East Asian Writing Systems

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Kiken is a Chinese-style compound (i.e., a compound read with the on reading) meaning 'danger' or 'dangerous'.

In characters it is normally written , as in the following sign:

Kiken desu!
Saku ni yori-kakaranaide kudasai.
Go-kyōryoku kudasai.
Shinjuku Eki-chō

Please don't lean on the railing.
Please give your cooperation.
Shinjuku Station Master

And yet, signs can also be found at railway stations where kiken is reduced to katakana (), as shown in the following example:

Kake-komi jōsha wa kiken desu.

Rushing to board the train is dangerous.

The rationale behind this use of katakana is possibly as follows:

1. Katakana is cleaner, less uncluttered than the characters, thus putting the message across more effectively.

2. Katakana has better standout than characters because it is generally used in special circumstances, i.e., when something needs to be emphasised.

2. Katakana is easier to understand than characters for younger readers.

Except for such station notices, the use of katakana to write the word kiken appears to be relatively uncommon. A Google search in August 2003 revealed the following pattern of usage on the Internet:

No. of occurrences

No reliable figures are available for kiken in hiragana () because this features as a fragment of many other Japanese words, not simply as a substitute for the characters . However, the number is unlikely to be large.


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