japanese characters

part of learning japanese


  • kana are around 142 characters in two sets that can represent the pronounciation of all words in the japanese language. kana are used as suffixes to kanji for conjugation and particles, and sometimes prefixes
  • both hiragana and katakana are in common use. some words use the one and some the other character set. loan words are usually written in katakana (and there are many) and in dictionaries, some types of kanji readings are given usually in katakana
  • small character variants: small tsu is silent and like a double consonant, other small characters are combined with the previous one to form a new one
  • romaji is japanese written with latin characters. there are mulitple systems: hepburn (most common, corresponds more to pronounciation) and kunrei (only two latin characters per kana). both have ambiguities
  • each character has an associated stroke order that describes in what order the parts of a character is to be written which is important for handwriting to make it look right and recognisable
  • stroke direction: ソ first stroke low then top to bottom, ン first stroke high then bottom to top, シ first two strokes downwards then bottom to top, ツ first two strokes upwards then top to bottom
  • every syllable is roughly to be spoken with the same duration or beat
  • vowel duration is doubled by repeating the same vowel (あ -> ああ). consonant syllables are lengthened with the vowel they are ending with, except for o and e, which are lengthened with u and i to produce combinations like kou/こう and kei/けい
  • similarities

    • hiragana: さき, さちら, けはほに, たにこい, たな, ほま, あおぬめ, われね, ろるそ, とっう
    • katakana: ユコ, ソンシツ, モチテ, マム, リル, ワウフヲラ, クケヌタ, メナ
    • hiragana/katakana: へヘ, かカ, やヤ, サせセ, うラ, とヒ
  • the most common character order is called gojūon (五十音) and goes like this: aiueokstnhmyrwn, where the consonants are to be substituted with the corresponding syllables in vowel order, for example kakikukeko. to remember it, i pronounce ordered syllables as a fictional name: kasatana hamaya rawan. characters modified with dakuten and handakuten, for example べ and ぺ, directly follow their unmodified variant in this order. the consonant order with modified characters is kgsztdnhbpmyrw
  • あいうえおかがきぎくぐけげこごさざしじすずせぜそぞただちぢつづてでとどなにぬねのはばぱひびぴふぶぷへべぺほぼぽまみむめもやゆよらりるれろわをん アイウエオカガキギクグケゲコゴサザシジスズセゼソゾタダチヂツヅテデトドナニヌネノハバパヒビピフブプヘベペホボポマミムメモヤユヨラリルレロワヲン
  • without modifiers: あいうえおかきくけこさしすせそたちつてとなにぬねのはひふへほまみむめもやゆよらりるれろわをん アイウエオカキクケコサシスセソタチツテトナニヌネノハヒフヘホマミムメモヤユヨラリルレロワヲン
  • but the above are not all kana characters, there is additionally the small つ and other small variants of ya/yu/yo and more to create more sounds
  • sokuon
  • youon

kanji (漢字)

  • kanji can be read similar to letters in english and one needs to know the common ~2200 ones to read. it takes years to learn
  • jouyou kanji (常用漢字) is an official list of about 2130 basic kanji. in some contexts like official documents and newspapers, texts are supposed to be limited to these characters
  • most japanese words use kanji
  • kanji are not each completely separate drawings but share 200-300 components. knowing the components can make most kanji recognisable as a combination. the components also sometimes act as classifiers, for example the grass component is associated with words about vegetation. it is not always clear which component is actually used as there are variations in how exactly they are integrated into a kanji
  • kanji are used like placeholders in words, and have several different pronounciations in different words
  • when japanese people are asked to read a series of random kanji, they can make a best guess of the pronounciation as if it were phonetic letters, based on the knowledge of other words the kanji are used in
  • pronounciation is the key, writing and reading follows. natives learn to speak before they learn to read and write
  • fcitx is a japanese input method for linux
  • similar kanji: 乞乏 予矛 仮阪 冬尽 別剖 向尚 在存 坪呼 宜宣 常堂 弟第 弥弦 懐慢 技披被 持待 時詩 挙拳 暖曖 浅践 淫渓 焦無 現理 筒箇 紹詔 詰誌 邪雅 銭鋳 除際 頂預 験検 沿浴 又夂攵夕久 具真頁首 未夫朱失矢禾牛午千干 清漬 薄簿 株秩 反友 庁序 壮状 津律 以衣 緑縁 島鳥 看着 廷延 紋絞 挑排 札礼 漢漠 盆益 逐遂 知和 何伺 依俵 冶治 椎稚権 電雷 六穴 万方 斤丘 草章 覧賢