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Hiragana & katakana chart and writing practice trace sheet

Japanese uses up to four different scripts simultaneously (kanji, hiragana, katakana and romaji) but you can write any text using the kana alone, which makes these two syllabaries the key to learning Japanese.

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Although there are probably thousands of kana charts online and offline, I could never find one that would be compact and comprehensive enough and finally decided to designed my own.

It has since been updated a number of times and used by tens of thousands of Japanese LinguaLift users.

Japanese alphabet cheat sheet

As you learn how to recognize the kana characters, it’s equally important to learn how to write them.

This isn’t just important to learn the fundamentals of Japanese writing and calligraphy in general, but it also serves as a great memory aid to actually reading the characters. There will never be a time when you can’t read a character that you’re able to write.

Hiragana tracing sheet

Katakana tracing sheet

Japanese writing is based on a system of strokes. A stroke is defined as the line from when the pencil touches the paper to when it is lifted from the paper.

Some kana can be written in a single stroke, others in two or more. The key thing to remember is the order in which you should write the strokes, which we shall conveniently call the ‘stroke order.’

Although it is possible to write any character in any possible way, I would strongly suggest that you stick to the same stroke order that is taught in Japanese schools, and stuck to by most of the Japanese population.

It will make your writing seem more natural and will also help you remembering the characters.

Grab a piece of paper and draw a line that looks a bit like this:

Hiragana a first stroke

Now try and do the same again, about five or six times, until the curve comes naturally. When you’re happy, let’s move onto the second of the three strokes that make up the character あ.

Hiragana a second stroke

You’ll need to first practise writing the stroke on its own, then try writing the first and second stroke in order, taking good care to make sure that the general proportions and dimensions are similar to what you see on your screen.

After you’re happy, try adding the third stroke. It may take a bit of practice to get it right…

Hiragana a third stroke

Notice that the thickness of the line changes somewhat throughout the stroke, starting off broad and then narrowing in. This is why it’s so important to practise with a pencil if you have one.

Download the practice sheet PDF and print it a number of times, making sure to practise writing the character at a smaller, more natural size as well as nice and big. It’s also really important to say あ out loud as you’re writing, to associate the sound with the shape.

Japanese pronunciation guide

Make sure that you write out あ as many times as you possibly can, occasionally doing so with reference to your chart, and occasionally from memory if you can. Then move onto the other characters.

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