I found this post on Language Log yesterday rather sad:
According to a recent survey of more than 2,000 people, 66.5 percent of Japanese think they are losing the ability to correctly handwrite kanji. Moreover, the level is above 50% for every age group except for the youngest (16-19), who are of course still actively studying characters and thus must be prepared for tests; and even there the figure is still very close to the 50% mark.
And these figures are much higher than 10 years ago.
The significance of this isn’t completely clear to me as the article (and perhaps the recent survey as well) doesn’t specify the relative number of kanji which are becoming difficult for those that replied in the affirmative. I’d guess all the more frequent characters remain easily writeable. But the long-term trend of writing less and less by hand seems assured, so… I assume there is an increased use of hiragana for less frequent characters. Which, on top of the ever more frequent non-native borrowings into katakana, will make the writing system a stranger hybrid over time.
There’s an interesting post near the bottom of the comments section about the history of Chinese character use within Korean, and the stages by which, over the course of the past century or so, the former has ceded most of its ground to the Hanguel (the native Korean syllabary). Still very hard for me to imagine the same thing happening within Japanese, for several different reasons, but it’s an unusual situation.