How to Distinguish the 4 Kanji of the Japanese Verb “Miru”

In Japanese, there are verbs with the sound 「みる」(“miru”), and the meaning changes depending on the kanji used for it. Even Japanese elementary school students often make mistakes in using these kanji properly. This article introduces the four most commonly used kanji for the verb “miru”.

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見る : to see; to look; to watch

– to see (to use your vision to look at something or someone)

(Terebi de mita fuku o katta)
“I bought clothes I saw on TV.”

(Kono tatemono wa takai-node, tōku no hō made mieru.)
“This building is tall, so you can see very far in the distance.”

Basically, the verb 「みる」(“miru”) is written with this kanji. You can also use this kanji to express the meaning of the other kanji that will be introduced later. This is because the kanji to be introduced later are written in different ways to emphasize the meaning. If you are not sure which kanji to use, use this one.

観る : to see; to look; to watch

– to watch movies, sports, and theatrical performances
– to look closely and carefully at an object

(Hisashiburi ni eiga o eigakan de mita.)
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie in a theater.”

(Kesshōsen wa sutajiamu de mitai-naa.)
“I want to see the final game at the stadium…”

When “movie,” “sports,” or ” theatrical performance” is the objective, this kanji is used. This kanji has a more intense meaning of watching carefully and closely than the kanji of 「見る」.

診る : to diagnose; to examine (medically)

– To examine and determine medical conditions and health status

(Oisha-san ni mite-morau.)
“I’m going to see a doctor. (=I’m having a doctor examine me.)”

(Are wa, kangoshi-san ga myaku o miru toki ni tsukau dōgu-desu.)
“That’s a tool used by nurses to check the pulse.”

This kanji is used when doctors examine their patients. Basically, you don’t use this kanji for topics that are not related to medical care.

看る : to look after (medically); take care of someone

– to look after and take care of someone with care

(Kaze o hīta kodomo o miteiru-node, kyō wa dekakeraremasen.)
“I am taking care of my child who caught a cold, so I can’t go out today.”

(Shujutsu-go wa yōdai no henka o yoku mite-okanakerebanaranai.)
“After the surgery, you have to keep a close eye on the changes in his condition.”

This kanji is mainly used when you take care of people or animals, caring for their health conditions. Therefore, the objects of the kanji are often sick or elderly people.

Let’s differentiate the four kanji

This is what it looks like when you use the four different kanji in a single sentence.


“While we were watching the soccer game, I took a look at my brother and found that he was sick, so I took him to see a doctor and stayed home that day to take care of him.”

I used these kanji for 「観る」 because I was watching soccer (sports); 「見る」 because I simply took a look at my younger brother; 「診る」 because a doctor examined a patient; and 「看る」 because I took care of a sick person.