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Doujin and Doujinshi - Meaning in Japanese

Monday, October 10, 2016
Now, be honest, I'm pretty sure you've heard about doujnshi 同人誌 before, haven't you? Haven't you?! I know you have. You'd be here reading this post about the words doujin 同人 and doujinshi 同人誌 were you not concerned about what their actual meaning were in Japanese.


What is Doujin in Japanese

I don't know what you were expecting, but the word doujin 同人 in Japanese means more or less what it literally is, "same people."

Yep. "Same people." Combining the kanji from words like onaji 同じ, "same," and hito 人, "person," the word doujin means literally  "same people" in Japanese. A doujin is one person or a group of people who share the "same hobby," onaji shumi 同じ趣味.

So what do these "people of same hobby" do together? Stuff and things. Most likely stuff and things related to their shared hobby. Stuff like drawing manga, writing stories, making music, etc., which would be the so-called doujin katsudou 同人活動, "doujin activities."

Doujin vs. Doujinshi

So if doujin 同人 is that then what the hell is doujinshi 同人誌?

The word doujinshi 同人誌 is, obviously, just the word doujin with this shi 誌 attached to it. The shi 誌 part, which is the important part, means "publication," just like in the word zasshi 雑誌, which means "magazine," a sort of publication. Therefore, a doujinshi 同人誌 is nothing more and nothing less than a publication of a certain doujin 同人.

Though I use the word "publication" here that is by no means professional. Many doujin do not publish commercially or professionally and do not make a business out of it. Those who do are often considered "indie," most likely have a proper job and are making doujinshi on their free time. Finally, there are actually professional, full-time doujin out there, but by that point you stop saying a doujin published something and start saying a company published something.

Another term to note is that someone who works with doujinshi, that is, as an author, as part of a doujin, is often called a doujinka 同人家.

Types of Doujinshi

Because the hobby of a doujin is likely to be drawing manga 漫画, most of the time all a doujin publishes is manga, which can also be called doujinshi, because you can pretty much assume whatever a doujin publishes is going to be a manga. However, some doujin have other hobbies to make in mind, like:
  • doujin komikku 同人コミック
    Manga series. (why komikku)
  • doujin shousetsu 同人小説
    Novels. Stories.
  • doujin ongaku 同人音楽
  • doujin geemu 同人ゲーム
    Game. Video-game. Computer game.
  • doujin sofuto 同人ソフト
    Software. (includes games)

And so on.

In the case of doujin geemu it's important to note that software like RPG Maker and others contribute to the great number of them. Even outside Japan and Japanese, there are people of same hobby using RPG Maker to make their own games for fun.

Doujinshi vs. Fan Art Comics

Plenty of doujinshi is based also fan art, derivative works based upon or which use characters or ideas from series which the doujin has absolutely nothing to do with and has no legal right whatsoever to copy.

In Japan, many professional mangaka 漫画家 have started out as doujinka 同人家, so they don't feel like suing every doujin and their mother for using the manga characters they created in some stupid, totally unrealistic love story told in doujinshi format.

It is important to note, however, that not all doujinshi are fan art comics. Plenty of doujinshi are, plenty of them are not. Many doujinshi are original works that have no characters or ideas stolen from other people. It just happens that, in Japan, any fan art comic you make by yourself or with your friends is by default called doujinshi.

What is a Doujin Circle?

A "circle" is a geometric shape with no sides that looks like this ◯, and by the way is called maru まる in Japanese. A saakuru サークル, however, is a word which comes from "circle" and has a meaning like a "circle of friends."

In reality, a saakuru is just a name for a group of people, often a group of doujin. Since doujin can also be interpreted as a "group" things can get a little complicated because their meanings start getting a little mixed up.

Basically, you can say: what is this saakuru called? What are these doujin called? And what is this doujinshi called? Because the word doujin always assume more than one person. Also, a saakuru can have a name, a doujinshi can have a title, but doujin doesn't have anything like that.

Another way of thinking about it is with the phrase: this doujinshi was made by a saakuru made out of doujin.

Doubts? Post a comment below!


  1. I recently saw a survey asking if fans used the term "doujinshi" or "doujin" for self-published Japanese works sold at Comiket and the like. So I decided to see what the difference in the terms actually was. Thanks for the lesson!


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