Japanese Hiragana Katakana Kanji

Japanese language learning information including:

Hiragana - pronunciation and writing
Katakana - pronunciation and writing
Kanji - grades 1-6 (教育漢字 Kyōiku kanji)
Vocabulary - nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives
Speaking Japanese

Speaking Japanese is much easier to learn than what you’ve probably been led to believe. The writing system, well that’s another story. The following are the basics of speaking Japanese.
Main points about spoken Japanese:
  • There are only 5 vowel sounds (a, i, u, e, o) to remember - see the pronunciation page
  • Every word in Japanese ends in a vowel sound, with the exception of words ending in “n” - see the pronunciation page
  • All sounds are made by combining a consonant sound with a vowel sound, again with the exception of “n” - see the pronunciation page
  • There are a total of 69 basic sounds in Japanese, not including combination sounds (some books and sites list a few more or a few less) - see the pronunciation page
  • All sounds are represented in Japanese writing using any of the following:
  • Romaji - Japanese sounds written using English letters
  • Hiragana - Japanese sounds written in the Japanese script hiragana
  • Katakana - Japanese sounds written in the Japanese script katakana (usually used for only foreign or borrowed words)
  • Kanji - Japanese sounds written in kanji characters
  • A single sound in Japanese can be written in any of the four ways listed above but each sound can only be pronounced one way.
  • Example: The sound ki, as in the word keep, can only be pronounced one way but can be written in romaji, hiragana, and katakana. Many kanji also have the sound ki. The following are the different ways to write the sound ki.
Sound in English Written in romaji Written in hiragana Written in katakana


The sound ki can be written with many different kanji. Keep in mind most kanji have two or more pronunciations....The Chinese pronunciation known as onyomi,  and the Japanese pronunciation known as kunyomi. More about this in the Japanese writing section. The following are examples of ten kanji that have the sound ki.
Kanji Sounds in onyomi Sounds in kunyomi Meanings
moku, boku ki tree
ki, ke iki spirit
ki shiru-su record
write down
ou ki yellow
ki kae-ru return
ki no kunyomi for this kanji steam
ki no kunyomi for this kanji period of time
ki o-kiru awaken
ki yoroko-bu rejoice
ki utsuwa container