japanese kanji for boy

What Is The Japanese Kanji For Boy? | How To Say Boy In Japanese? 

Jun 05, 2024Shopify API

The Japanese kanji for boy is 少年. Learn the different components that make up the kanji 少年 and learn how to say boy in Japanese? 

Discover the essence of boyhood in the Japanese language with our comprehensive guide to the word '少年' (shounen). 

In this article, we delve into the meaning, pronunciation, and usage of this term, offering valuable insights into its significance in Japanese culture. 

Whether you're learning Japanese or simply curious about language and culture, this guide will shed light on the word '少年' and its role in representing boys and young individuals in Japan. 

Explore its various contexts and broaden your understanding of this captivating term.

Japanese Kanji For Boy Is 少年

The Japanese kanji for "boy" is written as "少年" in kanji characters. When broken down, this kanji can be divided into two parts:

  • 少 (shou): This character means "few" or "little." It represents youth and the idea of being young or small in number.
  • 年 (nen): This character means "year" and signifies the passage of time. It implies growth and maturation.

When combined, "少年" paints a vivid picture of a young individual on the journey of growing up. This kanji encapsulates the essence of boyhood, symbolizing youth and the potential for growth and development.

How To Say Boy In Japanese? 

To say "少年" in Japanese, you would pronounce it as "shounen." The pronunciation can be broken down into two parts:

  • "少" (shou) is pronounced like "sho," where "sh" is similar to the English "sh" sound, and "o" is pronounced as a long "o" sound.
  • "年" (nen) is pronounced as "nen," with both "n" sounds being distinct.

When spoken together, "shounen" is the Japanese word for "boy." This term is commonly used in conversation, literature, and various contexts to refer to a young male individual, typically a child or adolescent. 

It's important to note that Japanese pronunciation can vary slightly depending on regional accents and dialects, but "shounen" is the standard and widely recognized pronunciation for "少年" across Japan.

Breaking Down The Components Of 少年

Breaking down the components of the kanji "少年" (shounen) provides insight into its meaning and symbolism. This kanji is composed of two distinct characters, each contributing to its overall significance:

少 (shou):

  • Meaning: "少" means "few" or "little."
  • Radical: This character consists of two components. The upper part, "丿," represents a stroke that is often associated with the idea of reduction or subtraction. The lower part, "八," resembles the number eight and signifies the concept of a small quantity.
  • Significance: "少" represents youth and the idea of being young or small in number. It conveys the notion of limited experience and the early stages of life, both of which are characteristic of childhood and adolescence.

年 (nen):

  • Meaning: "年" means "year" or "age."
  • Radical: This character is composed of two elements. The upper part, "干," is associated with the concept of time and drying. The lower part, "千," represents the number one thousand.
  • Significance: "年" symbolizes the passage of time and the concept of age. It implies growth, maturation, and the idea that individuals progress through various stages of life over the years.

When combined, these two characters, "少" and "年," create the kanji "少年," which vividly depicts the concept of a young person on the journey of growing up. 

"少" emphasizes the youthfulness and limited experience of a boy, while "年" highlights the ongoing process of maturation and the accumulation of years.

In essence, the kanji "少年" beautifully encapsulates the essence of boyhood by portraying a young individual who is at the early stages of life, full of potential for growth and development, and on the path towards adulthood. 

This breakdown of components provides a deeper understanding of the symbolism and cultural significance embedded in the kanji for "boy" in Japanese.

Cultural Significance Of 少年

The kanji for "boy" carries profound cultural significance in Japan and is deeply rooted in the country's history and traditions. Here are some key aspects of its cultural importance:

  • Celebrating Youth: In Japan, youth is celebrated and revered. The kanji "少年" reflects the cultural appreciation for the vibrancy and potential of young individuals. This reverence for youth is evident in various aspects of Japanese society, including festivals, art, and literature.
  • Rites of Passage: The concept of coming of age is essential in Japanese culture. Young boys and girls celebrate their transition into adulthood through ceremonies such as Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day) and Shichi-Go-San (a celebration for children aged three, five, and seven). The kanji for "boy" represents this pivotal phase of life when a child matures into a young adult.
  • Literary and Artistic Expression: Japanese literature and art often explore the themes of youth and growing up. The kanji "少年" frequently appears in literature and art as a symbol of youthful exuberance and the challenges and adventures that come with it
  • Martial Arts and Sports: Japan has a rich tradition of martial arts, and many practitioners start training from a young age. The kanji for "boy" is often associated with the determination and discipline required in these pursuits, highlighting the connection between youth and the pursuit of excellence.
  • Symbol of Hope: The kanji for "boy" represents hope for the future. It embodies the belief that young individuals hold the potential to shape a brighter tomorrow, making it a powerful symbol in Japanese culture.

Sentence Examples Of 少年

  • その少年は夢を追いかけています。
    (Sono shounen wa yume o oikaketeimasu.)
    Translation: The boy is chasing his dreams.
  • 少年たちは公園でサッカーをしています。
    (Shounen-tachi wa kouen de sakkaa o shiteimasu.)
    Translation: The boys are playing soccer in the park.
  • あの少年は将来医者になりたいと言っています。
    (Ano shounen wa shourai isha ni naritai to itteimasu.)
    Translation: That boy says he wants to become a doctor in the future.
  • 私の息子は元気な少年です。
    (Watashi no musuko wa genki na shounen desu.)
    Translation: My son is an energetic boy.
  • この本は少年向けの冒険小説です。
    (Kono hon wa shounen-muke no bouken shousetsu desu.)
    Translation: This book is an adventure novel for boys.
  • 来週、少年野球チームの試合があります。
    (Raishuu, shounen yakyuu chiimu no shiai ga arimasu.)
    Translation: There is a baseball game for the boys' team next week.
  • その少年はとても賢いです。将来が楽しみです。
    (Sono shounen wa totemo kashikoi desu. Shourai ga tanoshimi desu.)
    Translation: That boy is very smart. His future looks promising.
  • 彼は少年時代に多くの冒険を経験しました。
    (Kare wa shounen jidai ni ooku no bouken o keiken shimashita.)
    Translation: He experienced many adventures during his boyhood.
  • 少年たちは学校で友達と楽しい時間を過ごしています。
    (Shounen-tachi wa gakkou de tomodachi to tanoshii jikan o sugoshiteimasu.)
    Translation: The boys are having a fun time with their friends at school.
  • この映画は少年の成長と友情を描いています。
    (Kono eiga wa shounen no seichou to yuujou o kaiteimasu.)
    Translation: This movie portrays the growth and friendship of a boy.


The Japanese kanji for "boy," represented by the characters "少年," is a captivating symbol that encapsulates the essence of youth, growth, and potential. Its cultural significance in Japan runs deep, reflecting a society that celebrates and reveres the journey from childhood to adulthood. 

Through its usage in literature, art, and various traditions, this kanji stands as a powerful reminder of the importance of youth in shaping the future and the enduring cultural values of Japan. 

Understanding the intricacies of this kanji offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Japanese culture and its timeless appreciation for the beauty of youth.

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