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Japanese Writing
Introduction
Learning to write Japanese takes a lot of time and a dedicated commitment. There are two Japanese scripts to learn along with thousands of kanji depending on which level of writing skills you want to attain. Luckily there is romaji, a script using the English alphabet for writing Japanese. You can actually learn this script in a few hours and begin reading Japanese.

The Japanese language can be written using any of four different scripts.
  • Romaji - This script uses English letters to represent Japanese sounds and words and is a substitute script used until hiragana, katakana, and kanji are learned. It was devised as a way to communicate in spoken and written Japanese quickly without needing to learn the thousands of combined characters in the other scripts. Romaji is used in Japanese, especially for company names and logos, advertising, and when inputting Japanese into a computer. Romaji is used anywhere in Japan where there are many foreigners, such as big cities, train stations, and hotels. Romaji is the first script you should learn.
  • Hiragana - This is a Japanese script used for already established words in the language such as sun, moon, house, mountain, people, etc. This script, along with kanji, make up about 98% of the language. This is the second script you should learn.
  • Katakana - This is a Japanese script used for foreign or borrowed words from other languages. Words such as convenience store (combini), television (terebi), and hotel (hoteru), are all written in katakana. This script makes up about 2% of the language. The usage is growing as more words are incorporated into Japanese from other languages. This is the third script you should learn.
  • Kanji - These are Chinese characters which were brought into the Japanese language thousands of years ago. The characters represent things in nature and are really fun to learn. This is the fourth script you should learn.
Example: The following table shows the only way ki can be written in romaji, hiragana, and katakana, and one of the ways ki can be written in kanji.
ki
Romaji Hiragana Katakana kanji

The kanji introduced on this site follow the same learning order as taught in the Japanese schools. At this time the kyouiku kanji are listed which are the 1006 kanji students in Japan are required to learn through grade 6. An additional 949 kanji will be added to this site sometime during the summer of 2008 which, combined with the kyouiku kanji, make up the 1945 kanji characters known as jouyou kanji students in Japan are required to learn through grade 12.
 
Next step - Learn romaji. The table will show you the way written Japanese is represented using English letters.
 

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