View Full Version : Japanese style of writing

08-14-2010, 06:24 AM
I was strolling through google and decided to look up Japanese style of writing to see if it was similar or different from English writing. I came across this:

Light novels are written as popular entertainment, so the writing style for light novels is often very different from that of literary novels aimed solely at adults. Light novels sometimes use a short style with paragraphs of one to three sentences in length. They are usually driven by dialogue. Light novel authors make use of literary minimalism (http://www.absolutewrite.com/wiki/Minimalism#Literary_minimalism).
The major difference between light novels and other forms of literature is that light novels are marked by play with language. They frequently use more furigana (http://www.absolutewrite.com/wiki/Furigana) than is normally used in adult fiction, for two main reasons. First, furigana help younger readers who do not have a strong command of kanji (http://www.absolutewrite.com/wiki/Kanji). However, light-novel writers popularized a second way of using furigana which has a long history in Japan. Writers will make use of unusual kanji readings (http://www.absolutewrite.com/wiki/Kanji#Readings) which are not in common use in Japanese, or simply create new readings for kanji (http://www.absolutewrite.com/wiki/Kanji). These readings might be borrowed from foreign-language words or they might be completely fictional invented names for existing things. This exploits the fact that each kanji character is associated with both a meaning (http://www.absolutewrite.com/wiki/Meaning_(linguistic)), and a set of sounds. Authors manipulate the various meanings and sounds of kanji in order to give words several layers of meaning. This gives light novels additional layers of complexity, in contrast to their sometimes simplistic writing. Unfortunately, some aspects of this writing style are lost in the process of translation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_novel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_novel)

Is this the same as using Oblique writing, meaning the writer writes something but it has a different meaning? I really find this fasinating, but can't seem to find more info on it. Can someone please explain and maybe give some examples? Thanks so much!!

08-15-2010, 07:10 PM

About the "light novel" thing: I was visiting my friend in Yokohama yesterday and we went to a bookstore in search for a newly published book titled "Honchō Kinpeibai" 『本朝金瓶梅』, which is basically a retelling of the classic Chinese novel "The Plum in the Golden Vase" in Japanese setting. We thought it was going to be a comic, and were quite looking forward to it, but it turned out to be a light novel: short sentences, simplified plot, half of the characters cut out etc. Being fans of the original novel, we bought it anyway, but it didn't look promising at all.

The Wikipedia article is quite correct about the furigana thing, as it does help young people who don't have enough kanji knowledge, but that's about it. Light novels aren't about adding layers of complexity, but rather about reducing the story to minimum, to its main plot/topic/selling point. Now, "Kinpeibai" is an immensely rich and complex novel of manners set in the Ming era, an invaluable source for all sorts of scholars and researchers, but it is still censored in Japan (despite being a classic) due to its highly eroticized content and numerous sex scenes, to the extent that some passages are simply omitted or just left untranslated in classical Chinese (a bonus for good students lol). However, the "light novel" my friend bought seems to focus only on the scandalous side.

About the furigana and different meanings of kanji: it's an extremely common practice, known and used in popular literature (especially since Edo period), to assign a different kind of reading to a kanji/set of kanji. Sometimes it gives a deeper meaning to the word or phrase, sometimes it's just meant to be a joke, sometimes, especially often in case of kabuki titles, it's done to give the title an auspicious or elegant sound. It's called ateji:


For example, a well-known word for courtesan, oiran, is an ateji: 花魁, where the kanji were chosen simply for its beauty.

Liosse de Velishaf
08-16-2010, 12:20 AM
There are some really great light novels, and I'm sure there are a few folks who really get into "layering". But it's commercial fiction. Most light novel readers are not reading for some fancy writing. They're reading for the same reasons people read commerical fiction in every other country that has it. Entertainment.

08-16-2010, 05:00 AM
Ok, thanks. I appreciate it. :))