What is hentaigana?

A sign reading
"Kisoba Yabushige"
uses hentaigana

Hentaigana (変体仮名), literally "variant kana", are variant forms of hiragana which have been standardized away in modern Japanese. In 1900, the Japanese education system officially standardized hiragana to one particular form, and the hentaigana fell into disuse.

The hentaigana are still sometimes used on signs, particularly for soba restaurants such as in the illustration, where the word "soba" is written using hentaigana.

There is much less variation in katakana forms, with the forms of the Heian era (794-1185) being similar to the modern ones.[1]

Hentaigana were added to Unicode in version 10.0.

References

  1. Christopher Seeley, A history of writing in Japan, page 143.; 1985

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