The Japanese Writing System (Part 1)

Hello! This is Stacie, your Japanese director! I’ll be introducing the Japanese writing system.

Japan has thee writing styles: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. This is part 1 and I will be covering Hiragana and Katakana. Part 2 will cover Kanji.Hiragana Chart.png

The chart above is the Hiragana writing system. As you can see, there are 46 main characters. You can combine them or alter them by adding a ” or °. For example, ka (か) can become ga (が) by adding ” on the top right corner. Ha (は) becomes pa (ぱ) by adding ° on the top right corner. There are also combinations. If you combine ki (き) and a small ya (や), it becomes kya (きゃ). The key point here is that the ya (や) is smaller. If you make it the same size as ki (き), it becomes kiya (きや) instead of kya (きゃ). Another thing to watch out for is the wo (を) and n (ん) character. Wo (を) is used as a particle. Words generally do not begin with the character wo (を). N (ん) is not a particle, but it never goes in the beginning of a word.

The chart below is the Katakana writing system. Hiragana is used for pure Japanese words, but Katakana is mainly used for foreign words. It may look similar to Hiragana, but they are different so make sure to familiarize yourself with the differences. Every Hiragana character has a Katakana equivalence. Just like Hiragana, n (ン) never goes in the beginning of a word. Wo (を), the Hiragana particle, in Katakana is ヲ. However, this character is not used as a particle. In everyday Japanese, it is very rare to see the Katakana wo (ヲ). It seems that wo (ヲ) was used in some pre-WWII documents, but these days, it is mainly used in video games and manga.


Let’s look at the chart and try reading these words!

にほんご (Japanese)

ことば (Word)

きょう (Today)

テスト (Test)

オフィス (Office)

ピアノ (Piano)


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