Learn Kana

In Japanese, kana means the two writing systems, Hiragana and Katakana. Learn both here for free!

Hiragana Lessons

Hiragana Lessons

So you are new to Hiragana? It isn't that hard to learn. If you study 15-30 minutes a day for 2 or 3 weeks you can learn all of the Hiragana! In fact you can begin to read REAL Japanese the first day! If you are new to Hiragana please read through the introduction here on this page before starting the chapters. If you need a book to learn with please take a look at the selection of books related to Hiragana and Katakana at our store.

Find a Japanese Tutor Search WyzAnt to find a japanese tutor near you. Your first hour of tutoring comes with a satisfaction guarantee so you can start lessons with confidence!

HIRAGANA LESSONS:

SUGGESTIONS: Tackle 2 or 3 hiragana a day (or as many as you feel comfortable with); Be sure to write each one down many times; Look for hiragana you have studied elsewhere while you study and try to recognize the ones you've already learned. This helps build your memory.

You may want to hear all hiragana pronounced before beginning.

Click on the chapter title or green button in any box below to jump directly to that chapter.

→ Chapter 12 - Helpful hints
And to finish up, a few closing pointers to cover the loose ends and bring it all together.


Japanese translation services

We also have some Hiragana Quizzes (Your browser needs to be able to see Japanese)
Quiz #1 (the 46 characters covered in chapters 1 - 10)
Quiz #2 (the "combo" characters covered in chapter 11)

Hiragana Randomizer Flash Cards (Only works with IE)

Practice Hiragana by Typing Romaji

An Introduction:

Let's learn the first of the three Japanese 'alphabets.' (they aren't really alphabets) Three?!! You mean there's more!?! Yes, but before you run for the aspirin, know that hiragana is perhaps the most useful and it can be mastered (to a slow, but readable degree) in less than 2 weeks! Hiragana's sister is Katakana. Once you learn Hiragana, you will notice how similar Katakana is. The third is kanji - characters originally from China. But more on that later...

Here is a comment from a very nice guy:
I learned how to read and write hiragana almost exclusively through this site, and I think it's a great learning tool. I did one lesson a day, and wrote each character several times until I had it memorized. Then I re-wrote all of the characters I had learned so far, up to that point. It was fairly easy and fun. I found the mnemonics a great help. It really didn't seem to matter what they said ("Look ma, a dragonfly!), just the process of reading them helped me to remember. Thank you very much for your hard work on this site, and for making it available to everyone on the Internet. Good job.

-- Tom

About Hiragana:

Today all three 'alphabets' are used together. As a rule, most words (of Chinese or Japanese origin) are written with kanji + hiragana. And foreign loan words and names are written with katakana.

About the Sounds:

Most sounds in Japanese are found also in English. Unlike in English, the 'letters' in Japanese only have one sound each, with three exceptions that will be mentioned later on. Please click on the sound files to get a feel for the sounds. The most important to master are the vowels (the first row). The sounds are all found in English. Please repeat the sounds many times. If you spend a few moments looking at the chart, you should be able to see a clear pattern (each column has the same vowel sound and each row has the same consonant sound.) There are only a few that deviate from that pattern (in red) - But we will get to that later.

Listen to this sound wo wo
only used as a particle

These are all the basic hiragana letters. The rest are simply combinations of two hiragana. (For Example: to make the 'sha' sound - add (shi) + や(ya) = しゃ(sha) - Notice how the second letter is smaller; but we will look at this later.)

We will look at about 5 'letters' per page. Do one a day and in no time you will be reading real Japanese!

Some good advice from Amanda - a thejapanesepage.com member:

When I was first learning to make the "r" sound one tip that helped was to keep "l" in mind, but widen the tongue.

With a traditional English "l" the tongue is narrowed right behind the two front teeth. If you pay close attention to widening your tongue while you are first learning the sound what you get sounds more like the Japanese "r". There may be a slight over-correction at first, but once you stop focusing on it entirely it will make the sound more natural and the practice makes it easier to master.

I thought sharing this would be of help to others who are learning on their own.

It was sort of funny when I first read that tip because after repeating the r's over and over and over, I was really aware of how my tongue moved to make other sounds. It's weird, but when you pay attention to the sounds you make you almost start to wonder if you're doing it right. Kind of like saying one word several times- it stops sounding like that word even though you haven't changed what you are saying!

Hiragana Chapter 1

Hiragana Page 01 あ a

AND so begins your journey! Be sure to write each character many times

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - a
SOUND
- [as in fAther]


MEMORY: it looks like a cross with a sideways #9.  "Ah... number 9"


EXAMPLES: How do you say it?
- Ah!

Japanese has 5 vowel sounds (a, i, u, e, o) which are used to make the rest of the Hiragana

Hiragana Page 02 い i

With only 2 Hiragana under your belt, you can begin to read real Japanese words!

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - i
SOUND
[as in 'fEEt']


MEMORY: It looks like two arms -- It will get me... EEk!!


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means "love"

- This means "good"

Find websites or books with Japanese and search for the Hiragana you know

Hiragana Page 03 う u

As we build the number of characters learned we will increase the vocabulary as well

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - u
SOUND
- [as in fOOd]


MEMORY: It looks like a nose and an opened mouth looking for fOOd


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means "to meet"

- This means "to say"

Later we will see that sometimes this character is used to make characters longer in pronunciation - keep that in mind, but don't worry, be happy

Hiragana Page 04 え e

Do your best to correctly pronounce each vowel - it will be very important later on

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - e
SOUND
- [as in hAte]


MEMORY: It looks like a person running away - I hAte runners!


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means "no"

- This means "house"

- This means "a picture"

You are doing great! Are you writing these characters down?

Hiragana Page 05 お o

You are up to your last vowel! Congrats!

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - o
SOUND
- [as in OH nO!]


MEMORY: It looks like ' - a' but "OH! it's different


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means " the color blue"

- This means "hey!" - kind of rude..
.

- This means "king"

All other Hiragana letters are consonants + a vowel (except n)

Hiragana Page 06 Review One

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 1: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?






Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:
 

All other Hiragana letters are consonants + a vowel (except n)

Hiragana Chapter 2

Hiragana Page 07 か ka

Now we have the first consonant [K sound + A sound = KA]

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - ka
SOUND
- [as in CAr]


MEMORY: I remembered it because it looks like a 'K' - well sort of...


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means "face"
- This means "squid"

- This means "to buy"
- This means "red"

Hiragana and Katakana use the same sound system. So once you learn the way Hiragana works, Katakana isn't too difficult!

Hiragana Page 08 き ki

Follow the order of strokes shown below to make your Hiragana look natural

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - ki
SOUND
- [as in KEY]


MEMORY: It looks like a skeleton KEY


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'big'

- This means 'train station'


- - This is the sound monkeys make in Japanese

Hiragana has many curves; Katakana is very sharp

Hiragana Page 09 く ku

This is not your average less than sign

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - ku
SOUND
- [as in COol]


MEMORY: It looks like paKU man (Pac-man)


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'the number 9'

- This means 'to go'


- This means 'air'

Kanji, the 3rd writing system in Japanese, has about 2000 characters to learn - aren't you glad you are learning Hiragana?

Hiragana Page 10 け ke

Gambatte!

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - ke
SOUND
- [as in CAve]

MEMORY: It looks like an entrance to a CAve


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'pond'

- This means 'hair'


Almost there!

Hiragana Page 11 こ ko

...

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - ko
SOUND
- [as in COld]


MEMORY: It looked like a 'COke can' to me...


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means "child"

- This means "airport"
NOTE: the in this word only makes the character before it longer (It isn't pronounced as a separate syllable)

- This means "love" or "carp (fish)" or a rude form of "Come here!"

- This means "voice"


Almost done with Chapter 2!

Hiragana Page 12 Review Two

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 2: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?






Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:
 

Hiragana Chapter 3

Hiragana Page 13 さ sa

Hiragana Lessons Home

Now for the S's - Can you get the pattern?

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - sa
SOUND
- [as in SOlitude]


MEMORY: It looks like a person who sits in SOlitude


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'sake' - (watch the pronunciation)

- This means 'morning'

- This means 'this morning'

- This means 'umbrella'


If you understand Hiragana's pattern, I believe you have mastered the hardest part

Hiragana Page 14 し shi

NOTE: This is pronounced as the English 'SHE' not 'SEA' as you would expect!

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - shi
SOUND
- [as in SHE]


MEMORY: It looks like a woman's hair flowing in the wind (SHE)


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'stone'

- This means 'leg'

- This means 'delicious'

- This means 'cow'


Keep trying to find Hiragana you know on the Internet

Hiragana Page 15 す su

Remember to have fun while drawing the characters!

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - su
SOUND
- [as in SUE]


MEMORY: It looks like a girl named SUE wearing a hat


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'chair'

- This means 'sushi'

- This means 'to like (someone or something)'

Hiragana Page 16 せ se

Try to make silly memory associations for yourself

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - se
SOUND
- [as in SAY]


MEMORY: It looks like someone wearing a hat SAying something


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'sweat'

- This means 'chair' or 'seat'
(another word for seat is isu)

Hiragana Page 17 そ so

Now let's wrap up Chapter 3!

HOW TO WRITE IT
[Follow the red strokes from left to right]

ROMAJI - so
SOUND
- [as in SO]


MEMORY: It looks SO abstract like PicaSO


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'a lie' or 'not true'

- This means 'there'


Almost there!

Hiragana Page 18 Review Three

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 3: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?






Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:
 

Hiragana Chapter 4

Hiragana Page 19 た ta

CHAPTER 4: The 'T' line has a few that aren't "regular" - so be careful

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ta
SOUND
- [as in TOddler]


MEMORY: It looks like a TOddler reaching for a toy


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'down' or 'below'

- This means 'octopus'

- This means 'cell phone '

- This means 'song'


Try saying "ta chi tsu te to" 5 times fast

Hiragana Page 20 ち chi

I know my memory associations are getting worse... UGH!

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - chi
SOUND
- [as in CHEAp]


MEMORY: It looks like a CHEAp version of the number 5


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'the number one'

- This means 'the number seven'

- This means 'mouth'

- This means 'father'


If you think of good associations for the hiragana, leave a comment on this page for the next fellow!

Hiragana Page 21 つ tsu

One of the easiest Hiragana to write & hardest to pronounce

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - tsu
SOUND
- [as in caT'S SOUp (not in English)]


MEMORY: It looks like a wave from a TSUnami (tidal wave)


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'when?'

- This means 'hot'

- This means 'shoes'


Listen to the sound file until you feel comfortable with it

Hiragana Page 22 て te

Hiragana!

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - te
SOUND
- [as in TAble]


MEMORY: It looks like a TErrible seven


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'hand'

- This means 'enemy'

- This means 'nice'


Hiragana Page 23 と to

HIRAGANA TO

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - to
SOUND
- [as in TOE]


MEMORY: It looks like someone's big TOE


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'sound'

- This means 'outside'

- This means 'later'


Hiragana Page 24 Review Four

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 4: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?






Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:
 

Hiragana Chapter 5

Hiragana Page 25 な na

Hiragana NA

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - na
SOUND
- [as in kNOt]


MEMORY: It looks like a rope all tangled in a kNOt


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'summer'

- This means 'longing', 'nostalgic', or 'reminiscent'

- This means 'hole'


Hiragana Page 26 に ni

Hiragana NI

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ni
SOUND
- [as in kNEE]


MEMORY: It looks like a person sitting on his kNEEs (as seen from above)


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'west'

- This means 'older brother'

- This means 'smell'

- This means 'what?'


Hiragana Page 27 ぬ nu

Hiragana NU

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - nu
SOUND
- [as in NEw]


MEMORY: It kind of looks like a but with a tail and no hat


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'dog'

- This means 'to die'

- This means 'raccoon-dog'


Hiragana Page 28 ね ne

Hiragana NE

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ne
SOUND
- [as in NAY]


MEMORY: If you look carefully you will see a '1', '+' and a '2' but, NAY, no '3'


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'fever'

- This means 'older sister'

- This means 'cat'


Hiragana Page 29 の no

This hiragana by itself means 'apostraphe S' (Possession)

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - no
SOUND
- [as in NO]


MEMORY: It's a circle! NO it's almost a circle...


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'apostraphe S' (possession)

- This means 'cat's hand'

- This means 'this''


Hiragana Page 30 Review Five

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 5: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?






Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:
 

Hiragana Chapter 6

Hiragana Page 31 は ha

Hiragana HA

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ha
SOUND
- [as in HA!]


MEMORY: It has two parts to make memorizing it HArd


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'yes'

- This means 'bridge' or 'chopsticks'

- This means 'tooth'


When used as a particle it is pronounced as wa - but don't worry about it now :)

Hiragana Page 32 ひ hi

It almost looks like a smiley face without eyes

HOW TO WRITE IT (from top- left to right)

ROMAJI - hi
SOUND
- [as in HE]


MEMORY: It looks like HE has both hands raised


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'day'

- This means 'person'


Hiragana Page 33 ふ fu

Be careful! You would think "HU" but it is pronounced as "FU"

HOW TO WRITE IT (from top to bottom)

ROMAJI - fu
SOUND
- [as in FOOd]


MEMORY: It looks like a snake looking for some FOOd


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'ship' or 'boat'

- This means 'skin'


Say 'HA HI FU HE HO' several times

Hiragana Page 34 へ he

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - he
SOUND
- [as in HEY!]


MEMORY: HEY it's an upside down 'V' (almost)


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'not good at' or 'poor at'

- This means 'calm' or 'peaceful'


Like ha when this is used as a particle it is pronounced as just e (drop the h) - but more on that later...

Hiragana Page 35 ほ ho

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ho
SOUND
- [as in HOle]


MEMORY: HO OH! It is more complicated than ha!


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'star'

- This means 'want' or 'would like'

- This means 'bone'


 

Hiragana Page 36 Review Six

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 6: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?






Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:
 

Hiragana Chapter 7

Hiragana Page 37 ま ma

Note that the second horizontal line is just a bit shorter than the top one

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ma
SOUND
- [as in MA MA]


MEMORY:Look MA! I caught a dragon-fly! [It looks like a dragonfly flying]


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'now'

- This means 'island'

- This means 'town'

- This means 'horse'


 

MA MI MU ME MO

Hiragana Page 38 み mi

This is one of my favorites...

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - mi
SOUND
- [as in ME]


MEMORY: It looks to ME like a 2 over a 4 (can you see it?)


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'meaning'

- This means 'tidal wave'

- This means 'paper'

- This means 'ocean'


 

MA MI MU ME MO

Hiragana Page 39 む mu

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - mu
SOUND
- [as in MOvie]


MEMORY: It looks like an old film projector showing a MOvie


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'bug

- This means 'to bite'

- This means 'cold'


 

MA MI MU ME MO

Hiragana Page 40 め me

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - me
SOUND
- [as in MAY]


MEMORY: It looks like a half closed eye (me means eye in Japanese)


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'business card'

- This means 'rain' or 'candy'

- This means 'eye'

- This means 'princess'


MA MI MU ME MO

Hiragana Page 41 も mo

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - mo
SOUND
- [as in MOwer]


MEMORY: It looks like a man with a hat on taking a MOrning's rest


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'potato'

- This means 'if'

- This means 'heavy'


MA MI MU ME MO

Hiragana Page 42 Review Seven

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 7: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?






Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:
 

Hiragana Chapter 8

Hiragana Page 43 や ya

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ya
SOUND
- [as in YAk]


MEMORY: It looks like something a YAk stepped on


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'parent'

- This means 'room'


- This means 'mountain'

YA YU YO

Hiragana Page 44 ゆ yu

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - yu
SOUND
- [as in YOU]


MEMORY: If you look really close, you may see a Y, O, and U there


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'snow'

- This means 'winter'

- This means 'dream'

- This means 'fame' or 'famous'
(note: the u and the i are used here to extend the characters before it - So really 'dream' and 'fame' have the same sounds but 'fame' is pronounced longer)

YA YU YO

Hiragana Page 45 よ yo

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - yo
SOUND
- [as in YO-YO]


MEMORY: It looks like a fancy trick with a YO-YO


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'good'

- This means 'the side'

- This means 'strong'


YA YU YO

Hiragana Page 46 Review Eight

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 8: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?





Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:

 

Hiragana Chapter 9

Hiragana Page 47 ら ra

Hiragana - For more on the R's click here

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ra
SOUND
- Listen to the sound


MEMORY: It looks like a RAttled # 5


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'from'

- This means 'plate' or 'dish'

- This means 'the sky'


RA RI RU RE RO - are the most difficult to pronounce - listen to the sound file HERE 53 k wav

Hiragana Page 48 り ri

Don't confuse this with い i

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ri
SOUND
- [listen to the file]


MEMORY: It looks like 2 arms REAching for something


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'bird'

- This means 'glue'

- This means 'impossible'


 

Listen to them all HERE 53 k wav

Hiragana Page 49 る ru

Hiragana - For more on the R's click here

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ru
SOUND
- [listen to the file]


MEMORY: It looks like a ROOt


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'to come'

- This means 'monkey'

- This means 'night'


 

Listen to them all HERE 53 k wav

Hiragana Page 50 れ re

Listen to them all HERE 53 k wav

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - re
SOUND
- [listen to file]


MEMORY: It is almost in the shape of a RAInbow


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'to bow'

- This means 'beautiful'

- This means 'impolite'


 

Listen to them all HERE 53 k wav

Hiragana Page 51 ろ ro

Listen to them all HERE 53 k wav

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - ro
SOUND
- [listen to file]


MEMORY: Think of a man in a boat ROWing


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'color'

- This means 'white'

- This means 'interesting'


Listen to them all HERE 53 k wav

Hiragana Page 52 Review Nine

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 9: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?






Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:
 

Hiragana Chapter 10

Hiragana Page 53 わ wa

Hiragana

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - wa
SOUND
- [as in WAsh]


MEMORY: It is a WAshing machine


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'river'

- This means 'garden'

- This means 'cute'


Hiragana Page 54 ん n

This is the only Hiragana that doesn't have a vowel sound

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - n
SOUND
- [as in N]


MEMORY: It looks like a cursive "n"


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'gold'

- This means 'three'

- This means 'yes' -
more informal than hai

You can't start a word with N

Hiragana Page 55 を o

This one is only used as a particle meaning Direct Object and is pronounced 'OH'

HOW TO WRITE IT

ROMAJI - wo or o
SOUND
- [as in OH]


MEMORY:looks like a guy jumping over someone's attack (the arc is a blade sweeping by). So "OH! The ninja's katana nearly hit him!"


EXAMPLES: How do you say them?
- This means 'to read a book' - Book () is the direct object

Read Hiragana you know on the Internet

Hiragana Page 56 Review Ten

Here are the suspects... Can you name them?


CHAPTER 10: THE QUIZ


What is the Hiragana to the left?



Continue until you are sure of them all


REVIEW:

 

Hiragana Chapter 11

Hiragana Page 57 Combinations

This part is a little different... Take it slow and you should be able to catch on

PART ONE - ADDING THE "TEN TEN"

How to make the 'ten-ten' letters. A 'ten-ten' is like a double- quote (") It changes the sound of the letter to a harder sound. You can ONLY 'ten-ten' the 'K' row, the 'S' row, the 'T' row and the 'H' row. (look at the chart to the right - the red ones are the ones with slightly difficult pronunciation)

Now look at the chart below. You will see that

  • the 'K' row becomes 'G' (still the same good ole ka only with a ten-ten ; notice it is a harder sound)

  • the 'S' row becomes 'Z' (again harder sound)

  • the 'T' row becomes 'D'

  • the 'H' row becomes 'B' or 'P' ('B' is with a ten-ten (ex. ba) and 'P' is with a circle (ex. pa))


NOTE: Actually if you allow it to sink in, the sound changes seem quite logical. You will get used to it quickly


Review this page until you feel comfortable with it

 

Download MP3s of these sounds here.

Hiragana Page 58 Combinations

This part is a little different... Take it slow and you should be able to catch on

PART TWO - Combinations

Usually easy... BASE + a smaller ya, yu, or yo

ki + ya = kya

(be careful with the boldfaced ones)

AND (be careful with the boldfaced ones)


NOTE: Again in time this will seem natural - Really!


Review this page until you feel comfortable with it

gambatte!

Hiragana Page 59 Small Tsu

This part is a little different... Take it slow and you should be able to catch on

PART THREE - Small TSU

One more thing... You have learned tsu - But sometimes it appears smaller than other letters. This causes a slight pause or break between syllables.

Example: chotto (which means 'a little') pronounced "cho - to" with a slight break between syllables. In romaji it is usually written by repeating the next consonant as with 'choTTo.'

Example: zasshi (magazine) pronounced "za - shi"


Homework : Try to find some other examples on the internet of the small tsu


Review this page until you feel comfortable with it

gambatte!

Hiragana Chapter 12

Hiragana Page 60 Last Bit

Well Done! You Made it!

LAST - Some finishing touches

PRACTICE AT THE HIRAGANA FLASHCARDS PAGE

  • There are only 5 vowel sounds
  • All other characters (except n) are made of a consonant sound and one of the 5 vowel sounds.
  • The not-so-logical-pronunciation letters are chi, tsu, and fu. BE CAREFUL
  • The R letters are pronounced somewhere between the R and L sounds of English - Click here for more
  • n cannot be used to start a word
  • You cannot 'ten-ten' vowels
  • Combinations are formed using only ya, yu, and yo 'helpers' and the i column (ki, shi, chi, ni, hi, mi, ri)
  • A small tsu causes a slight pause or break between syllables.  For example in English we say a slight pause after "book" in "booK Club"
    Here are two examples in Japanese where the small tsu can clear up / cause a lot of problems!
    gasmall tsuki gakki - musical instrument [with a slight pause] 
    and
    gaki gaki - brat, annoying kid [without the pause]

 

FUN WITH HIRAGANA

A cute drawing made from hiragana is called Henohenomoheji

henohenomohejiThe name sounds impossible to learn, but it is simply reading the Hiragana that makes the character. The eyebrow is 'he.' The eye is 'no.' The nose is 'mo.' the mouth is 'he.' And the face is made by 'ji.'(ji = shi + ") Do you see it?


BOOKS: If you are a learner who needs something to encourage you, there are a few books to help. What's best?  Well, I don't know.  Depends on your studying style and tastes. Follow the link to our store for books and flashcards for learning kana.  Have fun learning!

http://www.thejapanshop.com


Review the sounds of hiragana


Thank you very much for using thejapanesepage.com. I hope this has been useful to you. Please join the discussion in our forums. I am looking forward to hearing from you!


gambarimashita!

 

Katakana Lessons

Katakana Lessons

Katakana is very similar to Hiragana; you should be able to pick it up without too much trouble. Actually [begin: Clay's confession] I have never studied Katakana. But I can read it just fine. What do I mean - you ask? Well, in real written Japanese, Katakana is used very sparcely unless the subject has a lot of foreign words or names. So I picked up Katakana when I needed it. That is, when I came across katakana I would look it up. Because I read a lot, I was able to learn Katakana without specifically studying it! Sounds like I am trying to discourage you from studying, huh? Ok I will stop. Gambatte!

There are tons of FREE resources on the web. I encourage you to use them. Or if you really want to spend money, please take a look at the Kana section of our online shop.

KATAKANA LESSONS:

SUGGESTIONS: Tackle 2 or 3 katakana a day (or as many as you feel comfortable with); Be sure to write each one down many times; Look for katakana you have studied elsewhere while you study and try to recognize the ones you've already learned. This helps build your memory.

You may want to hear all hiragana pronounced before beginning. However, if you've already learned the sounds for the hiragana, the sounds for katakana are exactly the same!

Click on the chapter title or green button in any box below to jump directly to that chapter.

→ Chapter 12 - Helpful hints
And to finish up, a few closing pointers to cover the loose ends and bring it all together.

Download our FREE Katakana Flashcards and Practice Writing Pad

An Introduction:

Katakana is known as the more 'masculine' of the Japanese writing systems. This is because it is rigid with sharp turns. Katakana is mainly used for foreign loan-words and onomatopoeia (sound effects). For example: Cola is コーラ ko-ra. You will notice the dash in the middle of コ ko and ラ ra. This makes the コ ko longer in sound. If this is written in Hiragana, it would look as such: こうら koura. (In Hiragana the う u lengthens the previous character) Other than that, Hiragana and Katakana work and sound in the same way.

NOTE: You will need to be able to view Japanese Characters - Click here to find out how

Most sounds in Japanese are found also in English. Unlike English, the 'letters' in Japanese only have one sound, with a few exceptions that will be mentioned later on. Please click on the sound files to get a feel for the sounds. The most important to master are the vowels (the first row). The sounds are all found in English. Please repeat the sounds many times. If you spend a few moments looking at the chart, you should be able to see a clear pattern (each column has the same vowel sound and each row has the same consonant sound). チ (chi), ツ (tsu), ヲ (wo), and ン (n) are the only ones that deviate from the pattern.

- almost never used.

wo Usually the hiragana is used as a particle.

These are all the basic katakana letters. The rest are simply combinations of two katakana. (For Example: to make the 'sha' sound - add (shi) + ヤ(ya) = シャ(sha) - Notice how the second letter is smaller; but we will look at this later.)

Katakana Page 01

KATAKANA PART 1

So you want to learn Katakana? Great! You will soon notice how similar it is with Hiragana. However there are some important differences. Although you don't have to learn Hiragana before doing this page, I recommend it if you are not living in Japan. Hiragana is used much more in writing. But Katakana is used when writing foreign loanwords and in advertizing. Therefore, Katakana is very useful for the foreigner IN Japan.

Download our FREE Katakana Flashcards and Practice Writing Pad

Each Lesson will tackle 5 characters. If you haven't studied Hiragana yet, I would recommend starting with it.


Today's lesson will teach you the vowel sounds in Japanese.  These are the SAME SOUNDS as the Hiragana vowels.

Basically, like Spanish, there are 5 vowel sounds.  a, i, u, e, o.  



- a    - as in fAther, Ah
it looks like a capital A leaning over (doing exercises)



- i    - as in fEEt
It looks like a lowercase i with a hat on instead of a dot



- u    - as in fOOd
It looks like a mouth about to eat fOOd



- e    - as in eh? or hAte
It looks like a capital I but it is really an Eh sound



- o    - knOw  
It looks like someone kicking something "OH OH!"

These are the first 5 letters in katakana.  Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words are they?

エア ____________    This means ____________
アイ ____________    This means ____________
イア _____________   This means _____________
オア _____________    This means ______________ (think of a row boat)

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

 

エア     ea This means AIR
アイ  ai This means EYE
イア    ia This means EAR
オア   oa   This means OAR

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 02

KATAKANA PART 2

So you survived the first part. Take a deep breath and jump on in!


In today's lesson, we will look at the K sounds.


- ka    - as in CAr
it looks like the hiragana ka (か), just remove the line.



- ki    - as in KEY
This also looks like a hiragana ki (き) without the base.



- ku    - as in COOl
It looks like guy giving a thumbs-up. That's COOl!



- ke    - as in Kay or CAke
It looks like someone's CApe



- ko    - COld  
It looks like a refrigerator door, that's COld!

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out?
キー ____________    This means ____________ [The ー means to make the previous sound longer (like the hiragana う often does)]
カウ ____________    This means ____________ [Think of an animal]
ケーキ _____________   This means _____________ [Something to eat]
コーク _____________    This means ______________ [Something to drink]

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

 

キー    ki- This means KEY
カウ  kau This means COW
ケーキ    ke-ki This means CAKE
コーク   ko-ku  This means COKE

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 03

KATAKANA PART 3

Let's take a look at the S's. You may want to make flashcards to practice by.



- sa    - as in SOlitude
it looks like a squished SAW blade. (Backwards Hiragana SE (せ)).



- sHi    - as in SHE
NOTE: This is the first 'irregular' pronunciation. You would think it would be 'si' but don't forget the middle 'H'. Someone is pulling down a SHEet from a closet. Or SHE always smiles tilting her head.



- su    - as in SUE
It looks like SUE standing up.



- se    - as in SAY
It looks like someone with a huge mouth SAYing something.



- so    - SO 
NOTE: be careful - it looks simlar to another katakana character (ン n) we will study soon. Just remember the drop on ・#92; points down. Someone is touching something on a pedestal. It's SO pretty?

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out?
キス ____________    This means ____________
サケ____________    This means ____________ [This is usually written in hiragana and is a traditional Japanese drink]
サイ _____________   This means Rhino [Sorry, you probably couldn't guess this meaning, but try to read it!]
アシ _____________    This means ______________ [means a body part in Japanese (again usually written in hiragana or kanji]
ケース _____________    This means ______________ [something you carry - remember the ー means to make the previous sound longer]
アース _____________    This means ______________ [No, it doesn't mean a body part! Remember Japanese doesn't have a 'TH' sound and think of a planet]

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

 

キス    kisu This means KISS
サケ sake This means SAKE
サイ   sai This means Rhino
アシ   ashi  This means LEG
ケース   ke-su  This means CASE
アース  a-su  This means EARTH

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 04

KATAKANA PART 4

Let's take a look at the T's. You may want to make flashcards to practice by.



- ta    - as in TOm boy
it looks like an invisible TOm boy hitting a TAmborine (the American pronunciation of Tambourine is off a little, but say it with 'tah' pronunciation)



- chi    - as in CHEEze
NOTE: This is another 'irregular' pronunciation. You would think it would be 'ti' but it is 'CHI'. It is a CHEAp and CHEEzy umbrella turned inside out.



- tsu    - as in caT SOUp
It looks like someone smiling at such a ridiculous mnemonic as caT SOUp. Don't confuse this with ・#92; (so)



- te    - as in TApe
It looks like someone is putting down a roll of TApe.



- to    - TOE 
Someone is kicking something with their TOE.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out?

テスト ____________    This means ____________
アイス ____________    This means ____________
コート _____________   This means ____________
アート _____________    This means ______________
アウト _____________    This means ______________
ツアー_____________    This means ______________
タコス _____________    This means ______________  [This is a Mexican food]

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

テスト   tesuto This means Test
アイス aisu This means Ice (or Ice Cream)
コート   ko-to This means Coat
アート  a-to  This means Art
アウト  auto  This means Out
ツアー  tsua-  This means Tour
タコス  takosu  This means (Mexican) Tacos

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here

Katakana Page 05

KATAKANA PART 5

Let's take a look at the N's. You may want to make flashcards to practice by. "Na Ni Nu Ne No" is fun. Sounds a bit like something Mork would say to Mindy... Also there are no unexpected sound forms here.



- na    - as in NOt
It looks like someone is NOdding off for a nap.



- ni    - as in NEAt
It's someone's KNEEs again! (ChiNEse Kanji for 2 (knees))



- nu    - as in NEW
It's a brand-NEW scythe



- ne    - as in NEIGHbor
It looks like a cross-section of a NAval ship. Or an arm growing out of your NEIGHbor's NAvel



- no    - NO!  
This looks like the curve of someone's NOse.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

ナビ ____________    This means ____________
ニット ____________    This means ____________
カヌー _____________   This means ____________
シチー _____________    This means ______________
ナース _____________    This means ______________
ソナー_____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

ナビ   nabi This means Navigator (usually someone who gives directions in the passenger seat or the Navigation systems found in newer cards)
ニット nitto This means to Knit, knitting
カヌー   kanu- This means Canoe
シチー  shichi-  This means City [Both syllables are not found in Japanese so SHI instead of SI and CHI instead of TI]
ナース  na-su  This means Nurse [Usually in Katakana English words the 'r' sound is implied by a ー but not spoken]
ソナー sona-  This means Sonar

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 06

KATAKANA PART 6

Let's take a look at the H's. What you would expect to be 'HU' is usually pronounced 'FU'



- ha    - as in HA!
It looks like a capital 'H' laughing "HA!" so loud, its middle fell off



- hi    - as in HE
HE's sitting down with his arms out.



- fu    - as in FOOd
It's the end of someone's FOOt.



- he    - as in HEY!
It looks same as the Hiragana!



- ho    - as in HOE 
This looks like two people scraping a HOE on the ground in a field.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

ハニー ____________    This means ____________
ヒット ____________    This means ____________
ファン_____________   This means ____________ ( ン is the katakana nasal or "n" )
ヘア _____________    This means ______________
ホテル _____________    This means ______________  (ル is the katakana for ru)
ハーフ_____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

ハニー   hani This means Honey (the food, or a nickname for your spouse!)
ヒット hitto This means to hit
ファン   fan- This means a (sports) fan [note the small ア after the フ. This makes the sound FA instead of FUA. You will see simliar small vowels. When you do, simply drop the first character's vowel sound and substitute it with the small vowel sound.]
ヘア  hea  This means Hair
ホテル  hoteru  This means Hotel
ハーフ ha-fu  This means Half

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 07

KATAKANA PART 7

Let's take a look at the M's. These five are as you should expect... No big surprises



- ma    - as in MAMA
It's someone's MAma kicking someone out with her foot.



- mi    - as in ME
It looks like a MEteor shower.



- mu    - as in MOOd
It's an upside down MA, pronounced MU.



- me    - as in MAY
It looks like a man with his legs tied who MAY fall if he doesn't stop leaning over.



- mo    - as in MOE 
This looks similar to a lawn MOWer.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

マン ____________    This means ____________
ミート ____________    This means ____________
コーム_____________   This means ____________
メキシコ _____________    This means ______________
モーア _____________    This means ______________
イニ、ミニ、マイニ、モ_____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

マン   man This means Man
ミート mi-to This means Meat
コーム  ko-mu This means a Comb
メキシコ mekishiko  This means Mexico
モーア  mo-a  This means Mower
イニ、ミニ、マイニ、モ ini, mini, maini, mo  This means Eeinie, Meenie, Minie, Moe

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 08

KATAKANA PART 8

Let's take a look at just 3 characters the Y's. As with Hiragana, modern Japanese doesn't use Yi or Ye.



- ya     - as in hiYA!
This looks like a YAk stepped on something



- yu     - as in YOU
It looks like a number 1 - You are #1!



- yo     - as in YO!
It's someone doing that gangster sign and saying YO!?

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

ヤフー ____________    This means ____________
ハレルヤ____________    This means ____________
ユタ_____________   This means ____________
トヨタ _____________    This means ______________
ユース_____________    This means ______________
ヨーヨー _____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

ヤフー   yafu- This means Yahoo
ハレルヤ hareruya This means Halleluyah
ユタ  yuta This means Utah (State)
トヨタ toyota  This means Toyota
ユース  yu-su  This means Youth
ヨーヨー yo-yo-  This means Yo-yo

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 09

KATAKANA PART 9

Let's take a look at Ra, Ri, Ru, Re, Ro. The dreaded "r's" are probably the most challenging sounds for English speakers. Listen to the sound files over and over...



- ra     - as in hoRAH!
It looks like a monster going RAAA!



- ri     - as in REal
It's almost a REpeat of a hiragana い (flipped around)



- ru     - as in RUE
Someone is putting his or her foot out to trip someone. How RUde!



- re     - as in RAY
It looks like a RAY of light.



- ro     - as in ROW
It's a tunnel on the ROad.

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

アイスクリーム ____________    This means ____________
アメリカ ____________    This means ____________
ローソク_____________   This means candle (not from English)
キレイ _____________    This means pretty in Japanese (you may know this one already)
テレビ_____________    This means ______________ [NOTE: If you have studied Hiragana, you are familiar with the tenten marks (looks like quotes over the ヒ). It changes the sound from hi to Bi - more on this later...]
ハロー _____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

 

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS:

アイスクリーム    aisukuri-mu This means Ice Cream
アメリカ amerika This means America
ローソク  ro-soku This means Candle (ro-soku)
キレイ kirei  This means Pretty (kirei)
テレビ  terebi  This means TV
ハロー haro-  This means Hello

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Page 10

KATAKANA PART 10

The final page... After years of procrastination (yes, I started these katakana pages years ago...), we are finally posting the last katakana page! (well almost, there is a recap page) It goes without saying, but to really get these characters inside your brain, you need to read, read and read more! Look for katakana on the internet; try to sound out what you find; see if you can figure out what the word means or at least where it came from - Ganbatte!



- wa - as in WOn
It looks like a baby with only one tooth crying. WA!!!! 
[be careful: looks like katakana ウ u - you can remember ウ by a baby with only one tooth and one hair COOing]



- wo    - as in WOE (or sometimes Oh)
OK FIRST OFF: You don't need to learn this one right now. In fact the ヲ is almost never used. I am including it for two reasons: 1) it does pop up occasionally and 2) it is on the chart to the top right which Spaztick kindly created for us. :) Again, it isn't incorrect, just isn't used very often. Usually を is used and only as the direct object particle
WOAH! It has two horizontal lines!



- n - as in N
A one eyed joker just smiliN'

Write them out 10 times a day and soon you will get it.  To aid memorization, make silly associations to go with them. You can use the above mnemonics or you can make your own!

 


STOP!!!

Did you write the above katakana 10 times? Did you sound them out as well? Well, do it again! And then take the following test & Javascript quiz (see link below)...


TEST

How do you read these Katakana characters? What English words do they sound out? (Some may be easier than others to guess)

ハワイ ____________    This means ____________
タワー ____________    This means ____________
チキン_____________   This means ____________
コーン _____________    This means ______________
マン_____________    This means ______________
ワシントン _____________    This means ______________

Click here to check your answers


Perhaps you can recognize these 5 in just one day of practice.  

ANSWERS:

ハワイ   hawai This means Hawaii
タワー tawa- This means tower
チキン  chikin This means chicken
コーン ko-n  This means corn
マン  man This means man
ワシントン washinton  This means Washington

Think you have it all down pat?
Click here to take the Quiz

Katakana Review

KATAKANA REVIEW

This part is a little different... Take it slow and you should be able to catch on

PART ONE - ADDING THE "TEN TEN"

How to make the 'ten-ten' letters. A 'ten-ten' is like a double- quote (") It changes the sound of the letter to a harder sound. You can ONLY 'ten-ten' the 'K' row, the 'S' row, the 'T' row and the 'H' row. (look at the chart to the right - the red ones are the ones with slightly difficult pronunciation)

Now look at the chart below. You will see that

  • the 'K' row becomes 'G' (still the same good ole ka only with a ten-ten ; notice it is a harder sound)

  • the 'S' row becomes 'Z' (again harder sound)

  • the 'T' row becomes 'D'

  • the 'H' row becomes 'B' or 'P' ('B' is with a ten-ten (ex. ba) and 'P' is with a circle (ex. pa))

  A I U E O
K -> G ga - ガ gi - ギ gu - グ ge - ゲ go - ゴ
S -> Z za - ザ ji - ジ zu - ズ ze - ゼ zo - ゾ
T -> D da - ダ ji - ヂ zu - ヅ de - デ do - ド
H -> B