About Hiragana

Introduction and complete lists of all Hiragana letters. Printable Hiragana chart (PDF) is also available.

Hiragana 【ひらがな】

Hiragana is one of three character sets used in the Japanese language.

Each Hiragana letter represents particular syllable. Letter itself has no meaning.

Hiragana is used widely to form a sentence.

Origin

Hiragana
Original Kanji

Hiragana was developed in the 8-10th century by simplifying the form of particular Kanji symbols.

Compared to Katakana, Hiragana letters have more curved lines.

Number of Letters

In modern Japanese, there are 46 basic Hiragana letters.

In addition to these 46 basic letters called gojūon, there are modified forms to describe more sounds - 20 dakuon, 5 handakuon, 36 yōon, 1 sokuon and 6 additional letters.

FAQ: What are the letters with a bar on top (ā ū ē ō)?

Page Top

Gojūon 【五十音】

Gojuon

Gojūon-zu 【五十音図】

In Japanese, syllables are organized in the form of a table (5 x 10). This table is called gojūon-zu (literally means table of 50 sounds).

To describe these sounds, Hiragana and Katakana alphabets are used.

Letters , and appear more than once in the table. These 5 duplicates (gray colored) are usually skipped or ignored.

Another syllable is included. It doesn't belong to any row or column.

In total, 46 letters (45+1) are counted as gojūon (50 sounds).

You can learn gojūon letters at Hiragana Master Drill: Part 1-10.

Structure of the Table

The first row - [a], [i], [u], [e] and [o] are five vowels of the Japanese language.

Letters in the same column contain the same vowel.

Letters in the same row are considered to contain the same consonant.

Letters and represent the same sound [o]. is used only as the particle in a sentence.

Page Top

Dakuon 【濁音】

Dakuon

Dakuon literally means turbid or murky sound. It is the voiced sound of [ka], [sa], [ta] and [ha]-row syllables.

Dakuon is indicated with two small dots.

Pronunciation of and , and are the same.

You can learn dakuon letters at Hiragana Master Drill: Part 11.

Page Top

Handakuon 【半濁音】

Han-Dakuon

Handakuon literally means half-turbid or half-murky sound.

Handakuon is indicated with a small circle.

You can learn handakuon letters at Hiragana Master Drill: Part 11.

Page Top

Yōon 【拗音】

Yōon

Yōon is a combination of the consonant of i-column syllables and ya, yu or yo. For example, k + ya = kya.

Yōon is described by i-column letters plus small , or . For example, + = きゃ [kya].

Pronunciation of じゃ, じゅ, じょ and ぢゃ, ぢゅ, ぢょ are the same.

You can learn yōon letters at Hiragana Master Drill: Part 12-13.

Page Top

Sokuon 【促音】

っ
pause

Sokuon is a pause (no sound) between two syllables.

Sokuon is described by small .

Examples
さっき [sakki] ひっし [hisshi] いった [itta] やっぱり [yappari]

Pronunciation of sokuon is not very easy. Hiragana Master Drill: Part 14 explains it in detail.

Page Top

Additional Letters

ぁ ぃ ぅ ぇ ぉ う゛

These additional letters are invented in modern era to describe the sounds of foreign language.

Note: Foreign words are usually written in Katakana. These additional Hiragana letters are rarely used.

Examples
ふぁ [fa] てぃ [ti] どぅ [du] うぇ [we] ふぉ [fo]

Small [a], [i], [u], [e] and [o] are attached after particular letters.

Examples
う゛ぁ [va] う゛ぃ [vi] う゛ [vu] う゛ぇ [ve] う゛ぉ [vo]

う゛ is used for [v] sound.

Page Top

Printable Hiragana Chart

Item File Type Size
Hiragana Chart PDF 460 KB

Click the link listed above. PDF document will be displayed (1 page).

To save the file, choose [Save As...] from [File] menu.

To print on a paper, choose [Print...] from [File] menu.

Get Adobe Reader

To view the PDF file, you need Adobe Reader,
a free application distributed by Adobe Systems.

Page Top

Learning Hiragana

Learning Hiragana is easy. It takes about 3-20 days in general.

Try Hiragana Master Drill - free online study program for learning how to read, write and type Hiragana fast and easy.

Common order of character study is Hiragana first, Katakana next, and then Kanji.

See Learning Tips page for more details.

Page Top

Related Topics

Page Top

Home > Characters > About Hiragana