Dr. Ken Lunde
Senior Computer Scientist, CJKV Type Development
Jōyō Kanji (常用漢字) represents the kanji that are in common use in Japan. Prior to 1981, it was known as Tōyō Kanji (当用漢字) and included 1,850 kanji. The last time that Japan’s Jōyō Kanji set was revised was in 1981, and 95 kanji were added, bringing the number of kanji to 1,945.
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Jōyō Kanji set has been revised. The announcement was made on November 30, 2010. The final outcome was that 196 kanji were added, and five kanji were removed. Thus, the total number of Jōyō Kanji is now 2,136.
Perhaps more interesting is the effect that the Jōyō Kanji revision has on the Jinmei-yō Kanji (人名用漢字) set. The relationship between these two sets of kanji is important: the Jinmei-yō Kanji set includes kanji, above and beyond Jōyō Kanji, that have been deemed suitable for use in personal names. Thus, any kanji in the Jōyō Kanji set can be used for personal names. The Jinmei-yō Kanji set currently includes 985 kanji. When compared to the new Jōyō Kanji set, 129 kanji are now common, and can thus be removed from the Jinmei-yō Kanji set. Also, because Jōyō Kanji and Jinmei-yō Kanji together serve as the foundation for the kanji used in personal names, any kanji that are removed from the Jōyō Kanji set should be grandfathered by adding them to the Jinmei-yō Kanji set. There are five such cases.