What is furigana?

Furigana on "Fuji-san",
the name of Mount Fuji

Furigana (振仮名), also known as rubi (ルビ) or rubii (ルビー) from "ruby", the name of the size of the type used to print them, are small kana characters placed adjacent to kanji to indicate the pronunciation.

These small characters are used most extensively on books for Japanese children, but they are also used to write difficult-to-read characters in adult books. They are also used in textbooks for students of the Japanese language. Using ruby characters on all kanji is called sōrubi (総ルビ).

On application forms, where a person writes their name, there is usually a space for both kanji and furigana, because kanji names can be hard to read or ambiguous. See How can I read a Japanese name?

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