Japanese Language Part 1 – Hirigana

Hiragana is a Japanese syllabary, one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with katakanakanji, and in some cases rōmaji (the Latin-script alphabet).

Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems; they have corresponding character sets in which each kana, or character, represents one mora (one sound in the Japanese language). Each kana is either a vowel such as “a” (hiragana あ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as “ka”(hiragana か); or “n” (hiragana ん), a nasal sonorant which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng, or like the nasal vowels of French. Because the characters of the kana do not represent single consonants (except in the case of ん “n”), the kana are referred to as syllabaries and not alphabets.

Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji, including grammatical particles such as から kara “from”, and suffixes such as さん ~san “Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms.” Likewise, hiragana is used to write words whose kanji form is obscure, not known to the writer or readers, or too formal for the writing purpose. There is also some flexibility for words that have common kanji renditions to be optionally written instead in hiragana, according to an individual author’s preference. Verb and adjective inflections, as, for example, be-ma-shi-ta(べました) in tabemashita (食べました, “ate”), are written in hiragana, often following a verb or adjective root (here, “食”) that is written in kanji. When Hiragana is used to show the pronunciation of kanji characters as reading aid, it is referred to as furigana. The article Japanese writing system discusses in detail how the various systems of writing are used.

The modern hiragana syllabary consists of 46 characters:

  • 5 singular vowels
  • Notionally, 45 consonant–vowel unions, consisting of 9 consonants in combination with each of the 5 vowels, of which:
    • 3 (yiye, and wu) are unused
    • 2 (wi, and we) are obsolete in modern Japanese
    • 1 (wo) is usually pronounced as a vowel (o) in modern Japanese, and is preserved in only one use, as a particle
  • 1 singular consonant

I started by looking through all of the pages for the 3 different parts of the written language and found that these were the first characters that children at a young age are taught first because of the low amount of unions. This is the base of the Japanese language and from here I will be increasing my knowledge.




Here is an image from my note book that is me writing with a pencil the different characters for hiragana which had a writing sequence similar to our lettering when we are writing. The tutorial then features an example word for each union using the character that you have just learnt as well as other characters from the Hiragana family.


Most of the example words that were given after the union were mainly very simplistic words, however there were some words that I found that in English were short but when written in Japanese consisted of 6-8 characters. At the end of the ‘lesson’ theres a grid that I also wanted to copy out as it contains some different characters that are pronounced differently. I found that like all languages it’s easier to learn how to write the language when you can speak it, which unlike small Japanese children they can already speak Japanese before they can write it which puts me at a slight disadvantage when learning how to write the language but it does make it more of a challenge.






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