itaigana (異体仮名)[1]
LanguagesJapanese and Okinawan
Time period
c. 800 – 1900 CE; minor use at present
Parent systems
Sister systems
Katakana, Hiragana
ISO 15924Hira, 410
Unicode alias

In the Japanese writing system, hentaigana (変体仮名, "variant kana")[a] are obsolete or nonstandard hiragana. They include both stylistic variants of current hiragana and distinct alternative hiragana characters. Today, with a few exceptions, there is only one hiragana for each of the fifty consonant–vowel sequences (moras) in Japanese. However, traditionally there were generally several more-or-less interchangeable hiragana for each. A 1900 script reform[b] ordained that only one selected character be used for each mora, with the rest deemed hentaigana. Although not normally used in publication, hentaigana are still used in shop signs and brand names to create a traditional or antiquated air.

Hiragana originate in man'yōgana, a system where kanji were used to write sounds without regard to their meaning. There was more than one kanji that could be used equivalently for each syllable (at the time, a syllable was a mora). Over time the man'yōgana was reduced to a cursive form, the hiragana. Many hentaigana derive from different kanji from the ones for the now-standard hiragana, but some are the result of different styles of cursive writing. As hentaigana have derived from man'yōgana, there are hundreds of different hentaigana used to represent only 90 morae of the Japanese language.

On the other hand, katakana do not have hentaigana. Katakana's choices of man'yōgana segments had stabilized early on and established – with few exceptions – an unambiguous phonemic orthography (one symbol per sound) long before the 1900 script regularization.[3]

Hentaigana in Unicode

286 hentaigana characters are included in the Unicode Standard in the Kana Supplement and Kana Extended-A blocks. One character was added to Unicode version 6.0 in 2010, 𛀁 (U+1B001 HIRAGANA LETTER ARCHAIC YE which has the formal alias HENTAIGANA LETTER E-1), and the remaining 285 hentaigana characters were added in Unicode version 10.0 in June 2017.[4]

The Unicode block for Kana Supplement is U+1B000–U+1B0FF:

Kana Supplement[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1B00x 𛀀 𛀁 𛀂 𛀃 𛀄 𛀅 𛀆 𛀇 𛀈 𛀉 𛀊 𛀋 𛀌 𛀍 𛀎 𛀏
U+1B01x 𛀐 𛀑 𛀒 𛀓 𛀔 𛀕 𛀖 𛀗 𛀘 𛀙 𛀚 𛀛 𛀜 𛀝 𛀞 𛀟
U+1B02x 𛀠 𛀡 𛀢 𛀣 𛀤 𛀥 𛀦 𛀧 𛀨 𛀩 𛀪 𛀫 𛀬 𛀭 𛀮 𛀯
U+1B03x 𛀰 𛀱 𛀲 𛀳 𛀴 𛀵 𛀶 𛀷 𛀸 𛀹 𛀺 𛀻 𛀼 𛀽 𛀾 𛀿
U+1B04x 𛁀 𛁁 𛁂 𛁃 𛁄 𛁅 𛁆 𛁇 𛁈 𛁉 𛁊 𛁋 𛁌 𛁍 𛁎 𛁏
U+1B05x 𛁐 𛁑 𛁒 𛁓 𛁔 𛁕 𛁖 𛁗 𛁘 𛁙 𛁚 𛁛 𛁜 𛁝 𛁞 𛁟
U+1B06x 𛁠 𛁡 𛁢 𛁣 𛁤 𛁥 𛁦 𛁧 𛁨 𛁩 𛁪 𛁫 𛁬 𛁭 𛁮 𛁯
U+1B07x 𛁰 𛁱 𛁲 𛁳 𛁴 𛁵 𛁶 𛁷 𛁸 𛁹 𛁺 𛁻 𛁼 𛁽 𛁾 𛁿
U+1B08x 𛂀 𛂁 𛂂 𛂃 𛂄 𛂅 𛂆 𛂇 𛂈 𛂉 𛂊 𛂋 𛂌 𛂍 𛂎 𛂏
U+1B09x 𛂐 𛂑 𛂒 𛂓 𛂔 𛂕 𛂖 𛂗 𛂘 𛂙 𛂚 𛂛 𛂜 𛂝 𛂞 𛂟
U+1B0Ax 𛂠 𛂡 𛂢 𛂣 𛂤 𛂥 𛂦 𛂧 𛂨 𛂩 𛂪 𛂫 𛂬 𛂭 𛂮 𛂯
U+1B0Bx 𛂰 𛂱 𛂲 𛂳 𛂴 𛂵 𛂶 𛂷 𛂸 𛂹 𛂺 𛂻 𛂼 𛂽 𛂾 𛂿
U+1B0Cx 𛃀 𛃁 𛃂 𛃃 𛃄 𛃅 𛃆 𛃇 𛃈 𛃉 𛃊 𛃋 𛃌 𛃍 𛃎 𛃏
U+1B0Dx 𛃐 𛃑 𛃒 𛃓 𛃔 𛃕 𛃖 𛃗 𛃘 𛃙 𛃚 𛃛 𛃜 𛃝 𛃞 𛃟
U+1B0Ex 𛃠 𛃡 𛃢 𛃣 𛃤 𛃥 𛃦 𛃧 𛃨 𛃩 𛃪 𛃫 𛃬 𛃭 𛃮 𛃯
U+1B0Fx 𛃰 𛃱 𛃲 𛃳 𛃴 𛃵 𛃶 𛃷 𛃸 𛃹 𛃺 𛃻 𛃼 𛃽 𛃾 𛃿
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0

The Unicode block for Kana Extended-A is U+1B100–U+1B12F:

Kana Extended-A[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1B10x 𛄀 𛄁 𛄂 𛄃 𛄄 𛄅 𛄆 𛄇 𛄈 𛄉 𛄊 𛄋 𛄌 𛄍 𛄎 𛄏
U+1B11x 𛄐 𛄑 𛄒 𛄓 𛄔 𛄕 𛄖 𛄗 𛄘 𛄙 𛄚 𛄛 𛄜 𛄝 𛄞
1.^ As of Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Other Languages
Bahasa Banjar: Hentaigana
català: Hentaigana
Deutsch: Hentaigana
español: Hentaigana
Esperanto: Hentaigana
français: Hentaigana
한국어: 헨타이가나
Bahasa Indonesia: Hentaigana
italiano: Hentaigana
Basa Jawa: Hentaigana
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Hentaigana
日本語: 変体仮名
português: Hentaigana
русский: Хэнтайгана
Tagalog: Hentaigana
українська: Хентайґана
Tiếng Việt: Hentaigana
中文: 變體假名