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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

Japanese Diary 15
My Japanese teacher tells me that, back in the day, Japanese was written mostly in a combination of kanji and katakana, with hiragana being reserved to use by ladies. (Things like The Pillow Book would have been written in that script, I guess.) It's only in recent times - post WWII? - that hiragana has become the standard script to combine with kanji.

Which leads me to wonder - not for the first time - how it was that katakana became the holding pen for linguistic Gastarbeiter that it largely is today. Was this a habit that caught on, or a decree from on high?