars, this symbol is a welcome sign to travelers and Japanese businessmen looking for an Asahi or Sapporo after work.

Jason Gordon is a professional writer and editor. In addition to online work, he has written for "Texas Highways," "AAA Southwest," "Glimpse," the "University of Washington Daily" and the "Dallas Morning News." Gordon's passions include animals, reading and finding the perfect pairings of pastry and espresso.