japanese kanji for man

What Is Japanese Kanji For Man? | How To Say Man In Japanese? 

Jun 05, 2024Shopify API

The Japanese kanji for man is 男. Learn about the components of the kanji 男 and learn how to say man in Japanese. 

The Japanese writing system is a rich tapestry of characters, each with its own unique history, meaning, and cultural significance. 

Among these characters, the kanji hold a special place. Kanji are logographic characters borrowed from Chinese script and used extensively in the Japanese writing system. 

Each kanji character tells a story, encapsulating meanings and concepts that reflect the culture, values, and history of Japan. One such kanji that holds profound symbolism is the character for "man" (男).

What Is Japanese Kanji For Man?

The Japanese kanji for "man" is "男." This character is composed of two components: "力" (chikara) meaning strength or power, and "田" (ta) representing rice paddies or fields. 

Together, they depict a man working in the fields, embodying physical strength and traditional roles. 

Over time, the kanji's meaning evolved to encompass emotional resilience and personal growth. 

It reflects the dynamic nature of masculinity in Japanese culture, from its historical ties to labor-intensive tasks to its modern interpretation as a symbol of diverse qualities beyond physical attributes. 

The character remains a profound representation of gender roles and societal values.

How to Say Man in Japanese? 

In the Japanese language, referring to a "man" involves using specific terms that carry distinct nuances and cultural implications.

These terms reflect the evolving understanding of masculinity within Japanese society.

Let's explore the different ways to say "man" in Japanese and the nuances associated with each term.

  1. 男 (Otoko): The most straightforward term for "man" in Japanese is "男" (otoko). This term refers to an adult male and is neutral in its usage. It is commonly used to describe men of all ages without any specific connotations.
  1. 男性 (Dansei): The term "男性" (dansei) is a more formal and objective way to refer to "males" or "men." It is often used in contexts that require a neutral and professional tone, such as academic discussions or statistical reports.
  1. 男子 (Danshi): "男子" (danshi) is a term that specifically refers to young boys or youths. It can also be used to describe a group of young men. This term is commonly used in educational or sports contexts, such as referring to a boys' soccer team as "サッカー男子" (sakkā danshi).
  1. 男性陣 (Dansei-jin): "男性陣" (dansei-jin) is a term often used to collectively refer to a group of men. It is commonly seen in announcements, advertisements, or event descriptions when the focus is on the male participants or performers.
  1. 男らしい (Otokorashii): While not a direct translation of "man," the term "男らしい" (otokorashii) is an adjective that describes qualities associated with traditional masculinity. It describes someone who displays attributes like strength, courage, and honor. This term delves into the character and behavior of an individual, reflecting cultural ideals of a "true man."
  1. 彼 (Kare): The pronoun "彼" (kare) is often used to refer to "he" or "him" in Japanese. While not a direct translation of "man," it is commonly used to indicate males in conversation or writing.
  1. 先輩 (Senpai) and 後輩 (Kouhai): "先輩" (senpai) refers to a senior or an elder in a social or hierarchical context. "後輩" (kouhai) refers to a junior or someone younger. While not exclusive to men, these terms are often used in educational and professional settings to address and acknowledge the seniority or juniority of individuals, regardless of gender.

Origins and Composition Of 男

The origins and composition of the Japanese kanji for "man" (男) reveal fascinating insights into its visual representation and historical significance.

  1. Composition

The kanji for "man" is composed of two distinct elements: "力" (chikara), meaning strength or power, and "田" (ta), representing rice paddies or fields. 

These components are combined to create a character that visually represents a man working in the fields. The "力" component, often seen as a stand-alone kanji, represents physical strength and exertion. 

The "田" component symbolizes agriculture, representing the cultivation of the land and the labor-intensive work associated with it.

  1. Visual Symbolism

The composition of the kanji itself carries deep symbolism. By combining "力" and "田," the character depicts a man engaged in physical labor, specifically in the context of agricultural work. 

This visual representation reflects the historical reality of societies where men were often responsible for working the fields, tending to crops, and providing sustenance for their families and communities.

  1. Historical Significance

In ancient agrarian societies, such as those in both China and Japan, the division of labor was often highly gendered. 

Men were expected to perform physically demanding tasks, such as plowing fields, planting and harvesting crops, and building structures. 

The kanji for "man" captures this traditional role and societal expectation, showcasing the integral connection between masculinity and physical labor.

  1. Cultural Reflections

The composition of the kanji also reflects cultural values of the time. In these societies, physical strength was highly regarded, as it was essential for survival and productivity. 

Men's roles were closely tied to their ability to provide for their families and communities through their physical prowess, reinforcing the concept of masculinity as being closely linked to physical capabilities.

  1. Evolution and Interpretation

While the original meaning and composition of the kanji for "man" emphasized physical labor, the interpretation of masculinity has evolved over time. 

In modern Japan, the emphasis on strength has expanded to encompass emotional resilience, integrity, and personal growth. 

As Japanese society transitioned from agrarian to industrial and post-industrial, the expectations of men's roles and qualities have shifted. This evolution is reflected in the broader connotations associated with the kanji.

In conclusion, the composition and origins of the Japanese kanji for "man" (男) offer a glimpse into the historical roles and cultural values of traditional societies. 

The character's depiction of a man working in the fields symbolizes the integral connection between masculinity and physical labor. 

As Japanese society has evolved, so too has the interpretation of masculinity, encompassing a wider range of qualities beyond physical strength. 

This evolution of meaning demonstrates the dynamic nature of language and culture, as well as the ability of kanji to reflect the changing societal landscape over time.

Evolution of Meaning 男

The "Evolution of Meaning" section explores how the interpretation of the Japanese kanji for "man" (男) has changed over time, encompassing a broader spectrum of qualities and characteristics beyond its original representation of physical strength and labor.

  1. Transition from Physical Labor to Holistic Masculinity

As Japan underwent social and cultural transformations, particularly during the Meiji Restoration (late 19th century), the country transitioned from an agrarian society to an industrialized nation.

This shift brought about changes in gender roles and societal expectations. 

With the rise of modernization, the interpretation of masculinity expanded beyond the confines of physical labor. 

Men were now expected to contribute not only through manual work but also through intellectual pursuits, leadership, and personal development.

  1. Emotional Resilience and Integrity

In modern times, the concept of masculinity broadened to include emotional resilience and integrity. 

The kanji for "man" began to reflect qualities such as courage, honor, and a strong sense of responsibility. 

The idea of a "true man" (本当の男 hontou no otoko) came to embody qualities that extended beyond the physical realm, highlighting the importance of emotional strength and moral character.

  1. Personal Growth and Individuality

As Japan continued to modernize and urbanize, individuality and personal growth gained prominence. 

The kanji for "man" came to symbolize the journey of self-discovery and personal development. 

Concepts like "男らしさ" (otokorashisa) evolved to encompass not just traditional masculinity but also qualities that defined an individual's character, irrespective of gender.

  1. Challenging Gender Norms

In recent decades, the evolving understanding of gender roles and identities has further influenced the interpretation of the kanji for "man." 

The character is now seen through a more inclusive lens, acknowledging that qualities associated with it are not limited by biological gender. 

As societal attitudes shift towards recognizing a broader spectrum of gender identities, the kanji becomes a representation of qualities that anyone, regardless of gender, can embody.

  1. Contemporary Contexts

In contemporary society, the kanji for "man" continues to symbolize a complex and multi-dimensional understanding of masculinity. 

It is present in literature, media, and popular culture, reflecting diverse portrayals of men that challenge stereotypes and embrace a wide range of characteristics.

Idioms and Expressions For 男

The "Idioms and Expressions" section explores how the Japanese kanji for "man" (男) is embedded in various idiomatic expressions and phrases, reflecting its cultural significance and the values associated with masculinity.

  1. 男らしい (Otokorashii)

The phrase "男らしい" (otokorashii) is a notable idiom that stems from the kanji for "man." 

This expression is often used to describe someone who possesses qualities typically associated with traditional masculinity. It refers to attributes such as courage, strength, honor, and integrity. 

People who are described as "otokorashii" exhibit behaviors and characteristics that align with the historical concept of a strong and dependable man.

  1. 草食系男子 (Soushoku-kei Danshi)

A more contemporary idiom is "草食系男子" (soushoku-kei danshi), which translates to "herbivore men." 

This phrase emerged in the 21st century to describe men who reject traditional aggressive or assertive forms of masculinity. 

Instead, "herbivore men" are characterized by gentleness, sensitivity, and a focus on personal interests rather than pursuing traditional roles associated with masculinity.

  1. 男女共同参画 (Dannyo Kyoudou Sankaku)

The phrase "男女共同参画" (dannyo kyoudou sankaku) emphasizes gender equality and collaboration between men and women. 

It uses the kanji for "man" in a broader societal context to represent both genders working together to achieve balanced participation and opportunities. 

This phrase reflects changing attitudes towards gender roles and the recognition of the importance of involving both men and women in all aspects of society.

  1. 役男 (Yakuotoko) and 役女 (Yakoonna)

These terms are used to describe men and women, respectively, who are fully dedicated to their work or career. 

While the term "役男" (yakuotoko) aligns with the kanji for "man," it doesn't solely refer to traditional masculinity but rather to individuals who are committed and hardworking, regardless of gender.

  1. Contextual Nuances

Idioms and expressions that incorporate the kanji for "man" reflect the complex interplay between traditional and modern notions of masculinity. 

While some idioms like "otokorashii" uphold historical ideals of masculinity, others like "soushoku-kei danshi" challenge those ideals and emphasize alternative qualities.

  1. Reflecting Societal Changes

These idioms and expressions showcase how the interpretation of the kanji for "man" has evolved alongside shifting societal norms and gender dynamics. 

They highlight the ongoing conversation about the meaning of masculinity in a changing world and the varied ways individuals choose to express their gender and identity.

Sentences Examples For 男

  • 彼は本当に男らしい態度を持っています。
    (Kare wa hontou ni otokorashii taido o motteimasu.)
    He truly exhibits a manly attitude.
  • その映画の主人公は、困難な状況に立ち向かう男です。
    (Sono eiga no shujinkou wa, konnan na joukyou ni tachimukau otoko desu.)
    The protagonist of the movie is a man who faces difficult situations.
  • 彼は職場での責任感と献身的な態度で、役男と呼ばれています。
    (Kare wa shokuba de no sekininkan to kenshinteki na taido de, yakuotoko to yobareteimasu.)
    He is referred to as a dedicated worker due to his sense of responsibility and devoted attitude at the workplace.
  • この社会では、男女共同参画がますます重要視されています。
    (Kono shakai de wa, dannyo kyoudou sankaku ga masumasu juuyoushi sareteimasu.)
    In this society, gender equality and collaboration between men and women are becoming increasingly important.
  • 彼は新しい形態のマスキュリニティを示す、現代的な男の一例です。
    (Kare wa atarashii keitai no masukyuriniti o shimesu, gendaiteki na otoko no rei desu.)
    He is an example of a modern man who embodies a new form of masculinity.
  • 草食系男子の増加は、伝統的な男性の役割に対する見方が変わってきたことを示しています。
    (Soushoku-kei danshi no zouka wa, dentouteki na dansei no yakuwari ni taisuru mikata ga kawatte kita koto o shimeshiteimasu.)
    The increase in herbivore men indicates a changing perspective on traditional male roles.
  • 彼は困難な局面でもくじけずに前に進む、真の男です。
    (Kare wa konnan na kyoumen demo kujikezu ni mae ni susumu, shin no otoko desu.)
    He is a true man who moves forward without faltering even in challenging situations.
  • 男としての自分を見つける旅は、人生の重要な一部です。
    (Otoko toshite no jibun o mitsukeru tabi wa, jinsei no juuyou na ichibu desu.)
    The journey to discover oneself as a man is an important part of life.
  • 彼は穏やかな性格と共に、強さを持つ男です。
    (Kare wa odayaka na seikaku to tomo ni, tsuyosa o motsu otoko desu.)
    He is a man with strength along with a calm personality.
  • 新しい時代において、男としての定義が多様性を受け入れるようになっています。
    (Atarashii jidai ni oite, otoko toshite no teigi ga tayousei o ukeireru you ni natteimasu.)
    In the new era, the definition of being a man has become more inclusive of diversity.


The Japanese kanji for "man" (男) is more than just a character; it is a portal into the cultural, historical, and social nuances of Japan. 

From its composition reflecting physical strength and traditional roles to its evolving meaning encompassing emotional resilience and personal growth, this kanji encapsulates the essence of masculinity and its changing dynamics in Japanese society. 

As Japan continues to evolve, so too will the meanings and interpretations embedded within its intricate characters, reflecting the ever-changing tapestry of a vibrant culture.

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