Learn Hiragana with Hiragana Charts

Hiragana Chart

Hello, there. Let me guess — as a beginner in Japanese, my friend, you are looking for a Hiragana chart. Ideally, you want one that’s clear, marked with Latin script, and available in a printable PDF, right? Congratulations! You’ve come to the right place. LingoDeer is glad to present you with our newest Hiragana charts for FREE. You can download them and practice writing them on your own.

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Hiragana Chart for PC

Download hiragana chart for PC here.

hiragana chart

Download hiragana chart for PC here.

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Hiragana Chart for phone

 

hiragana chart

Download hiragana chart for phone here.

hiragana chart

You can also download this hiragana lock screen image so you learn them every time you open up your phone!

Fill-in-the-blanks Hiragana Chart

You can also use blank kana practice sheets and go across the sheet.

hiragana quiz

Download fill-in-the-blanks hiragana chart here.

hiragana quiz sheet

Download fill-in-the-blanks hiragana chart here.

What is Hiragana used for

Introduction

If you plan to learn the Japanese language, it would be best for you to start with Hiragana first, which is generally seen as the foundation of Japanese. To understand where to start with Hiragana, we first need to take a look at the Japanese writing system. Having a basic knowledge of it can help you better grasp Hiragana itself.

The Japanese writing system consists of three parts: 46 Hiragana, 46 Katakana, and thousands of Kanji. It could be said that the Japanese language has one of the most complex writing systems, but please don’t worry. It’s not as hard as you think. Please read on, as this will become clear to you soon enough.

Kanji is one of the few surviving ideographic writing systems in the world. Although the number of Kanji exceeds 100 thousand, you only need to learn about 3,000 commonly used characters, which comprise over 95% of text.

learning Japanese be like

Unlike the Latin, Arabic, and Cyrillic scripts, which are phonetic alphabets, Kanji is neither phonetic nor an alphabet. It could be said that it’s impossible to know how to pronounce Kanji just by looking at them without memorizing their pronunciations individually. 

As a result, even native Chinese speakers need to use Pinyin, a phonetic system based on the Latin script, to standardize and assist in memorizing the pronunciation of Chinese characters. 

Likewise, Hiragana takes on the function of pronouncing Kanji in Japanese, and each one represents a particular syllable. However, is Hiragana only used to pronounce Kanji? Of course not. There are other uses for Hiragana. The following sections will offer some straightforward explanations.

Pronunciation or substitution of Kanji

First of all, Hiragana can help pronounce Kanji. Without the help of Hiragana, it’s hard for us to know how to pronounce the two words below. Furthermore, each Kanji tends to have more than one possible pronunciation, and the same Kanji can be pronounced differently in different words. However, the pronunciation of Kana (Hiragana and Katakana) is constant because they are phonetic, as we mentioned before.

Hiragana as kanji's pronunciation

Additionally, in modern Japanese, Hiragana is always used as a substitute for some extremely hard-to-write or rare Kanji. For example, for the word “parrot,” most Japanese people prefer to write its Hiragana おうむ (ōmu) instead of its Kanji 鸚鵡 (ōmu).

Generally, the more formal the written material, the greater the portion of Kanji and the lower the portion of Hiragana. Therefore, you will find a lot of Hiragana in elementary school students’ compositions but a relatively low percentage of Hiragana in formal papers such as government reports. 

Okurigana: form words with Kanji together

japanese okurigana

In the example above, Hiragana is not used as a pronunciation tool but is a part of the word itself. In such a case, Hiragana is also called okurigana. Dear reader, if you are a beginner in Japanese, you may get overwhelmed when trying to understand and internalize every new concept you come across. If I were you, I would just remember that Hiragana can be part of a word.

Pure hiragana words 

hiragana-only words

Many Japanese words are only written in Hiragana, meaning no Kanji is involved. Hiragana-only words are often onomatopoeia words made by imitation of a sound made by its referent.

Grammatical functions

Last but not least, almost all words with grammatical significance in Japanese are written in Hiragana, such as particles, verb conjugations, etc. Again, you can skip this part if you are still trying to memorize the hiragana chart. You will figure out this rule naturally as you learn more.

With my above explanations, I believe you now have a good idea of Hiragana’s functions and purpose. So what is Katakana used for? Once you’ve mastered Hiragana, you can move onto Katakana and its purposes. But for now, just start with Hiragana. If you are unfamiliar with the differences between Hiragana and Katakana, an article we wrote earlier can help you distinguish them easily. 

How to write and read Hiragana?

Now let’s learn how to pronounce and write Hiragana. The font we use for each Hiragana is called 教科書字体 (UD Digi kyokasho), which is used for Japanese textbooks. Inside each Hiragana, black arrows are included to guide you on how to write Hiragana in its correct stroke order.

Please follow the black lines if you hope to practice writing Hiragana on sketch paper. One of the most prominent characteristics of Hiragana is that they are curly, so it would be best to practice writing them out as smoothly as possible.

The below audios were recorded by a native Japanese speaker. It’s also worth mentioning that all recordings in the LingoDeer app are 100% recorded by native speakers, which can help you to learn Japanese excellently! Well, without further ado, let’s get started!

a-line hiragana

ka-line hiragana

sa-line hiragana

ta-line hiragana

na-line hiragana

ha-line hiragana

ma-line hiragana

ya-line hiragana

 
 

ra-line hiragana

wa-line hiragana

 
 

Download the Hiragana Stroke PDF

(Please note: all images and files in this article are for personal use only, and commercial use is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved by LingoDeer)

If you want to download a copybook to practice writing Hiragana, here has many copybooks of Hiragana available to download for free. While practicing Hiragana, you can learn a lot of basic Japanese words. How awesome!

hiragana copybook

How to memorize Hiragana

Practice to writing

Writing is one of the best ways to memorize Hiragana! Remember when you were a kid learning the Latin script and were asked to transcribe it on paper repeatedly? It’s a universally accepted truth that writing helps you to remember. The hiragana strokes are presented above for you. Nevertheless, it’s okay if you’re still confused. If you’re feeling this way, then you may want to try the LingoDeer app, which has a free and professional kana writing tutorial.

Graphical mnemonics

You may have seen some graphical mnemonics for Hiragana like the ones below. However, learning with them is not necessarily a great strategy because the connection between the picture and Hiragana presented to you was created in someone else’s mind. This means you need to memorize both pictures and Hiragana, which adds to the burden of memory.

graphical mnemonics hiraganaSo, are image mnemonics completely undesirable? No. This method works if you try associating a Hiragana with a specific image based on your own intuition, which fundamentally reflects your understanding of a particular Hiragana. If you find it difficult to associate them creatively, then graphical mnemonics may not be for you.

Musical mnemonics

The physical and visual mnemonics mentioned above have been proven to be effective by numerous theories of second language acquisition. In addition, music mnemonics are also great. Try applying kana to songs you are familiar with, or search for some kana songs on Youtube. Music will not only help you memorize Hiragana but also motivates you to learn Japanese.

Fun facts about Hiragana

History

Long ago, Japanese was an unwritten language, meaning it was only expressed orally but couldn’t be recorded in writings. Around the time of the Three Kingdoms Period (3rd century A.D.) in China, Kanji (Chinese characters) began to be introduced to Japan through the Korean peninsula from mainland China. 

The Japanese language developed into a written language through absorbing Kanji and a lot of Chinese loanwords. However, Kanji was created by Chinese people to record the Chinese language, and Chinese and Japanese are two completely different languages. Therefore, it is impossible to record all the nuances of Japanese just by using kanji. This is how Kana came into being in the 6th century A.D.

Hiragana was derived from the cursive script of Chinese characters (a type of Kanji calligraphy). At first, they were just used by palace lady officials to transcribe poetry. The men and the upper class took pride in writing Kanji and learning Chinese culture, which meant Hiragana was not considered highbrow at that time. 

Nevertheless, gradually, Hiragana was used more and more widely to meet the needs of written Japanese and became an essential part of the Japanese language. From my perspective, the popularity of Hiragana is women’s outstanding contribution to Japanese culture, shining with the light of feminism.

The two missing Hiragana ゐ and ゑ

You can’t find the two kana ゐ (wi) and ゑ (we) in today’s Hiragana chart because the Japanese orthography system promulgated by the Japanese cabinet abolished them in 1946.

But why? Similar to English, Japanese has various dialects, and in some of them, these two Kana have been confused with い (i) and へ (e) for a long time. However, in standard modern Japanese, each Hiragana is supposed to represent only one syllable. 

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