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Do Japanese people use hiragana or katakana?


Japanese writing is often considered one of the most complex in the world. It consists of three different scripts: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. While kanji is used for Chinese characters, hiragana and katakana are syllabic scripts that are exclusively Japanese. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between hiragana and katakana and discuss which script is more commonly used in Japan.

What is Hiragana?

Hiragana is a syllabic script that consists of 46 characters. Each character represents a specific sound, making it the primary script used for writing Japanese words. Hiragana is also used for grammatical particles or words that indicate tense, subject, or object in a sentence. Children usually learn to read and write hiragana first in school.

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What is Katakana?

Katakana is another syllabic script that consists of 46 characters as well. Unlike hiragana, katakana is primarily used for writing foreign words or loanwords that have been incorporated into the Japanese language. It can also be used for emphasis or to differentiate between similar-sounding words.

Which is More Commonly Used?

While both scripts are essential for reading and writing in Japanese, hiragana is more commonly used than katakana. It is used for everyday conversation, reading books, and writing emails. Katakana, on the other hand, is less frequently used but still an essential part of the language.

Hiragana vs. Katakana

One way to understand the difference between hiragana and katakana is to look at their shapes. Hiragana characters are rounder and curvier, while katakana characters are sharper and more angular. Additionally, hiragana is used for native Japanese words, while katakana is used for loanwords or foreign words.

Examples of Hiragana Words

To give you an idea of what hiragana looks like, here are some commonly used Japanese words written in hiragana: ありがとう (arigatou), meaning “thank you”; おはようございます (ohayou gozaimasu), meaning “good morning”; and すみません (sumimasen), meaning “excuse me” or “I’m sorry.”

Examples of Katakana Words

Similarly, here are some commonly used Japanese words written in katakana: コーヒー (koohii), meaning “coffee”; ピザ (piza), meaning “pizza”; and ハンバーガー (hanbaagaa), meaning “hamburger.”

The Importance of Learning Both Scripts

While hiragana is more commonly used in Japan, it’s still essential to learn both scripts if you want to master the language. Being able to read katakana will allow you to understand foreign words and phrases that are often used in everyday life, such as menu items at restaurants or brand names.

How to Learn Hiragana and Katakana

Learning hiragana and katakana is relatively easy compared to learning kanji. There are many resources available online, including apps, websites, and books. One popular way to learn is by using flashcards or mnemonics to help remember the characters’ shapes and sounds.


In conclusion, both hiragana and katakana are essential scripts in the Japanese language. Hiragana is more commonly used for everyday reading and writing, while katakana is used for foreign words and emphasis. Learning both scripts is essential for mastering the language and understanding Japanese culture.

Do Japanese use hiragana or katakana more?

What distinguishes hiragana from katakana? Hiragana is the primary, standard method of writing in Japanese. It can be used alone or with kanji to create words, and it’s the first writing system that children learn.

Is it better to learn Japanese hiragana or katakana?

It is recommended to learn hiragana before learning katakana and kanji. Hiragana appears more flowing in style compared to katakana or kanji, and is commonly used to write Japanese words, conjugation endings, and grammar particles. Hiragana is made up of 46 characters, and each character represents a syllable.

Do Japanese people use both hiragana and katakana?

The Japanese language uses three different writing systems, including hiragana, katakana, and kanji, which are unique in their appearance and purpose. This complexity can make learning Japanese difficult for English speakers.

Do Japanese write in kanji or hiragana?

Contemporary Japanese writing utilizes a combination of three main scripts: Kanji, which are ideographic symbols borrowed from Chinese; Hiragana and Katakana, two phonetic alphabets consisting of syllables. Kanji has several thousand characters, while Hiragana and Katakana each have 46.

Should I learn kanji or katakana first?

To learn Japanese writing, it is recommended to start with hiragana first, followed by katakana and then kanji. This is the suggested order for beginners.

Why is katakana so much harder than hiragana?

Katakana is a more challenging writing system to learn compared to Hiragana because it is only used for specific words and there are fewer opportunities to practice. It is important to learn the correct stroke order, which can be done using practice sheets.

It’s worth noting that while hiragana and katakana are both syllabic scripts, they are not interchangeable. Each script has its own set of characters, and using the wrong script can lead to confusion or misunderstandings. For example, writing a native Japanese word in katakana instead of hiragana can change the meaning of the word entirely.

Another important aspect of learning hiragana and katakana is understanding their pronunciation. Each character represents a specific sound, and mastering these sounds is crucial for proper pronunciation. It’s recommended to practice reading and writing each character repeatedly to become familiar with the correct pronunciation.

One benefit of learning hiragana and katakana is that it can make learning kanji easier. Kanji characters often have hiragana or katakana characters alongside them to indicate their pronunciation or meaning. By knowing hiragana and katakana, you’ll be able to read these additional characters and understand the kanji better.

In summary, both hiragana and katakana are essential scripts for reading and writing in Japanese. While hiragana is more commonly used, katakana is still important for understanding foreign words or phrases. Learning both scripts can help you master the Japanese language and enhance your understanding of Japanese culture.

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