Without difficulty, Japanese people use a combination of four different types of character systems: kanji,hiragana, katakana, and the English alphabet. This is a very unusual system not seen in any other country in the world. Each of the kanji characters, forming the core of the Japanese writing system, usually serves also as a word. Elements of Japanese culture have been embedded in these kanji characters through their forms and images. In addition,most kanji characters have two or more pronunciations and a variety of meanings.
Take the kanji " " as an example. Pronounced as bun or mon, it indicates the code of expressing and recording words. It is actually a hieroglyphic character, showing how the collars of clothing, such as a kimono, cross over each other in the front when put on. The character originally meant " aya " or something twilled, but later its meaning expanded to characters and even to sentences. Another example is " " Pronounced as ji or aza, the lower half of this kanji character originally depicted an infant having a large head against its feeble limbs. With this part as its radical, the kanji basically indicates the state of a child. Meanwhile, the upper half or " ben ", was originally shaped like something covered with a high roof to mean a house. Added together, the upper and lower parts show a child standing under a high roof. Its original meaning of giving birth to children and raising them, later came to be read as " azana " or nickname.
Among the large number of homonyms in Japanese is " yoroko-bu ", a verb meaning " to be pleased, " which can be expressed with different kanji characters such as: " , , , and ". Just as the history of the kanji " " mentioned above suggests, generations of people have created different " value added " characters while attempting to give different kanji characters to the same pronunciations to express subtle differences in meaning.