Japanese Alphabet - Hiragana and Katakana

 

Hiragana

 
a i u e o

 

ka ki ku ke ko

 

sa si su se so

 

ta chi tsu te to

 

na ni nu ne no

 

ha hi hu he ho

 

ma mi mu me mo

 

(い) (え)
ya yu yo

 

ra ri ru re ro

 

(ゐ) (ゑ)
wa i e wo

 

nn

 

 

Sometimes the Japanese alphabet or goju-on (fifty syllabic sound) is called "a ka sa ta na ha ma ya ra wa nn" that stand for the first syllable of bowels respectively - it is used like this; "Do you know ABC of Japanese?" "Yes, I know that, a ka sa ta na ha ma ya ra wa nn."

Actually the number of hiragana or katakana which are commonly used is 46 (or 48 including ゐ,ゑ) and nn is not counted. In addition to the above there are ga gi gu ge go, pa pi pu pe po, kya kyu kyo, etc., all of which totals around 100 sounds. 

In olden days there were several alphabet poems used for learning hiragana;

Ametsuchi no uta (around 900, Heian period);


ame tsuchi hoshi sora

yama kaha mine tani

kumo kiri muro koke

hito inu uhe sue

yuwa saru ofu seyo

enoje wo nare ite


あめ つち ほし そら
やま かは みね たに
くも きり むろ こけ
ひと いぬ うへ すゑ
ゆわ さる おふ せよ
えのゑを なれ ゐて

天 地 星 空
山 川 峰 谷
雲 霧 室 苔
人 犬 上 末
硫黄 猿 生ふ 為よ
榎の 枝を 馴れ 居て

 
 

Iroha-uta is more popular for that purpose
 (established in the end of 10th century to the middle of 11th.) 


i ro ha ni ho he to chi ri nu ru wo

wa ka yo ta re so tsu ne na ra mu

u i no o ku ya ma  ke fu ko e te

a sa ki yu me mi shi e hi mo se su


いろはにほへと ちりぬるを
わかよたれそ つねならむ
うゐのおくやま けふこえて
あさきゆめみし ゑひもせす

色は匂えど散りぬるを
我が世誰ぞ常ならむ
有為の奥山今日越えて
浅き夢見し酔ひもせず

 


 

Katakana
Katakana is used for onomatopoeia or for expressing foreign language 
which cannot be translated into Japanese characters.

 
a i u e o

 

ka ki ku ke ko

 

sa si su se so

 

ta chi tsu te to

 

na ni nu ne no

 

ha hi hu he ho

 

ma mi mu me mo

 

ya yu yo

 

ra ri ru re ro

 

wa i (wi) e wo

 

nn

 

 

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