Languages › Japanese How to Write Love in Japanese Kanji Using the Kanji Character Ai Share Flipboard Email Print Japanese Essential Japanese Vocabulary History & Culture Japanese Grammar By Namiko Abe Japanese Language Expert B.A., Kwansei Gakuin University Namiko Abe is a Japanese language teacher and translator, as well as a Japanese calligraphy expert. She has been a freelance writer for nearly 20 years. our editorial process Namiko Abe Updated January 27, 2019 Writing love in Japanese is represented as the kanji symbol 愛 which means love and affection. The On-reading is ai (this is the Chinese pronunciation based on when the character was brought to Japan)The Kun-reading is ito (shii), this is the native Japanese pronunciationIt takes 13 strokes to create the kanji for love.The radical is kokoro. A radical expresses the general nature of the kanji character. Useful compounds of ai 愛 are: Kanji Compound Reading Meaning 愛情 aijou love, affection 愛国心 aikokushin patriotism 愛人 aijin lover (implies extramarital relationship) 恋愛 renai romance, romantic love 愛してる aishiteru I love you Koi 恋 vs. Ai 愛 Kanji The kanji koi 恋 is love for the opposite sex, a longing for a specific person, while ai 愛 is a general feeling of love. Note that the compound renai 恋愛 for romantic love is written with both koi 恋 and ai 愛. Ai can be used as a proper name, such as in the name of Princess Aiko or the singer Aiko. The name combines the kanji characters for love and child 愛 子. The kanji koi 恋 is rarely used as a name. Kanji Tattoos for Love Some people are interested in getting a tattoo of a kanji symbol. You may want to consider at length whether ai or koi is the one that you want to have tattooed. A full discussion of the uses of koi and ai may help you decide which is most appropriate. Some people may decide based on which kanji they find the most attractive rather than the meaning. Kanji can be written in a variety of fonts. If you are working with a tattoo artist, you may want to explore all of the variations in order to get the one that will be exactly what you prefer. Saying "I Love You" in Japanese While modern American English makes frequent use of "I love you," the phrase is not used as often in Japan. They are more likely to use suki desu, 好きです meaning to like, rather than speaking openly of love. What is Kanji? Kanji is one of the three writing systems for the Japanese language. It includes thousands of symbols which came to Japan from China. The symbols represent ideas rather than pronunciation. The other two Japanese alphabets, hiragana, and katakana, express Japanese syllables phonetically. There are 2136 symbols designated as Joyo Kanji by the Japanese Ministry of Education. Children in Japan are taught first the 46 characters that comprise each of the hiragana and katakana alphabets. Then they learn 1006 kanji characters in grades one through six. On-Reading and Kun-Reading On-reading is usually used when the kanji is part of a compound, as in the compounds shown above. When the kanji is by itself used as a noun, the Kun-reading is usually used. The Japanese also use the English word for love, pronouncing it as rabu ラブ because there is no L or V sounds in Japanese. How Do You Say Love in Japanese? When to Use On-Reading and Kun-Reading for Kanji Japanese Writing for Beginners Learn How to Say 'I Love You' in Japanese Trends in Japanese Baby Names Movie Titles in Japanese Kanji for Tattoos 100 of the Most Common Kanji Characters How to Write Five Elements in Japanese Kanji Japanese Writing Systems All About Radicals in the Japanese Language 50 Popular Kanji - Ryuu Japanese for Beginners 10 Animal Sounds in Japanese Words Learn the Japanese Phrase 'Ki o Tsukete' Should Japanese Writing Be Horizontal or Vertical?