Japanese writing is written vertically from top to bottom, with many columns of text going from right to left. Writing is usually often written horizontally from left to right, with numerous rows flowing downward, as in regular English text. However, elements such as names and words that are written horizontally can also be written vertically, especially in calligraphy and monochrome images.
In general, the reader moves from right to left across the page. However, some texts may be read from left to right depending on the individual reader's preference. For example, a horizontal scrollbar will appear on the right-hand side of a browser window when reading blog articles online.
Most Japanese characters have their own unique direction in which they should be read. For example, a character will typically be read from right to left regardless of its position in the sentence or article. However, certain characters have a meaning if read differently depending on their location. For example, the word "love" can be read as "o-rei" if read starting at the beginning of a sentence, but as "o-renji" if read at the end of a sentence.
Similarly, certain words only make sense if they are read from right to left. For example, a Japanese reader would not be able to understand "right to left" unless this phrase refers to the direction of the text itself.
Japanese is traditionally written from top to bottom and right to left. However, there are also horizontal writing systems used by certain groups or individuals. These include Ichi-no-kata ("one brush") in which every other stroke is crossed over (as if with a brush) and Shiki-no-kata ("double brush") in which every third stroke is crossed over.
In modern times, vertical writing has become the standard method of writing Japanese. Before this change, it was not unusual for writers to choose one style or the other; now all professional writers use the vertical system.
In general, Japanese characters are made up of two parts: a body and a stroke. The body is the main part of the character that determines its meaning while the stroke is used to draw it out. There are several different bodies used to make words unique. They are called "radical" and they are the basic building blocks of Japanese language.
For example, the body "a" is used to create the word "happy" while the body "i" is used to create the word "eat".
Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are traditionally written vertically in columns from top to bottom and arranged from right to left, with each new column beginning to the left of the previous one. However, there is now also a horizontal script that is becoming more popular among scholars and writers.
The traditional vertical writing system was developed over many years by multiple authorship groups. Over time they made choices about which characters to use in what contexts to produce a complete language. This led to different styles of writing and different readings of the same text by different scholars.
In addition to these stylistic differences, there are also distinctions of meaning between right-to-left reading and left-to-right reading. Words in Arabic and Hebrew are read right-to-left, while words in English, French, and other Western languages are read left-to-right. The visual appearance of these languages therefore gives an indication as to whether a reader should begin at the end of a sentence or not. For example, in Arabic the verb comes immediately after the object it modifies, so if you were reading along with a narrative poem you would know how to proceed without looking back up at the beginning of each line.
Right-to-left reading is common in Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic and Persian.
Japanese was traditionally exclusively written vertically. This is how most historical documents are written. Because most Japanese readers can understand the written language in either direction, most general literature are set in vertical text. However, in the present day, horizontal written Japanese is the more typical type.
Horizontal writing makes for easier reading on a slant!
In Japan, the traditional way of writing was called "Kanji", which means "Chinese characters". Today, because of the popularity of English in Japan, many people know this as "kango". They are not the same thing. The kango used in today's Japan has nothing to do with Chinese characters; instead, it is an alphabet developed by Dr. Kenji Kosaka at Tokyo University. It consists of about 2,000 symbols divided into 20 classes, with each class representing a sound.
In World War II, the use of kango was banned by the American occupiers because they believed that only in this way could Japan achieve economic prosperity. After the war, the ban was lifted and kango has been widely used ever since. Today, almost all Japanese children learn how to write using kango before they start school. Although the learning process takes much longer than it does for children in other countries, most consider it to be one of the most difficult aspects of Japanese culture.