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Japanese Symbol For Balance (and it’s uses in tattoos)

We all want balance in our life right? A balanced person is capable of handling the hard times, self-control, all the good stuff: our diet, work and life, health, finances, emotions, our Qi, even rationality. They all need to be kept in check to maintain order and harmony.

Simple right? 

Easy to say, hard to maintain. And remember always.

Which is why a lot of people look for a symbol to remind them and place it somewhere prominent. And what is more prominent than on the skin as a tattoo?

Symbols for balance across culture and in Japan

Having a good balance in many aspects of life requires focus and determination. It’s no wonder that many cultures want to embody the concept of balance and they are characterised by many symbols: Yin and Yang, good and evil, angels and demons, the beam balance, the tree of life, the temperance tarot, etc.

No matter what symbol they represent, the concept of balance in all cultures only has one thing in common: the maintenance of homeostasis and harmony within and outside ourselves.

What is the Japanese symbol for balance? 

There is no one answer to this question. 

The reason is that there is no direct equivalence of the concept of “balance” in one kanji (Chinese character). 

In fact, in order to say the word “balance” in Japanese, you will need a combination of two kanji to come up with a close equivalent of the word “balance” in English.

Even then the word is not very commonly heard in Japan, at least not in the way you hear “balance” often in English.

In fact the Japanese loan word バランス baransu is probably the word you hear most commonly used in Japanese.

均衡 (kinkou – balance)

The Japanese word for “balance” is 均衡, pronounced as /kin.kou/. It is composed of two kanjis : 均 and 衡. The kanji 均 has an on-yumi (Chinese reading) kin (キン) and has a dictionary meaning “level”, “equal”, “even” and “average”. Consequently, the kanji 衡 has an on-yumi kou (コウ) and its dictionary meaning is “equilibrium”, “measuring rod”, and “scale”. While it also has a dictionary meaning of “balance”, it is not the “balance” you would refer to as having equal distribution but rather the object that is used to measure weight. In short, it refers to a balance scale.

Another Kanji for balance

平衡 (heikou – equilibrium)

While this isn’t alternative writing, another kanji word that means balance in Japanese is 平衡 and it is pronounced as /Hei.ko/. Its kanjis are 平 –its on-yumi is /hei/ – meaning flat or even and 衡 meaning equilibrium or scale.

This word is often used in technical language and not commonly used in daily conversations – unless your daily conversation involves scientific topics.

Its dictionary meanings are balance, equilibrium, even scale, and equalization.

Loan word for balance in Japanese

The loan word バランス baransu from the English word “balance” is often used in Japan. In fact, it is probably the most commonly used way of expressing balance there.

The word is written, like all loan words, using the katakana script. So it looks very different, and a lot more simple, than the Chinese character kanji symbols above. That simplicity is attractive to some people.

What is the difference between the Japanese symbols 均衡 (Kinkou) and 平衡 (Heikou)?

While both words mean balance and are seemingly similar, they are actually very different. The concept of their usage is somewhat distant from each other.

The Japanese term 平衡(heikou) is often used in the internal system type of balance, for example, bodily circulations and thermal statuses. It is the balance of the system inside a single entity. While the word 均衡 (Kinkou) focuses more on the balance of the relationship of multiple entities.

In general topics, 均衡 (Kinkou) is more widely used especially when it comes to economics, social studies, and politics. On the other hand, 平衡(heikou) is used more prominently in physics and other topics relating to the sciences.

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 均衡 (Kinkou):

予算は均衡がとれていなければならない。

The budget must be balanced.

アメリカには憲法上の抑制と均衡という入念な制度がある。

America has an elaborate system of constitutional checks and balances.

我々は出費と収入の間で均衡をはかるべきだ。

We should strike a balance between our expenditure and income. 

いたる所で自然の均衡が破られようとしている。

Nature’s balance is going to be upset everywhere.

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 平衡 (heikou):

彼は平衡を失ってはしごから落ちた。

He lost his balance and fell off the ladder.

平衡温度に大きな影響を与える。

This has a profound effect on the equilibrium temperature.

これは一介の負けだけじゃない。一生保った平衡を失って、何もかもが崩れ始めている。

This isn’t just a simple defeat: I lost the balance I kept my whole life and now absolutely everything collapses. 

What words are the Japanese characters for balance used in?

Some common Japanese words that use the Japanese characters for balance relating to their meaning in English are:

1.     均整 (Kinsei) Symmetry

2.     均一 (Kinitsu) – Uniformity

 

1.      均整  (Kinsei) – Symmetry

均整, pronounced as / Kin.sei/, uses the kanji 均 (level, even, equal) from the word 均衡 (Balance). The kanji for scale (衡) is replaced with the kanji 整 which has the meaning of arranging and order. So, in Japanese, symmetry means having evenly arranged. 

Othe dictionary meanings include proportion, balanced, and uniform.

Its alternative writing is 均斉.

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 均斉:

彼女は均斉のとれた姿をしている。

She has a well-proportioned figure.

均整とは倦怠のことだ。

Symmetry is boring.

前景も背景もすべて見事に均整のとれた芸術です。

Have a foreground, a background, all in beautiful proportion

バラやハスの花は、見た目の美しさや均整美を愛でる心に訴える

Roses and lotus flowers appeal to our sense of visual beauty and symmetry

2.    均一 (Kinitsu) – Uniformity

均一 (Kinitsu) is a common Japanese word used in everyday conversation and it primarily means being uniform and homogenous. It is a noun that is paired with another noun and used to describe that something is treated, seen, or categorized evenly.

Its other dictionary meanings are even, flat, consistent, equal, uniform, and homogenous.

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 均一 (Kinitsu):

超高速回転により短時間で均一に粉砕可能。

Uniform pulverization in a short time is possible with ultra-high speed rotation.

都会化の拡大は 均一でも公平でもありません。

And this expansion in urbanization is going to be neither even nor equitable.

京都市営バス均一区間内限定乗り放題のカード。。

This card is usable any number of times within a day for Kyoto City buses in the uniform fare section.

タイムラインのオーディオ ボリュームを均一に調整します。

Adjusts the volume of audio on the timeline to a uniform level.

Is the Japanese symbol for “balance” the same in Chinese?

Yes, both the kanjis 均衡 (Kinkou) and 平衡 (Heikou) mean the same in Chinese. This is also one of the reasons why the Japanese language uses the On-yumi (the Chinese reading) for the words because they are transferred directly from the Chinese language and they have kept both the meanings and the writings for the kanji words.

How to write the Japanese character for “Balance”

We will break down the words according to their individual kanjis since both words share the same kanji for scale/ equilibrium.

There are only 7 strokes for the kanji 均 (Kin) and it starts from completing the character on left then goes to the upper right and then starts again in the middle portion just below the 4th and 5th stroke.

While the kanji for kanji 衡 (Kou) is a little more complicated with 16 strokes and there are 4 characters to complete in order to form the kanji. The order of stroke is as follows:

The last kanji 平(Hei) only has 5 strokes and the stroke order is as follows:

Remember that stroke direction when writing kanji mostly starts from left to right and then top to bottom.

Historical versions of the Japanese symbol for respect

There is no official record as to the origin of the symbols of the glyph for 均衡 (Kinkou) but there are two variations of the writing for such word in the Chinese language: One is traditional and the other is the simplified version. The traditional version is often found in some dialects of the Chinese language while the simplified version is the modern usage of the writing system.

On the other hand, the kanji 平衡 (Heikou) is both the traditional and the simplified version of the Chinese language and no other variation on record has been found so far.

What is the Japanese concept of balance?

The main concept of the word “balance” in Japanese society primarily revolves around the idea of developing “harmony”. The Japanese culture is very particular when it comes to getting along with people despite its implication on personal health.

Nowadays, more Japanese are becoming concerned about inner balance within themselves despite the pressure of having to harmonize with the balance of outside forces, especially one’s contribution to society.

Their concept of balance is keeping homeostasis or maintaining a status quo. It involves frequent adjustments in order to achieve an ideal balance of life and social contributions. Despite that, many Japanese fall within the cracks of society because of the fast and ever-changing advancements of modern life.

It’s hard to say whether it is a popular tattoo or not since no statistics or research indicates which tattoo is popular to most people.

However, if you are inclined toward Shintoism, Buddhism, or Chinese martial arts, you would likely choose a Chinese character or phrase that is related to maintaining balance, finding inner peace, and mental fortitude.

Should you get “balance” done as a tattoo in Japanese writing?

The Japanese kanji for “balance” is worth considering especially, if you like the idea of having to maintain a balance between your inner self and social factors. On the other hand, you can also get the primary Chinese symbol for balance which is the Yin-Yang. 

Whichever you choose, you must know what your tattoo represents in your life and contemplate what you like.

In conclusion, getting a balance tattoo in Japanese writing can be a unique and interesting way to express yourself. However, be sure to do your research and find a reputable artist who can translate and execute the design perfectly.

Contributor

Article by John Salinas.

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