If you plan to travel in Japan, knowing hiragana will prove indispensable. It is a completely syllabic alphabet used with kanji to form words and differentiate verb forms.
As soon as you begin learning Japanese, it is best to begin with hiragana and gradually transition towards katakana characters – this will make things much simpler!
1. Getting Around
Now that you’ve mastered basic hiragana, it’s time to expand your repertoire by practicing combination hiragana. Here, you’ll learn how to combine normal-sized hiragana from rows 2-5 with small mosquito-shaped ones from row 6 – an effort known as mosquito hiragana.
This first set may be difficult, but should be simple enough to remember thanks to its resemblance of a mosquito (ka), a common Japanese noun! Furthermore, it follows exactly with row 6 vowel sounds in terms of pronunciation – no weird exceptions needed here!
Train signs or the announcer on board may display this character or ask “eki wa doko desuka?,” meaning “what is the destination of this train?” This should help ensure you arrive in Kyoto instead of Nagoya when taking the train! Additionally, knowing when a local futsu train meets an express or shinkansen helps plan travel more carefully! Finally, remember your Pasmo or Suica rechargeable cards to enjoy stress-free travel!
2. Buying Things
Shopping can be difficult without knowing some basic Japanese phrases – whether that means specifically searching for something, or finding stores nearby your hotel – these phrases will come in handy!
To improve your pronunciation, read this passage aloud using romanized Japanese (romaji). Make sure that each letter is clearly pronounced; longer vowels should not be neglected since hiragana relies on five vowels for writing.
Shopping can be tricky in Japan, where most clerks speak limited English. Knowing these five words will make the experience far more pleasant: clothing shoppers can use this phrase to ask whether or not they can try them on; other uses might include asking whether a product can be seen on display cases, or having something bagged for them – enjoy your trip!
3. Getting Around in the Bus
Utilizing Japan’s bus system makes traveling around much simpler, and learning the hiragana alphabet will get you everywhere! Just practice, practice and practice until it becomes second nature!
The initial column, AIUEO, establishes the pronunciation for all of hiragana, making this row of the alphabet especially critical to learn properly and quickly bringing on other sections. Once this first row has been grasped, everything else will follow much faster.
There are 46 hiragana characters, each representing one syllable, that you must memorize before moving on to katakana and kanji. Katakana resembles hiragana but looks more blocky and has sharper strokes; it is often used when writing foreign words into Japanese, such as basu (bus/ transportation) or patei (party/ celebration), or for names of children. When practicing alongside hiragana it would be helpful but don’t be concerned too much with understanding their meaning just yet – dictionary or locals will help with that later!
4. Getting Around in the Train
As your Japanese studies advance, now is the time to step up your involvement. By now you should be reading most of the major hiragana characters and have a firm grasp of its language – now is also the time to start learning combination kana characters!
These hiragana characters contain dakutens, or symbols used to change pronunciation of consonants, making these words much simpler and allowing more expressive pronunciation than their katakana equivalents (with exceptions such as and ). Almost all combinations sound the same (with only and having different sounds).
This first one combines an a and an e, pronouncing it “ah”. This word can be used similarly to English “he” when reading articles or listening to music! Knowing it makes for great reading experience or musical enjoyment!
As an aid for learning Hiragana characters, take a look at this worksheet and practice filling in all the blanks – they shouldn’t be too difficult! Once completed, test yourself again using Tofugu’s Learn Hiragana Quiz!
5. Getting Around in the Airport
Now that we understand all of the basic vowels and consonants, let’s move on to dakuten hiragana, which combines or variations on those we already know.
The first one is which sounds exactly like a mosquito (ka!). Additionally, its appearance makes it easy to remember by picturing one sucking blood.
Once again, this one’s easy to remember; we all say “ki-ki-ku-ke-ko” when mosquitos bite!
“Oh-oh-oh” is another kana that may appear similar to an “a”, making it easy to remember as we often say this sound when someone laughs at us. So this one should come naturally!