Aka-suri is a native Japanese word, from aka 'dirt, grime' and suru 'to rub'. It refers to a vigorous rubbing down with a towel after a bath or sauna to cleanse the skin and pores of accumulated dirt.
But for the orthographic purge after WWII, aka-suri would be written . Unfortunately, although an easy enough character to remember, aka has been omitted from the list of officially approved characters, which means that it must be written in newspapers, textbooks, etc. as .
Since is an approved character for suru 'to rub', aka-suri should be the default form. But there are two factors working against :
So what is the version in the street? One would assume the all-hiragana form , but this is what I found outside an establishment that offered aka-suri as one of its services:
Why would a red-blooded Japanese compound like aka-suri be written in katakana, usually said to be the mark of foreign origins, scientific usage, or onomatopoeia?
It could be because hiragana looks too lightweight, given that hiragana are mostly used for grammatical particles or verb endings. In an effort to stress that aka-suri is a fully-fledged word with its own identity, katakana has been used instead. It may also have been influenced by the word kōsu in the second line, which is written in katakana.
A Google search in August 2003 revealed the following distribution on the Internet:
There are several interesting, even surprising, points about this list.
This is a rather telling example of the havoc wrought in some areas of the Japanese vocabulary by the well-meaning policy of restricting the number of characters.