japanese kanji for fish

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

05 June 2024Shopify API

The Japanese kanji for fish is 魚. In this article, we break down the components of 魚 and understand pronunciation and writing. Read on to find out everything about 魚.

Kanji, the logographic writing system of the Japanese language, is a rich tapestry of characters, each holding unique meanings and cultural significance. 

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of the kanji for fish, exploring its origins, symbolism, and enduring significance in Japanese culture.

Japanese Kanji For Fish Is 魚

The Japanese kanji for fish, 魚, is a logographic character used in the Japanese writing system. It is one of the essential and commonly used kanji characters, representing the concept of fish.

Here's a breakdown of the components of the kanji:

魚: This kanji consists of three parts:

  1. 魚 Radical (さんずいぶし / sanzuibushi): The left-hand side of the character contains the radical 魚, which specifically means "fish" in the context of kanji.
  2. 口 (くち / kuchi): The top part of the character includes the kanji 口, meaning "mouth." This component gives the idea of a fish's mouth, which is a distinctive feature.
  3. 高 (こう / kou): The bottom part of the character contains the kanji 高, which originally means "high" or "tall." It is used here to represent the fish's tail, as the tail often extends upward and resembles the shape of the kanji 高.

The kanji for fish, 魚, visually resembles the outline of a fish, with the radical on the left denoting that it represents a fish-related concept. 

Over time, the character has undergone slight simplifications and variations in different writing styles, but its core meaning has remained unchanged.

The kanji 魚 is not only a part of everyday Japanese language but also plays a significant role in various cultural contexts. 

As mentioned in the previous elaboration, fish hold great cultural and symbolic importance in Japan, and this kanji represents not only the literal fish but also broader concepts related to prosperity, abundance, and good fortune.

It is essential to note that while the kanji 魚 represents the concept of fish, the pronunciation and context may change when used in different words or sentences. 

For example, "fish market" is 魚市場 (sakana ichiba), and "fisherman" is 漁師 (ryōshi). Japanese words often combine kanji characters with hiragana or katakana characters to create meaningful and well-formed expressions.

How to Say Fish In Japanese?

There are two ways to say "fish" in Japanese, depending on the context:

  1. Sakana (さかな): This is the most common and general term for "fish" and is used in most situations. It's written in hiragana, making it suitable for everyday speech.
  2. Uo (魚): This is a more formal term for "fish" and is often used in writing or when referring to fish as a category or concept. It's written in kanji, which are Chinese characters adopted into Japanese.

Here's a quick breakdown:

  • Pronunciation:
    • Sakana: Pronounced "sah-kah-nah" with a short "a" and a slight emphasis on the first syllable.
    • Uo: Pronounced "oo-oh" with a long "oo" sound.
  • Usage:
    • Sakana: Use this for "fish" in general conversation, ordering food, talking about different kinds of fish, etc.
    • Uo: Use this in formal contexts, scientific writings, philosophical discussions, or when referring to "fish" as a general concept.


The Japanese kanji for fish, 魚, is a powerful representation of the country's rich cultural heritage and relationship with the sea. Beyond its simple appearance, this character encapsulates centuries of tradition, symbolism, and reverence for nature. 

From nourishing the Japanese people to inspiring art and literature, fish remain an integral part of Japan's identity and a symbol of prosperity, abundance, and endurance.

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