The Hiragana-chart 

The starting point of learning Japanese is always Hiragana (ひらがな), the 46 letter system in which each letter stands for a syllable. Hiragana are the basics of Japanese and learning it is a big first step in your journey to mastering Japanese but sometimes it can also feel like an anti-climax when you have memorized all 46 letters and additional syllables because you can’t do anything with it yet. 

The only thing I can say is don’t despair. It’s going to get better. 🙂 Learning Hiragana and eventually Katakana is the foundation for reading Japanese and as you progress in learning more vocabulary you will hardly remember the time when learning Hiragana was difficult. Here is the standard Hiragana-chart

  a-column i-column u-column e-column o-column


a i u e o
ka ki ku ke ko
sa shi su se so
ta chi tsu te to
na ni nu ne no
ha hi fu he ho
ma mi mu me mo
ya   yu   yo
ra ri ru re ro
wa       wo

You have probably noticed the pattern here. Almost every row is a combination of the starting consonant like k followed by a vowel of the column, so you get the sequence ka, ki, ku, ke and ko. There are a few exceptions, most notably the chi-, tsu- and fu-letters and some rows don’t have all combinations of all the consonants and vowels. Also the pronunciation is sometimes not straightforward. 

  • は (ha) is pronounced ‘wa’ when used as a particle. 
  • And を is pronounced like ‘o’

Some examples:

  つくえ (tsukue) = Desk
  きもの (kimono) = Japanese traditional clothing
  つなみ (tsunami) = Tidal wave
  せんせい (sensei) = Teacher, Master

Ga, gi and gu. Modifying Hiragana with Dakuten

There are some modifications, dakuten (だくてん) in Japanese, for these standard hiragana-letters to make them sound a little different. 

With the ” marker

  a-column i-column u-column e-column o-column


ga gi gu ge go
za ji zu ze zo
da dzi dzu de do
ba bi bu be bo

Or with a little circle 

  a-column i-column u-column e-column o-column


pa pi pu pe po

With these modified hiragana-letters, it’s possible to make words like. 

そば (soba) = A Japanese noodle-dish
ごはん (gohan) = A meal, cooked rice
じかん (jikan) = Time
げんき (genki) = Health, lively
こども (kodomo) = Child

Some more words that you probably already know spelled out in hiragana.

えもじ = Emoji
まんが = Manga
たいふう (taifuu) = Typhoon
さけ = Sake
すし = Sushi
にんじゃ = Ninja

Now if you look closely at the word にんじゃ (ninja) you may notice the ‘じゃ’ . A small や, ゆ or よ can alter the pronunciation of the hiragana ending in the vowel i. Using this you can make the following letters

きゃ きゅ きょ ぎゃ ぎゅ ぎょ
kya  kyu  kyo  gya  gyu  gyo 
しゃ しゅ しょ じゃ じゅ じょ
sha shu sho ja ju jo
ちゃ ちゅ ちょ      
cha chu cho      
にゃ にゅ のy      
nya nyu nyo      
ひゃ ひゅ ひょ びゃ びゅ びょ
hya hyu hyo bya byu byo
みゃ みゅ みょ ぴゃ ぴゅ ぴょ
mya myu myo pya pyu pyo
りゃ りゅ りょ      
rya ryu ryo      

The small っ (tsu)

Sometimes a small っ is used in the middle of a word to create a double consonant. This means that the letter after the small っ counts double. You can see how this works here: 

Verbs without the っ
たべた (tabeta) = have eaten
みた (mita) = have looked
あげた (ageta) = have given (to others)

Verbs with a っ
おくった (okutta) = To have send.
かえった (kaetta) = To have returned
とった (totta) = To have taken (a picture)

All these verbs are in the past tense.

Hiragana Exercises 

Below you can find exercises and the corresponding answers to practice your hiragana. 

Hiragana Exercises
Exercises 1 Answers 1
Exercises 2 Answers 2
Exercises 3 Answers 3


Practicing Hiragana with games

Now that you know which hiragana there are, practice is key. Below you can find some games to practice your Hiragana memory.