General Description about Japanese writingWriting might be one of the most difficult, but also fun, parts of learning Japanese. The Japanese don't use an alphabet. There are three types of scripts in Japanese: kanji, hiragana and katakana. The combination of all three is used for writing.
Roughly speaking, kanji represents blocks of meaning (nouns, stems of adjectives and verbs) and hiragana expresses the grammatical relationship between them (endings of adjectives and verbs, particles). Katakana is used for foreign names, the names of foreign places and words of foreign origin. So, how they are used in a sentence? Check out my article, "Katakana in the Matrix."
Confused? Overwhelmed? Here are some common questions.
- Which do you commonly use to write Japanese: vertical or horizontal writing?
- Can I survive in Japan without knowing any Japanese writing?
If you want to learn Japanese writing, start with hiragana and katakana, then kanji. Hiragana and katakana are simpler than kanji, and have only 46 characters each. It is possible to write an entire Japanese sentence in hiragana. For example, many children's books are written in hiragana only. Japanese children start to read and write in hiragana before making an attempt to learn some of the two thousand kanji commonly used.
To learn how to display Japanese characters on your computer, try here.
- Kanji Lessons - Try them first
- Kanji of the Week - Fun lessons with pictures
- Most Frequently Used Kanji - Top 50 most common kanji
- Kanji Land - Kanji taught through Grade1-6 and junior high school
- More Kanji Lessons
Here are frequently asked questions about kanji.