Japanese Symbol For “Heaven” – the top 6 options

Japanese symbol for Heaven

The Japanese symbol for heaven (well originally Chinese really) is 天 and it originally derived from a picture of a person. The character still resembles a stick figure of a human to some degree. 

So why does “human” stand as a symbol for “heaven”? 

Well, the first thing to note is that the symbol doesn’t just mean heaven, but is also close to the English word for “The heavens”, in its sense of everything that exists above our head, or the “sky”. 

Obviously, this concept of “sky” or “heavens” is difficult to represent as a picture (which is where all kanji characters come from”. The solution that evolved was to show a picture of a human with something above them – in this case, the straight line that is at the top of the character. 

Interestingly, if you look at the history of how the symbol evolved over the years, you see that the top line was originally the head of the human. The head gradually morphed into the sky itself. If that isn’t a message of transcendental hope, I don’t know what is!

Historical forms of the Chinese character for “heaven”

The character 天 is made up of the two components, ichi or one (一) and ooki or big (大), but originally came from the picture of a human as shown above.

How do you say “Heaven” in Japanese?

The most commonly used equivalent word for “heaven” in English is 天国 (tengoku), which literally means “Sky-country”. 

How is the word “Heaven” pronounced in Japanese?

天 has kun-yomi(the fully Japanese version of the kanji reading) ame, and ama~, while its on-yomi(Chinese pronunciation or reading) is ten.

How is the concept of heaven different between Japan and the West?

Heaven is a place where people go after they die. It is a place of happiness and peace. There are different concepts of heaven in different cultures. In Japan, heaven is seen as a place where people go to be with their families. In the West, heaven is seen as a place where people go to be with God.

There are other key ways in which the concept of heaven differs between Japan and the West. For one, in the West, heaven is often seen as a place where one goes after death to live in eternal bliss. In contrast, in Japan, heaven can be seen as a place that can be visited during this life – often as a place of rest and relaxation.

The different ways “heaven”can be expressed in Japanese characters and symbols

There are many ways to express the concept of heaven in Japanese culture. One way is to use characters and symbols from traditional Buddhist scriptures. Other ways include using characters from traditional Chinese culture or Christianity. Some people even believe that different gods or goddesses can represent different aspects of heaven. 

In any case, there is a great deal of diversity when it comes to understanding and expressing the idea of heaven in Japan. 

Here are some examples:

1. 天国(tengoku)

This is the most common and direct translation of the word “heaven” into Japanese. Just like joukai, tengoku is another term for heaven, paradise, or kingdom of heaven. The first character 天 which reads as ten means heaven or sky, and 国 can be read as kuni or “country”. 

Example sentence:


Dou sureba tengoku ni ikeru no deshouka.

How can I get to heaven?

2. 上界(joukai)

Joukai means upper world, superkingdom, upper bound and heaven. The first character 上 and can be pronounced as ue or jyo and means “up” or “over”.

The second character 界 is pronounced as kai which means world. Together they express the meaning “A world above”.

Example sentence:


Joukai ni ikitai kedo ima janai.

I want to go to heaven, but not now.

3. 空(sora)

Sky, the air, the heavens. Generally used to express sky, but as the concepts of “sky” and “heaven” are connected in Japanese thought, it is also associated with the celestial realm.

That being said, this character is much closer to the English word for “sky” rather than “heaven”.

Examples sentence:


Sora ni wa hoshi ga takusan dete ite totemo kazoe kirenai.

There are so many stars in the sky, I can’t count them all.

4. 天上界(tenjoukai)

Celestial world, heaven. This is basically an expanded version of the word 上界 (jyoukai) above.

Example sentence:


Tenkoukai ni ikitai hito ga ooi desu ga hoka no hito wa ikitakunai.

Many people want to go to heaven but some people don’t want to.

5. 天堂(tendou)

Means heaven or paradise. 

堂 (dou) means a temple, shrine, hall or room. So this word has the sense of “the palace in the sky”.

Example sentence:


Yume de watashi wa tendou ni itte totemo shiawase datta.

In my dream, I went to paradise and I was very happy.

6. 極楽 (gokuraku)

Another option for expressing heaven is to use words associated with the Buddhist tradition. Gokuraku is one such of these words, meaning “paradise” or “heaven on earth” and comes from the sanskrit word “Sukhavati”. Specifically this word refers to the Pure Land Mahayana Buddhism. It refers to the Buddha’s Western Paradise as described in the Pure Land sutras (Sukhavati-vyuha-sutras).

In this interpretation, “heaven” is not so much a place you go above the earth, as a state of mind that you can achieve while still being on earth.

What words are in the Japanese symbol for “heaven” Used In?

  1. 天気(tenki)

Weather, the elements; fair weather, fine weather.

Example sentences:


Tenki ga warui toki yama nobori wa kiken da.

It’s dangerous to climb mountains in bad weather.


Tenki ga ii kara sanpo shimashou.

The weather is good so let’s take a walk.

  1. 天才(tensai)

Genius, prodigy, natural gift. In Japanese, the word “tensai” is used to describe a genius. The kanji for “tensai” are 天 (ten), meaning “heaven,” and 才 (sai), meaning “wise” or “genius” So, the literal translation of “tensai” is “heaven like genius” 

Example sentences:


Kare wa age ashi tori no tensai da.

He is a genius at finding fault with other people.


Tensai ga sono zonmeichuu ni na wo nasu koto wa mettani nai toiu koto wa shuuchi no jijitsu de aru.

It is a matter of common knowledge that a man of genius is seldom successful in his own lifetime.

  1. 天井(tenjou)

Tenjou means ceiling(of a building).

Example sentences:


Hai wa tenjou wo aruku koto ga dekiru.

A fly can walk on the ceiling.


Sono daijiin no tenjou ni wa shuukyouga ga egakareteita.

The cathedral had a religious painting on its ceiling.

How is “heaven” expressed in chinese?

Heaven in chinese can be expressed as Tiāntáng (天堂). Japanese also uses the same kanji or symbols for heaven, but uses a different way of reading them eg. tendou(天堂)

Stroke order for writing the characters in Japanese “heaven” and associated symbols.

  1. 上界(joukai)
  1. 空(sora)
  1. 天国(tengoku)


  1. 天上界(tenjoukai)


  1. 天堂(tendou)
  1. 天気(tenki)
  1. 天才(tensai)
  1. 天井(tenjou)

So should you get “heaven” done as a tattoo in Japanese lettering?

Japanese lettering for heaven tattoos can be a beautiful and meaningful addition to your body art. 

You do need to be aware that Japanese and Chinese culture is not based in Judeo-Christian philosophy, and so, the idea of “Heaven” is not perceived in the same way. 

In particular the character 天 is more closely related to the idea of “sky” in a way that the word “heaven” isn’t. In this way, it might be more close to the way “The heavens” is used as an expression in English. 

In its most ideal form, a tattoo for heaven can represent a gateway to the divine, as a reminder of your faith or connection to spirituality. 

As always, if you’re thinking of getting one of these tattoos, be sure to do your research and find a reputable artist who can help you create the perfect design.

In conclusion, getting a tattoo in Japanese lettering can be a beautiful and unique way to show your love for Japan (and China) and its culture. However, it is important to do your research before getting inked, as not all translations are accurate and some kanji characters have multiple meanings. 

By taking the time to find a qualified and reputable tattoo artist, you can ensure that you will end up with a beautiful and meaningful tattoo that you will be proud to show off.