Kids Web Japan

Web Japan > Kids Web Japan > Language > Lesson 1 > Japanese Characters


Lesson 1:
Japanese Greetings and Writing System

Japanese Characters

Japanese is written with three types of characters: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. They have different functions, and combinations of the three are used to write sentences.

1. Hiragana (chart)

Like the English alphabet, each hiragana letter represents a specific sound and does not have any meaning per se. But unlike in English, there is only one way of pronouncing a single hiragana letter or combination of letters. For example, "e" can be pronounced many different ways in English, as in red, redo, and poorer. The hiragana "a," though, is always pronounced as "a" in father.

2. Katakana (chart)

Katakana are another way of writing the hiragana sounds and are usually used for foreign words:

banana, milk, france, lucy

Try writing your name in katakana.

3. Kanji (Chinese characters)

The Japanese imported kanji from China a long time ago and absorbed it into their language by assigning Japanese meanings. Kanji are different from hiragana and katakana because they have specific meanings.