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The Difference Between Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji

Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji are the three main scripts used in Japanese writing, each serving a different purpose. Hiragana is primarily used for native Japanese words and grammatical elements. It has a curvy and flowing appearance. Katakana, on the other hand, is used for foreign loanwords, technical terms, and onomatopoeia. It is more angular and sharp in appearance compared to Hiragana. Lastly, Kanji consists of complex characters borrowed from Chinese and is used for nouns, verb stems, adjectives, and some native words. Each Kanji character has one or more meanings and is essential for conveying meaning in Japanese writing.


あ (a), い (i), う (u), え (e), お (o)

か (ka), き (ki), く (ku), け (ke), こ (ko)

さ (sa), し (shi), す (su), せ (se), そ (so)

た (ta), ち (chi), つ (tsu), て (te), と (to)

な (na), に (ni), ぬ (nu), ね (ne), の (no)

は (ha), ひ (hi), ふ (fu), へ (he), ほ (ho)

ま (ma), み (mi), む (mu), め (me), も (mo)

や (ya), ゆ (yu), よ (yo)

ら (ra), り (ri), る (ru), れ (re), ろ (ro)

わ (wa), を (wo)

ん (n)


きゃ (kya), きゅ (kyu), きょ (kyo)

しゃ (sha), しゅ (shu), しょ (sho)

ちゃ (cha), ちゅ (chu), ちょ (cho)

にゃ (nya), にゅ (nyu), にょ (nyo)

ひゃ (hya), ひゅ (hyu), ひょ (hyo)

みゃ (mya), みゅ (myu), みょ (myo)

りゃ (rya), りゅ (ryu), りょ (ryo)



ア (a), イ (i), ウ (u), エ (e), オ (o)

カ (ka), キ (ki), ク (ku), ケ (ke), コ (ko)

サ (sa), シ (shi), ス (su), セ (se), ソ (so)

タ (ta), チ (chi), ツ (tsu), テ (te), ト (to)

ナ (na), ニ (ni), ヌ (nu), ネ (ne), ノ (no)

ハ (ha), ヒ (hi), フ (fu), ヘ (he), ホ (ho)

マ (ma), ミ (mi), ム (mu), メ (me), モ (mo)

ヤ (ya), ユ (yu), ヨ (yo)

ラ (ra), リ (ri), ル (ru), レ (re), ロ (ro)

ワ (wa), ヲ (wo)

ン (n)


キャ (kya), キュ (kyu), キョ (kyo)

シャ (sha), シュ (shu), ショ (sho)

チャ (cha), チュ (chu), チョ (cho)

ニャ (nya), ニュ (nyu), ニョ (nyo)

ヒャ (hya), ヒュ (hyu), ヒョ (hyo)

ミャ (mya), ミュ (myu), ミョ (myo)

リャ (rya), リュ (ryu), リョ (ryo)


Origins of Kanji:

Kanji are logographic characters borrowed from Chinese. Each character represents a word or a meaningful part of a word. Kanji were adapted to fit the Japanese language and have been used for centuries. The characters are often composed of smaller components known as radicals, which can provide hints about the character's meaning or pronunciation.

Types of Kanji:

1. Pictographs: These characters are derived from pictures of objects. For example, 山 (yama) looks like a mountain, and 木 (ki) resembles a tree.

2. Ideographs: These characters represent abstract concepts. For example, 二 (ni) represents the number two.

3. Compound Ideographs: These characters combine two or more pictographs or ideographs to create new meanings. For example, 明 (mei) combines 日 (sun) and 月 (moon) to mean "bright" or "clear."

4. Phonetic-ideographic Characters: These characters combine a component indicating meaning with a component indicating pronunciation. For example, 河 (kawa, river) combines the water radical 氵 with 可 (ka), which suggests the pronunciation.

Tips for Studying Kanji:

1. Learn Radicals: Radicals are the building blocks of kanji. By understanding the basic radicals, you can often guess the meaning or pronunciation of unfamiliar kanji.

2. Practice Regularly: Consistency is key. Write kanji repeatedly to remember their strokes and forms.

3. Use Mnemonics: Create stories or associations to remember the shape and meaning of kanji. For example, imagine a "tree" 木 with the "sun" 日 above it, making "bright" 明.

4. Learn in Context: Study kanji in the context of words and sentences rather than in isolation. This helps in understanding how they are used.

5. Flashcards: Use flashcards to test your memory. Apps like Anki can be particularly useful for spaced repetition learning.

6. Read Regularly: Engage with materials that use kanji, such as books, newspapers, or manga. This helps reinforce your learning and exposes you to kanji in different contexts.

7. Write Daily: Keep a journal or practice writing kanji daily. This not only improves your writing skills but also reinforces your memory.

8. Use Technology: Utilize apps and online resources designed for learning kanji. These tools often provide quizzes, writing exercises, and context examples.

9. Group Study: Studying with others can provide motivation and different perspectives on learning kanji. You can quiz each other and share mnemonic techniques. By understanding the origins and structure of kanji and adopting effective study strategies, you can make steady progress in mastering this complex but fascinating aspect of the Japanese language.

1. 山 (やま, yama) - Mountain

2. 日 (ひ/にち, hi/nichi) - Day/Sun

3. 学 (がく, gaku) - Study/Learn

4. 水 (みず, mizu) - Water

5. 木 (き, ki) - Tree/Wood

6. 人 (ひと/じん, hito/jin) - Person

7. 田 (た, ta) - Rice field

8. 金 (きん, kin) - Gold/Money

9. 本 (ほん, hon) - Book/Origin

10. 大 (おお, oo) - Big/Large

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