The two Japanese syllabaries – Hiragana and katakana, together, are known as the kanas. In English, we also use two different systems to write our sounds – lower-case and upper-case:

A Japanese learning the roman alphabet will initially find it difficult to tell apart some characters:

t, f
p, q
b, d

i, j
a, d
i, l

h, n
u, v
n, u

m, w
A, H
O, Q

Not surprisingly, we might also find it difficult to tell apart some kana characters:

め, ぬ
わ, れ, ね
ん, え
け, せ, サ

ウ, ワ, フ, ス, ヌ
ソ, ン, ノ
は, ほ, ま
こ, ニ

シ, ツ
ク, ケ, タ
レ, ル
る, ろ

フ, ラ
テ, ラ
セ, ヒ
チ, ナ

However, all we need to tell the characters apart is a bit of time to get familiar with them. Both kana syllabaries are taught – completely – in 1st grade, to 5 year olds, so hopefully this convinces us that they are actually not that difficult.

reference material

Remembering particular characters is more difficult than recognizing them; hence, the following charts are for when we are already familiar with the characters, and no longer need a header in English to remind us of their sounds. The second chart is helpful to get the characters’ proportions right, if we are interested in writing them.

kana chart

kana-in-grid chart

Here are a two templates of kanji character paper to practice writing in the traditional Japanese style, i.e., vertically, from the right column to the left one.

10×20 (PDF)

12×24 (PDF)

kana charts

This chart is interactive; click on a character to see its stroke order. Sometimes there is a marker for the beginning of a stroke in the middle of a continuous stroke, e.g., な, ふ, む, ゆ; this means that we can write the character with either the continuos stroke, or breaking it and starting a new stroke at the marker. We will tend to find continuous strokes in computer fonts, while handwritten characters tend to split the stroke.