Japanese is spoken by almost everyone in Japan.  The Japanese writing system is one of the most complex in the world, with three scripts--Kanji, or Chinese characters, and hiragana and katakana, both of which are syllabaries--that is, each symbol represents a syllable rather than a word or an individual phoneme or sound.  These three scripts are typically used simultaneously, sometimes with the addition of romanji, or roman script.

No one is entirely sure of the ancestry of Japanese, but it appears to be related to Korean and Ainu, a minority language of northern Japan, all of which are probably part of the Eurasiatic family.

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January 8, 1998