Lingual Ninja! - Japanese Lessons Online

This blog is for people studying Japanese! I hope this blog helps you study basic Japanese!


Jul 30, 2018

Japanese characters - Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji

In this article, I will explain about the three types of Japanese characters!

They are:
   1. Hiragana
   2. Katakana
   3. Kanji

This is the most basic character in the Japanese language.
They look like に, ほ, or ん.

Basically, one Hiragana character represent one sound of Japanese.

For example,
  に sounds "ni".
  ほ sounds "ho".
  ん sounds "n".

There are 46 Hiragana in Japanese language, basically.
So Japanese has 46 basic sounds.
But actually, there are special Hiragana characters.

The special characters are called "Dull sound" or "P-sound".

I will explain the details of them in different articles:

This is almost the same as Hiragana.

For one Hiragana character, there is one Katakana character.

For example, they are like below:

Hiragana   -> Katakana
 あ (a)      ->  ア(a)
 り (ri)      ->  リ(ri)
 が (ga)    ->  ガ(ga)
 と (to)     ->  ト (to)
 う (u)      ->  ウ (u)

Like you can know from the list above, it is just a different way to write the sound of Hiragana.

So why do they need Katakana?
Isn't only Hiragana enough?

Actually, Katakana is used only for specific purposes.

It is used when we write words from foreign languages.

For example, "Star" is "スター (suta)" in Japanese.
Only Katakana characters are used for "Star" because that sound is from English.

Also, Katakana is used for animal's voice or sounds, like voice of birds or sound of car crash.

If you want to know more about Katakana, please check this:
  Katakana chart >>

3. Kanji

Kanji is the most difficult part of Japanese language.

They look like:
 月 (getsu)
 火 (ka)
 水 (sui)
 木 (moku)
 金 (kin)

The problem is that there are so many Kanji characters.
They say, there are more than 100,000 Kanji in Japan.

But don't be sad, because you don't need to remember all Kanji characters.
Even Japanese people don't know all Kanji.

Kanji characters which are used in Japan normally are around 3000, including the characters for persons' name.

Are they still too many?

Kanji is important for you if you want to read Japanese documents.

However, you can speak without knowing Kanji.

So, I recommend you to study Hiragana at first.
If you remember Hiragana, you can learn Japanese from sound.

Actually, I believe we had better study languages from sound, like babies learn their languages from parents voice.

I studied English from movies and music.

You don't need to hurry.
The most important thing to learn a language is to enjoy and continue a long time.

In the next article, let's check the Hiragana chart!
  Hiragana chart >>

I hope this article helps you study Japanese!
Thank you for reading!

Related articles:

    Hiragana chart >>

    Katakana chart >>

    What is Kanji? >>


  1. hi im a complete begginner, theres lot going on ould you tell me where you think its best to start?

    1. Maybe remembering the Hiragana characters is the first step to learn Japanese!
      I made a Hiragana quiz app, so please try this to check your memory: