The word breaks down into the seven hiragana characters: he (へ), no (の), he (へ), no (の), mo (も), he (へ), and ji (じ). The first two he are the eyebrows, the two no are the eyes, the mo is a nose, and the last he is the mouth. The outline of the face is made by the character ji, its two short strokes (dakuten) forming the ear or cheek. Children use the henohenomoheji as the faces of kakashi (scarecrows) and Teru teru bōzu.
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Other versions may have been current in other epochs and places. Japanese-Brazilians who learned hiragana in the 1950s, in the State of São Paulo, report that they were not taught to draw the ji, and thus left the face unframed, as in the henohenomohe shown at right.
Other people from the same epoch but from other towns in São Paulo (as well as American sailors in Yokosuka, Japan) report that they learned to draw a big no around the face, instead of the ji (not shown).
Others have drawn the henohenomoheji with an extra i (い) at the end, which is drawn under the ji to form a neck or an ear.
- Let's Learn Hiragana with Japanese Culture: Henohenomoheji at Japanese.about.com. Accessed on 2009-08-11.