What is the Japanese symbol for chaos?

Japanese Symbol for Chaos

Chaos is an abstract concept that has been used to describe everything from the physical laws of the universe to the behaviour of subatomic particles. It can be defined as a state of disorder or unpredictability. 

In recent years, chaos has become a popular tattoo motif, often appearing in chaotic patterns or swirls. While the meaning of chaos may be difficult to define, its appeal is undeniable. 

What is the Japanese symbol for Chaos?

There is no one answer to this question. There are actually several ways to say “Chaos” in Japanese. Most of these words that can mean chaos in English are about disorder, lack of rules, disarray, and mixed ups.

However, there are two kanjis that mean “Chaos” in Japanese but might mean differently in the English language. It is important to each Kanji in order to differentiate their uses. 

 The first kanji is 沌.  This kanji has an on-yomi (Chinese origin of reading) /Ton/ and a kun-yomi (the Japanese way of reading) /Fusa-garu/. This kanji is considered a pre-level 1 kanji –which means that the difficulty of the usage of this kanji is high. 

Its dictionary meaning is “to be blocked” and “chaos”. However, the kind of “chaos” this kanji represents is primaeval chaos. When you say primaeval chaos, this refers to the chaos and disorder that lead to the creation of many things in this world. It is the kind of chaos that started the “Big Bang” and the ensuing chaos that is the reason why Earth eventually became a paradise for humans.

The second kanji that could mean chaos in English is the kanji 乱. It has an on-yomi /Ran/ and a kun-yomi /mida-/. Its dictionary meanings are “rebellion”, “disturb”, “riot”, and “disorder” –all associated with the concept of chaos in the English language. 

The kanji is also used in the word 混乱 (Konran) which is one of the Japanese words used to translate the word “chaos” in English relating to disorder and disturbances.

What words in Japanese symbolize the word “Chaos”?

  1. 混沌 (Konton) Chaos
  2. 混乱 (Konran) – Chaos caused by confusion often used for abstract things
  3. 無秩序 (muchitsujo) – Chaos
  4. カオス (Kauso)– Chaos

1.      混沌 (Konton) – Chaos

 混沌, pronounced as /Konton/, is a noun and an advanced kanji for chaos and it refers to the disarray and disorder of things. It is also the name of the “Primordial Chaos” in Chinese mythology which is believed to be a formless mass before everything was created. 

 混沌 has a dictionary meaning “confusion”, “chaos”, and “disorder”. The concept of 混沌 focuses on the mixture of various things moving around each other without a specific pattern or any form of order making it look chaotic and in disarray. This type of chaos also seems to be perceived as one with less prospect of “fitting in” or having no future in sight. 

While 混沌 is a common word, it is said that most people who use this kanji are mostly likely intellectual ones. 

An alternate writing 混沌 for is 渾沌.

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 混沌 (Konton):


But my mind is still in chaos.


They silently carried out executions to restore order to a world on the brink of chaos.


Create as much destruction and chaos as possible.

2.    混乱 (Konran) – Chaos

混乱 (Konran) is a very common word used by everyday people. Its primary meaning is “confusion”. When referred to as “chaos”, it is the type of chaos that is caused by confusion and mayhem and is mostly used to describe abstract things.

Many people would use this term for “chaos” because it is believed that most chaos will eventually have some sort of harmony and order –a temporary case.  

There is no alternate writing for 混乱. 

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 混乱 (Konran):


The news created a lot of confusion.


The accident caused traffic chaos.

そして戦争と 混乱が始まります。

And then war and chaos descend.


As a result of a revolution, democracy came with confusion

3.    無秩序 (muchitsujo) – Chaos

無秩序 literally means without order which can be equated to chaos. The word has two components: first is 無 meaning non- or nothing and second, 秩序 meaning order, discipline, regularity, system, or method. Without any order or a form of system, the only thing that comes out of it is chaos.

Its dictionary meaning is disorder, chaos, and confusion. However, when most people use this, it speaks about the kind of chaos that is caused by a lack of order, discipline, or system. 

While this is a common word, it is often used in topics where politics or any form of system and process is involved.

There is no alternative writing for 無秩序.

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for 無秩序 (muchitsujo):


There will be chaos unless we all adhere to the rules.


Democracy leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions.

無秩序になろうとも 変革や正義を求めます。

They want change and justice, even at the risk of chaos.

創造論者にとって 進化論が 無秩序を招き。

Because for creationists, it means that the idea of evolution, life arising from chaos, contradicts the second law.

4.    カオス (Kauso) – Chaos

The meaning of カオスis the exact meaning of chaos in English since it is borrowed using the Katakana form. Because it is borrowed, it carries all meaning and origin the original word has.

The usage for this word is very broad especially since the alternate words for “Chaos” in Japanese have underlying meanings and context because of their kanjis. 

This is a common word used in everyday conversation, especially in this modern era.

Example Sentences For the Japanese word for カオス (Kauso):


If I wasn’t here, this office would be in chaos in three days.


But my mind is still in chaos.


from the chaos will emerge the solution.


It’s the chaos of the web made elegant and simple.

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

Both the Kanji 沌 and 乱 are the same in Chinese. They both carry the Chinese meaning to the Japanese language. However, in the case of 乱 , its traditional writing in the Chinese language has a slight difference from the Japanese language. 

沌 also often follows the on-yomi or original Chinese way of reading in the Japanese language rather than its Kun-yomi (the Japanese way of reading).

How to write the Japanese character for “Chaos”

There are 6 strokes for the kanji 沌 (Ton) and it starts from the upper left and then goes to the lower left. It then starts again at the upper right portion followed by the “L” shape stroke in the middle and completes with the 6th stroke to form a square “U” shape. Lastly, the giant reverse J shape goes across the 4th and 5th stroke. 

While the kanji for 乱 (Ran) also has 7 strokes and the order of stroke is as follows:

Remember that stroke direction when writing kanji is from left to right and up to bottom.

Historical versions of the Japanese symbol for respect

The kanji 沌 (Ton) has no known versions from ancient times. However, there is alternative writing for this kanji in the Chinese language which is 坉.

The kanji alternate kanji for 乱 (Ran) which is 亂 in traditional Chinese, on the other hand, has two known original glyph forms in the Chinese language. 

What is the Japanese concept of Chaos?

In Japanese mythology, the concept of chaos goes way back to the Japanese creation myth which is the story of the creation of heaven and earth. It is said that everything came from the silence of the void and a shapeless kind of matter (chaos). 

From there, a sound was formed from the movement of the particles and such movement eventually led to the formation of light particles which then formed into heaven and the clouds. Other particles were dense and formed what is now called “earth”.

In the modern era, the concept of chaos is seen as the outcome of the absence of order and discipline within society. This is also the reason why Japanese culture has plenty of “unwritten rules” in every corner of human interactions. 

It creates a system that prevents individuals from going into disarray or out of order which may cause chaos and destruction to what is seen as an ideal society where discipline and harmony are the top priority. 

The kanjis for “Chaos” are one of the kanjis that are recommended on many tattoo websites. However, these websites generally suggest the kanji words and not the individual kanjis 沌 and 乱. 

It could be that the individual kanjis 沌 and 乱 are hard to relate to because of their inherent meaning which relates to the “creation myth” and “rebellion” which can be dangerous especially nowadays when politics is becoming more and more out of control.

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

Having a Japanese equivalent kanji symbol for “chaos” is worth considering. Certainly, a lot of people are attracted to the concept of “chaos”, as expressed in English.

 However, you need to contemplate it before inking it on your skin. 

The word “chaos” itself has plenty of negative connotations. 

If you wanted to go for a single character, of the two characters presented here, 沌 is probably the best. It is closer to the kind of primordial chaos that we associate with the English word.

By contrast, symbols like 乱, though similar to “chaos” on one level, is closer to connotations of “riot” or to create “disorder” – which may or may not be your intention.

If you want something that is most unequivocally equivalent to “chaos”, you would need to go with  a combination of two characters as 混沌 (konton). You do however lose some of the simple minimalism of a single character when you start combining symbols to make words.

You also need to be aware that people may react in different ways to your “chaos” symbol in Japan. 

On the whole, Japanese culture is still very conservative when it comes to tattoos, because of their association with Yakuza style organized crime groups in that country. Going for something expressly “wild” sounding can’t help but play up that stereotype.

That being said, maybe that is just what you are going for. There really is no one-size-fits-all here. I guess you could say that personal taste is its own sort of “chaos”.

You might be interest in:

The Japanese symbols for Life & Death 生と死

The Japanese symbol for Heaven 天

The Japanese symbol for destroy 壊

The Japanese symbol for balance


Article by John Salinas.

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