Hiragana are part of the
Hiragana is a
In the past hiragana was considered as
Sometimes the whole of a text may be written in hiragana to make it easy. This would be used in books for young children, or for students starting to learn Japanese, or when writing the lyrics for songs underneath the music where it is important to show how the words fit the music. Some rare or strange kanji may also have so-called furigana characters above it. They are hiragana which show how the kanji is to be pronounced.
In Hiragana each character (kana) is either a
As an example of how the grammatical endings are used we can take the
The main hiragana characters are shown in this table.
|あ a||い i||う u||え e||お o||(ya)||(yu)||(yo)|
|か ka||き ki||く ku||け ke||こ ko||きゃ kya||きゅ kyu||きょ kyo|
|さ sa||し shi||す su||せ se||そ so||しゃ sha||しゅ shu||しょ sho|
|た ta||ち chi||つ tsu||て te||と to||ちゃ cha||ちゅ chu||ちょ cho|
|な na||に ni||ぬ nu||ね ne||の no||にゃ nya||にゅ nyu||にょ nyo|
|は ha||ひ hi||ふ fu||へ he||ほ ho||ひゃ hya||ひゅ hyu||ひょ hyo|
|ま ma||み mi||む mu||め me||も mo||みゃ mya||みゅ myu||みょ myo|
|や ya||ゆ yu||よ yo|
|ら ra||り ri||る ru||れ re||ろ ro||りゃ rya||りゅ ryu||りょ ryo|
|わ wa||ゐ wi||ゑ we||を wo|
|が ga||ぎ gi||ぐ gu||げ ge||ご go||ぎゃ gya||ぎゅ gyu||ぎょ gyo|
|ざ za||じ ji||ず zu||ぜ ze||ぞ zo||じゃ ja||じゅ ju||じょ jo|
|だ da||ぢ (ji)||づ (zu)||で de||ど do||ぢゃ (ja)||ぢゅ (ju)||ぢょ (jo)|
|ば ba||び bi||ぶ bu||べ be||ぼ bo||びゃ bya||びゅ byu||びょ byo|
|ぱ pa||ぴ pi||ぷ pu||ぺ pe||ぽ po||ぴゃ pya||ぴゅ pyu||ぴょ pyo|
Notice that the sound “hu” is unknown in Japanese, so ふ is pronounced “fu” with an “f” which is blown lightly, like someone blowing out a candle.
To write the voiced sounds for “g”, “d”, “z” and “b” two little lines called a dakuten (゛) are added after a character starting with the unvoiced sounds “k”, “t”, “s” and “h”. A circle, (゜), is added after a “h” for the sound “p”. For example: は gives the sound “ha”; ば gives the sound “ba”; ぱ gives the sound “pa”.
Sometimes when words are joined together to make compound words, the first sound of the second part changes from unvoiced to voiced. For example: “hana”: はな (nose) + ち“chi” (blood) becomes はなぢ “hanaji” (nosebleed)
Some Japanese syllables which have sliding sounds add a small version of the hiragana for ya, yu or yo (ゃ, ゅ and ょ) This is called “yōon”. For example: “sha” sounds like “shi”+”ya” so “densha” (a tram) is written でんしゃ. A small “tsu” っ called a “sokuon” shows a doubled consonant: “Nippon” (Japan) is written にっぽん. Without the small “tsu” the first syllable would sound like the word “knee”.
A student starting to learn to write Japanese can start with hiragana or with katakana. Hiragana is the basis of learning Japanese script. However, for someone who is about to visit Japan and just wants to be able to recognize a few words, katakana will be more useful as it will help to read many of the road signs, shop names and the names of things on restaurant menus.