Hiragana is used to write words of Japanese origin. It is also used to write verb conjugations (although verb stems are usually kanjis), polite forms, and particles. In some way, hiragana is the glue that connects and molds the ideas expressed by the kanjis.

The kanas have a set of ‘core’ characters that provides the basic sounds. To allow more sounds, the characters are modified as follows:

  • we can mark some characters with double quotes (“) or with a circle (°).
  • we can follow some characters with a small ‘ya’ (や), ‘yu’ (ゆ), or ‘yo'(よ), e.g., the character ‘ka'(か) combined with a small version of ‘ya’ sounds ‘kya'(きゃ).

Core characters

a i u e o
k ka ki ku ke ko きゃ kya きゅ kyu きょ kyo
s sa shi su se so しゃ sha しゅ shu しょ sho
t ta chi tsu te to ちゃ cha ちゅ chu ちょ cho
n na ni nu ne no にゃ nya にゅ nyu にょ nyo
h ha hi fu he ho ひゃ hya ひゅ hyu ひょ hyo
m ma mi mu me mo みゃ mya みゅ myu みょ myo
y ya yu yo
r ra ri ru re ro りゃ rya りゅ ryu りょ ryo
w wa wo
  • Japanese has the sound し (shi) instead of ‘si’, which does not exist
  • Japanese has the sound ち (chi) instead of ‘ti’, which does not exist
  • Japanese has the sound つ (tsu) instead of ‘tu’, which does not exist
  • The character を tends to be pronounced as ‘o’ more than ‘wo’, and it’s mainly used as the direct object marker of a verb [wikipedia]
  • We always find that ふ is assigned to the sound ‘fu’ but its closer to ‘hu’, so much that we can pronounce it as the English word ‘who’:




    What it sounds

ten-ten (“) and maru (°)

g ga gi gu ge go ぎゃ gya ぎゅ gyu ぎょ gyo
z za ji zu ze zo じゃ ja じゅ ju じょ jo
d da ji つ” zu de do
b ba bi bu be bo びゃ bya びゅ byu びょ byo
p pa pi pu pe po ぴゃ pya ぴゅ pyu ぴょ pyo
  • We can write ‘ji’ as じ or ぢ, but, in practice, ぢ is seldom used
  • We can write ‘zu’ as ず or つ” but, in practice, つ” is seldom used
  • ‘za + ya’ (じゃ) is ‘ja’, not ‘zya’
  • ‘zu + yu’ (じゅ) is ‘ju’, not ‘zyu’
  • ‘zo + yo’ (じょ) is ‘jo’, not ‘zyo’

practice words

いぬ inu dog ねこ neko cat
かさ kasa umbrella くるま kuruma car
おうむ oumu parrot なまえ namae name
おおさか oosaka Osaka せんせい sensei teacher
ちゃ cha tea きゅう kyuu nine
きょう kyou today ひしょ hisho secretary
かぎ kagi key ばら bara rose
かぞく kazoku family めがね megane glasses
さんぽ sanpo stroll かんぱい kampai cheers!
えんぴつ enpitsu pencil かんぺき kanpeki perfect
きって kitte stamp きっぷ kippu ticket
がっこう gakkou school ざっし zasshi magazine