What font should be used when teaching Japanese handwriting?
September 2, 2016 9:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm writing an app to teach people how to write Japanese kanji by hand. What font should I use to create examples?

I'm writing an Android app that aims to teach people how to write Japanese kanji. This app will include stroke order diagrams handwriting examples and will (hopefully) also be able to recognize which kanji a user has drawn by comparing their input to ideal examples in its database.

My problem is: what font should the examples and diagrams be presented in? The issue in picking a font is three-fold:
  1. The font must be "correct", so that anyone learning from my app develops good habits. It should definitely be in a handwriting style, and not blocky or stylized. To that end, the "Roboto" system font on Android is most certainly NOT ideal. If there's a font that's been officially approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education or something that would be ideal.
  2. I need to be able to license the font for use in my app. Many of the Japanese "textbook style" (教科書体) fonts I've come across are only licensed to be used with certain printers, certain operating systems, or with other caveats. Some fonts or other resources I've come across have licenses that require me to open-source or freely license my own work, which I'm not sure I want to do right now. Some fonts have license agreements written only in Japanese, which I've had a hard time fully understanding (I can read some Japanese, but not all. I'm writing this app for my own benefit as well).
  3. The font must support all 2000+ Jouyou kanji currently approved for educational materials. Some fonts include only a subset, but I need 'em all.
So, my question in a nutshell is: What font that I can license for use in my app should be used when teaching how to write Japanese characters? Is there an "ideal" font that all others are variations of? If there is no ideal font and any 教科書体 font will do, can you recommend one that can be licensed on favorable terms? Free is nice since my app makes no money, but I'm willing to spend a little here if I have to.
posted by Vorteks to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't want to leave you hanging, and since there's no better answers, I had this site bookmarked that might at least give you a starting point.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:58 PM on September 3, 2016

I can't point you at a specific font either, but I can confirm that there is no "official font" approved by the Ministry of Education. They do specify that textbooks for young children (and older children in the context of writing specifically) should use 教科書体, but as you know this is a kind of font, specifically one that has handwritten features rather than standard 明朝体 ones. (Characters like き, 道, etc. are good for checking this.) But I don't know of any full-scale specifically 教科書体 fonts that cost less than high 3 figures for use in apps.
posted by No-sword at 6:04 PM on September 3, 2016

My handbook on writing Chinese hanzi uses a standard kaishu font for the models, much like this one.

Looking inside the same publisher's Guide to Reading and Writing Japanese, it appears they use the same font for kanji models, to my eyes.

I can't tell you what the Japanese for 'kaishu' is, but I'm guessing any kaishu font should be okay, from the calligraphic angle.
posted by bertran at 6:25 PM on September 3, 2016

Oh, turns out Japanese for 'kaishu' is 'kaisho'.
posted by bertran at 6:43 PM on September 3, 2016

@no-sword: Knowing that there is no official font is helpful. At least I don't have to worry about deviating from it. I guess I'll look for an affordable 教科書体 font then.
posted by Vorteks at 8:50 PM on September 3, 2016

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