What do Japanese do when they can’t remember “Kanji”?

Writing in Japanese using PC is changing the way Japanese use Kanji characters, which should have some level of impact to the search keywords.

I live and work in US, but I still read, write and speak in Japanese on daily basis. Out of these three skills, the writing skill (“Kanji writing skill” to be precise) has changed most in the past 10-15 years, not because where I live, but because how I write has changed. As said, I write in Japanese everyday, but I rarely hand-write and type everything for both work and personal communications.

As you may know, we use 4 different character sets (Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji and Roma-ji) to write. Many words can be written using any of these character sets and all 4 sets can be used in one sentence. There are 50K+ Kanji characters, and children learn about 2K of them by the 9th grade. When I type in Japanese using PC, I enter words phonetically using alphabet, and select Kanji character I like to use from the choices that the software gives me. Over the years, I leaned many Kanji characters that I didn’t learn at school from doing this process. On the other hand, when I hand-write, I can’t remember how to write some of the Kanji characters that I learned in school. When I have this problem, I open note pad on my PC and type a word to show the character. I know… really embarrassing.

I just read an article about the research done by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan about the Japanese language skill of Japanese living in Japan. It shows that many of the survey participants, who often use PC to write, are experiencing the same changes that I am experiencing. 60.6% of them said that they look up printed dictionary, 35.5% said that they use Kanji dictionary software on mobile phone, and 21.3% said that they type it on PC, when they can’t remember the character when hand-writing.

What’s interesting is that most of them said that they use more Kanji when they write using software on PC, word processor, etc. compared to when they hand-write. This could mean that more words in Kanji character are used as the search words…