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Lesson

Writing system: Hiragana

Hiragana is a part of the Japanese writing system, together with katakana and kanji. It's primarily used for writing particles, at the end of many words as well as for many words that have a kanji writing which is usually not used (i.e. ).

Hiragana originates from the cursive script of Chinese calligraphy and is much rounder and lacks sharp edges compared with katakana. New learners should memorize the characters as soon as possible as they are required for most Japanese study resources.

/n//w/-/r/-/y/-/m/-/h/-/n/-/t/-/s/-/k/-
/a/
nwarayamahanatasakaa
ゐ*/i/
wirimihinichishikii
/u/
ruyumufunutsusukuu
ゑ*/e/
weremehenetesekee
/o/
woroyomohonotosokoo

* very rarely used, ignore it for now

You can click on characters in the table to jump to the corresponding section.

Let's go over all of the characters and look at the stroke order. In order to memorize them quickly, it is recommended to practice using pen and paper for several days.

If you prefer learning by writing on paper, print out the PDF study sheet and get a pen.

Vowel column - a

One of the most common characters you'll see when reading Japanese; it is often used as the symbol of the Japanese language itself. Most people initially struggle to get the balance between the strokes quite right, but after some practice it should feel natural.

Hiragana mnemonic

Mnemonic: あ - A looks like an apple.

Vowel column - i

Memorizing this one should be easy as it's just two vertical lines next to each other.

Mnemonic: い - I looks like 2 eels swimming together.

A very common word consisting of only 2 consecutive i is __.

Vowel column - u

There is another similar character tsu we will see in the /t/- column, with the main difference being the top horizontal stroke.

Vowel column - e

Vowel column - o

Somewhat similar to a, but after a while distinguishing them should be easy.

/k/- column - ka

The most common use is probably the particle _, which indicates a question (i.e. by putting it at the end of the sentence).

__

Will you go?

/k/- column - ki

Hiragana mnemonic

Mnemonic: き - Ki is just like a key.

/k/- column - ku

/k/- column - ke

/k/- column - ko

/s/- column - sa

/s/- column - shi

/s/- column - su

/s/- column - se

/s/- column - so

Mnemonic: そ - So looks like a curved soba noodle.

/t/- column - ta

Hiragana mnemonic

Mnemonic: た - Ta looks like the letters ta.

One common way to use ta is to conjugate verbs into the past tense, i.e. __ -> __.

/t/- column - chi

/t/- column - tsu

/t/- column - te

/t/- column - to

/n/- column - na

/n/- column - ni

Commonly used as the particle _, to indicate direction.

そと__

I will go outside.

/n/- column - nu

nu looks very similar to me, with the main difference being the extra round part at the end. It's easy to remember them when using noodle mnemonics for both.

Mnemonic: ぬ - Nu is like a Noodle.

/n/- column - ne

Mnemonic: ね - Ne is like a cat - Neko (ねこ) in Japanese.

/n/- column - no

Hiragana mnemonic

Mnemonic: の - No means no, we can't go here.

Commonly used as the particle _, indicating possessive.

わたし_いぬ

My dog

/h/- column - ha

/h/- column - hi

/h/- column - fu

Mnemonic: ふ - Fu is like Mt. Fuji, let's hike it!

/h/- column - he

/h/- column - ho

/m/- column - ma

/m/- column - mi

/m/- column - mu

Mnemonic: む - Mu is like a cow looking at you, saying "moo".

/m/- column - me

Mnemonic: め - Me is like noodles - Men (めん) in Japanese.

/m/- column - mo

/y/- column - ya

/y/- column - yu

Mnemonic: ゆ - Yu is a unique fish swimming right.

/y/- column - yo

Often used at the end of sentences as a particle (_) to add emphasis. If you've watched Japanese animation or read comics, you'll come across excessive uses of this for sure.

/r/- column - ra

Hiragana mnemonic

Mnemonic: ら - Ra is like a fat rabbit.

/r/- column - ri

/r/- column - ru

/r/- column - re

/r/- column - ro

/w/- column - wa

/w/- column - wo

Most sentences contain the particle _, it usually marks the object of an action.

みず__

I will drink water.

/n/ column - n