Heno-heno 変じゃないのぉ?? What’s all this heno-heno business then? We take a brief look at this classic idea known by all Japanese people.

Heno-heno-moheji is basically a children’s character. But why the strange, long name? It’s a clever play on the hiragana alphabet, which makes it great for beginning learners to spice up their studies with. It’s incredibly simple really, and you should be able to figure it out with just the image below. Did you get it yet?

It’s a cup I recently bought from the 100 yen store with a silly face on. Still in that lovely Japanese calligraphic style too! What’s strange about this face is how it is constructed. Can you see the symbols?

への への もへ じ

The two eyebrows are made up of the hiragana character へ (he). The two eyes, they are the character の (no). The nose is も (mo), the mouth another へ (he) and finally a large じ (ji) to circle the face. Pretty cool, no?

That makes us the Heno-heno-moheji character! You’ll can often find this face being used in children’s cartoons and learning materials, as well as on the ubiquitous かかし (scarecrows) out in the Japanese rice fields.

You might also spot then on the dolls called てるてる坊主 (てるてるぼうず) that are hung up to prevent rain the next day. The name literally means ‘shiny shiny Buddhist monk’, and quite resembles one too, with the bald head. Legend has it that if you hang one upside down, it will reverse the effect and cause it to rain the next day.

Have you seen てるてる坊主 or へのへのもへじ before? Where did you come across them?


9 Responses to Gakuu. Studying with Real Japanese

  1. Sabrina September 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    This is pretty cool! Right now I’m studying on Textfugu which is great! I belive Gakuu can be really helpul too. What I like most is that its for pre-intermediate to advanced level students. So you can’t say its the same thing over and over again… students can actually improve their knowledge here. Thank you very much for creating this site. Have a nice day :)

    • Gakuranman September 30, 2010 at 1:09 am #

      Hi Sabrina! Thank you for your comment :).

      That’s definitely our aim. I love Textfugu for beginners and really getting students a solid grounding in the language, but afterwards (and even while) studying the basics, it can really help to encounter raw Japanese material. You don’t have to understand everything at first, but feeling challenged and picking up little bits here and there that are extra to your learning the basics helps expand your mind. Let me know if you have any more questions! More demonstration material will be up soon! We are currently having a special launch sale price for early adopters, so check out the pricing page if interested :).

      • Sabrina September 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

        Thanks for your reply. :) Unfortunately I’m even still miles away from the intermediate level. But I’ll definetly return to Gakuu when I get to this point. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the extra demonstration material. :) Keep up the good work.

        • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 12:21 am #

          Sure thing :). Let me know if you have any other questions or suggestions for things you’d like to see on Gakuu!

  2. missingno15 October 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    When I looked at this, I first thought to myself, “aw hell no, gakuranman is doing the same thing as koichi…even the website layout is similar”. But then I realized “it’s aimed at pre-intermediate to advanced level students” which is perfect for my situation right now because I now really want to excel way past beginner. So basically, Gakuu really complements Textfugu. Can’t wait for more lessons to see how this is gonna be like so I can decide if its worth getting.

    • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

      Hey there! Thanks for dropping by :). No way – Koichi and I are buds. I’ve always loved teaching the more advanced stuff so it worked out perfectly. I’ll be adding more stuff in the coming days, so please stay tuned!

      • Lee Aloy October 23, 2016 at 5:20 am #


        I am sorry to ask this silly question. Are you Japanese?
        am hoping to find a Japanese friends here please shot me an email:

  3. DumbOtaku (percent20) October 3, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    This is really cool. I am glad to see more online content going beyond just teaching hirigana and katakana. That is what I try to do on my blog, but with to little consistency. Glad to see an expert do it, btw already a signed-up paid member now. :)

    • Gakuranman October 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

      Glad to have you man! Look forward to hearing any suggestions you have for the site and future lessons :)

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