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
Writing Japanese

The Japanese writing system can take awhile to learn but it can also be a lot of fun. If you're a beginner, you'll need to learn romaji before taking on Japanese hiragana and katakana scripts or kanji. You'll probably find that learning kanji can be pretty addicting. The characters represent things found in nature and abstract concepts. As you continue to study them, you'll eventually see patterns and want to learn as many as you can. The following is an explanation of the four ways to write Japanese including a complete list of kyouiku kanji, which are the kanji learned through grade 6 of elementary school in Japan.

A single sound in Japanese can be written in any of the following four ways but each sound can only be pronounced one way.

This script uses English letters to represent Japanese sounds and words and is a substitute script used until hiragana, katakana, and kanji are learned. It was devised as a way to communicate in spoken and written Japanese quickly without needing to learn the thousands of combined characters in the other scripts. Romaji is used in Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when inputting Japanese into a computer. Romaji is used anywhere in Japan where there are many foreigners, such as big cities, train stations, and hotels. Romaji is the first script you should learn.

This is a Japanese script used for already established words in the language such as sun, moon, house, mountain, people, etc. This script, along with kanji, make up about 98% of the language. This is the second script you should learn.

This is a Japanese script used for foreign or borrowed words from other languages. Words such as convenience store (combini), television (terebi), and hotel (hoteru), are all written in katakana. This script makes up about 2% of the language. The usage is growing as more words are incorporated into Japanese from other languages. This is the third script you should learn.

These are Chinese characters which were brought into the Japanese language thousands of years ago. The characters represent things in nature and are really fun to learn. This is the fourth script you should learn.
Kanji writing order

Kanji writing order, typically referred to as stroke order, refers to the correct order in which Chineses character are written.
Kanji - Grade 1

The 80 kanji characters Japanese elementary school students learn in 1st grade.
Kanji - Grade 2

The 160 kanji characters Japanese elementary school students learn in 2nd grade.
Kanji - Grade 3

The 200 kanji characters Japanese elementary school students learn in 3rd grade.
Kanji - Grade 4

The 200 kanji characters Japanese elementary school students learn in 4th grade.
Kanji - Grade 5

The 185 kanji characters Japanese elementary school students learn in 5th grade.
Kanji - Grade 6

The 181 kanji characters Japanese elementary school students learn in 6th grade.
Representing Sounds
The following shows the only way the sound ki can be written in romaji, hiragana, and katakana, and one of the many ways ki can be written in kanji.
Romaji Hiragana Katakana kanji

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.

The onyomi (音読み), Chinese reading, is a Japanese approximation of the Chinese pronunciation of the character at the time it was introduced. Some kanji were introduced from different parts of China at different times, and so have multiple onyomi, and often multiple meanings.

The kunyomi (訓読み), Japanese reading, or native reading, is a reading based on the pronunciation of a native Japanese word that closely approximated the meaning of the Chinese character when it was introduced. As with onyomi, there can be multiple kunyomi readings for the same kanji, and some kanji have no kunyomi at all.

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