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What Japanese alphabet is most used?


Japanese is a beautiful and complex language that has three writing systems. The most commonly used is the Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Each of these systems has its unique features and uses, making it essential to understand Japanese’s complexity. In this article, we will focus on the most used Japanese alphabet.


Hiragana is the most used Japanese alphabet, with 46 characters representing both sounds and meanings. It is used to write native Japanese words that have no kanji equivalent, grammatical particles, and verb endings. Hiragana is also used to write furigana, which is a pronunciation guide for kanji characters.

Japanese Snack Box


Katakana is another Japanese writing system that contains 46 characters. It is primarily used to write foreign loanwords, onomatopoeic words, and technical terms such as scientific names. Katakana is also used for emphasis or to highlight certain words in a sentence.


Kanji is the third writing system in Japanese and contains over 2000 characters. It originated from Chinese characters and has been modified to fit the Japanese language. Kanji is used to write nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. It can be challenging to learn due to its complexity and multiple readings for each character.

Hiragana vs Katakana vs Kanji Usage

The usage of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji differs depending on the context of the text. Hiragana is mainly used for sentence particles, verb endings, and native Japanese words without kanji equivalents. Katakana is used for loanwords, onomatopoeic words, and technical terms. Kanji is used to write nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

Most Commonly Used Characters in Hiragana

The most commonly used characters in Hiragana are “あ,” “い,” “う,” “え,” “お,” which are the five vowels. Other frequently used characters include “か,” “き,” “く,” “け,” “こ,” which are the five consonants in combination with the vowel “か.”

Most Commonly Used Characters in Katakana

The most commonly used characters in Katakana are the same as those in Hiragana since they represent the same sounds. However, due to Katakana’s primary usage for loanwords and technical terms, some specific characters are commonly used such as “ト” for ‘to’, “コ” for ‘ko’, and “ン” for ‘n’.

Most Commonly Used Kanji Characters

The most commonly used kanji characters include “人” meaning ‘person,’ “日” meaning ‘day,’ “年” meaning ‘year,’ “月” meaning ‘month,’ and “時” meaning ‘time.’ These characters are essential in daily communication as they appear frequently in texts.

Learning Japanese Alphabets

Learning Japanese can be challenging due to its complex writing system. However, there are various resources available online, including textbooks, language exchange programs, and video tutorials. It’s essential to start with learning Hiragana and Katakana before moving on to Kanji since they form the foundation of written Japanese.

Cultural Significance of Japanese Writing Systems

Japanese writing systems hold cultural significance since they represent Japan’s unique history and culture. The use of Kanji originated from Chinese characters that were introduced to Japan during ancient times. The development of Hiragana and Katakana was influenced by Heian-period literature during the 10th century AD.


In conclusion, Hiragana is the most commonly used Japanese alphabet since it represents native Japanese words and grammatical particles. Katakana is used for foreign loanwords and technical terms while Kanji is used for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Learning these alphabets can be challenging but crucial in understanding Japanese culture and language.


  • Banno Eri et al., Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese (Tokyo: The Japan Times), 2011.
  • Makino Seiichi et al., A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (Japan Times), 1986.
  • Habein Susan M., Exploring Japaneseness: On Japanese Enactments of Culture and Consciousness (Lanham: Lexington Books), 2017.

Do Japanese use kanji or hiragana?

Contemporary Japanese is composed of three main writing systems: Kanji, which are Chinese characters used for their meaning; Hiragana and Katakana, which are two syllabic alphabets used for their phonetic sounds.

What is the main alphabet used in Japan?

Hiragana is the primary writing system used in the Japanese language, while there are two additional systems – Kanji (Chinese characters) and Katakana. Katakana is mainly used for foreign words and will be covered in the second lesson.

Which Japanese alphabet to learn first?

When learning Japanese, there are multiple alphabets to master, such as Hiragana, Kanji, and Katakana. Among these, Hiragana is the easiest for beginners as it is the most fundamental and forms the basis of the written language in Japan. This alphabet is the simplest of the three sets to learn.

Is hiragana or katakana easier?

Many people, including those from Japan, find that katakana is more challenging to read than hiragana. Therefore, don’t worry if it takes you a while to become accustomed to it.

Should I learn hiragana or katakana first?

To begin learning Japanese writing, it is recommended to start with hiragana, followed by katakana and kanji. Hiragana has a more flowing appearance compared to katakana and kanji and is used for writing Japanese words, verb endings, and grammatical particles. It is composed of 46 characters, each representing a syllable.

Is it OK to write hiragana instead of kanji?

Hiragana and kanji both represent sounds in the Japanese language, and therefore any word that can be written in kanji can also be written in hiragana. This was stated on May 13, 2016.

Writing and Reading Japanese

Reading and writing Japanese can be a challenge for learners who are not familiar with the language’s writing systems. However, once you learn the basics of each system, it becomes easier to read and write Japanese sentences. One important thing to keep in mind is that Japanese is written from top to bottom and right to left in columns rather than in rows like English.

When writing Japanese, it’s essential to pay attention to stroke order, which is the correct way to write each character. This is crucial as it affects how legible your writing will be, and it also shows respect for the language and culture. There are various resources available online, including apps and websites that provide stroke order animations to help you learn the correct way to write each character.

Kanji Readings

One of the most challenging aspects of learning Japanese is understanding kanji readings. Each kanji character has multiple readings, which can make it difficult to know which one to use when reading or writing a word. Kanji characters can have kun’yomi (Japanese reading) or on’yomi (Chinese reading), and sometimes both readings are used together in a word.

However, there is a pattern to kanji readings based on their usage in words. For example, when a kanji appears at the beginning of a word, it’s more likely to have an on’yomi reading. When it appears at the end of a word or as a standalone character, it’s more likely to have a kun’yomi reading.

Kanji Radicals

Kanji radicals are components that form the basis of kanji characters. They are essential in understanding the meaning of kanji characters and can help you remember how to write them. There are 214 kanji radicals, each with its own meaning and usage. By learning these radicals, you can break down complex kanji characters and understand their meanings better.

Some common kanji radicals include 人 (person), 日 (sun), 木 (tree), 食 (food), and 火 (fire). These radicals appear frequently in kanji characters and can help you identify their meanings quickly.


In conclusion, learning Japanese alphabets is crucial in understanding Japanese language and culture. Hiragana is used for native Japanese words and grammatical particles, Katakana for foreign loanwords and technical terms, and Kanji for nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. It’s essential to pay attention to stroke order when writing Japanese characters, understand kanji readings, and learn kanji radicals to better understand their meanings.

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