We’re often asked why the Katakana ヲ (Wo) is not included in our set. The short answer is that it’s super rare to see and we felt including it along with the other ‘obsolete’ kana would just be adding another character to learn that you may never see.
The reason as to why it’s super rare to see is interesting though and showcases a few rules in the Japanese language. In Hiragana を (Wo) and お (O) share the pronunciation “oh”. They have the same sound but を is used as a connecting particle in Japanese ( to mark the direct object in the sentence). Katakana characters are not used as particles except to represent very old dialects. So this rules out one of the potential uses for ヲ.
The other use would be to represent foreign words but as we already mentioned ヲ (Wo) and オ (O) share the same sound. So words using “oh” sounds that are written in Katakana will opt for using オ such as with オレンジ (Orange). You may think that words starting with “Wo” in English such as Korean Won could use it but the sounds are off so you’d actually use ウォ(Uo) for ウォン(Korean Won).
Counter to the above two points ヲ can be used as used in these situations but only as a stylistic choice from the author. It is rare to see but it does happen such as with the Odeon brand (Cinema chain) also found in Japan. Or in certain titles of Evangelion.
The issue with using either of these as an example in our cards is that A: The words don’t start with the Character (our method teaches Japanese like “A” is for Apple) and more importantly B: They are intellectual property and we don’t want to get in any trouble haha.
However, while writing up this post I did come across possibly the only real example of ヲ which we could use and it’s a word you may be familiar with “Otaku”! Originally this is a word written in Kanji with an ‘honorific’ Hiragana “O” お宅 and roughly means ‘another person’s house or family’. In modern days it’s been adopted to be a word that describes people with consuming interests (basically an endearing way to say Geek in Japanese) and it is spelled オタク in Katakana to represent this meaning. What I didn’t know until recently is that apparently, it can also be written with ヲ! By using Wo it is meant to represent an extra-strong attachment to the topic you are geeking over. So just for fun, we’ve drawn up what that could look like as a Hai! card 🙂
So what do you think? Should we add it to the next print run, or is it still too niche and just giving one more thing to memorise? Ultimately we want to make learning Japanese feel as friendly as possible, especially at the early stages of studying and the stylistic nature of the character may be a little confusing, but this could be a happy solution to the elusive ヲ.