Writing In Japanese In A Nutshell

Oh the throes of learning a new language! A new alphabet! Did we mention Japanese uses three alphabets?

Just The Facts

  1. Japanese use 3 alphabets simultaneously.
  2. 2 Alphabets of 48 letters, and a third of...
  3. There are over 50000 and up to 80000 Kanji.
  4. You may use our very own roman alphabet and our arabic numbers with it.

What you need to know before you can read.

We'll be deciphering this.

We'll be deciphering this.

All right. We'll start at the basics.

Japanese had no writing and was purely a phonetic language untill the arrival... developed complex systems to write in chinese and reorganize the structure into japanese... simplification of ideograms into purely phonetic symbols... Doraemon.

He'll teach you all right.

We have basically three alphabets. Two phonetic ones, and one ideographic one. Both phonetic ones consist of 48 letters, and the option of adding what seems to be quotation marks and it will alter their sound. And then the big behemoth that is Kanji. Between 50K and 80K of them. Seriously.


The prettiest one, pretty like a puppy. Simple strokes, few stroke counts. (Strokes as in pencil/brush strokes, no the kind of stroking you are thinking about.) Hiragana is your friend. The first type of writing you will learn. It is used mostly for grammatical particles, conjugation, and whenever you realize you are not a fucking computer and forgot which of the 80000 pictures you want to write and can only remember it's sound. (Like a monkey.)

Cute like a puppy all right.


No it's not Katana.

Katakana and Hiragana are considered Syllabaries as every letter of them is a syllable. No single consonants other than n. Which is why Japanese have a very distinctive accent. Not having single consonants can really change your perspective on the world (auditive that is). Katakana is like Hiragana's older cousin. While Hiragana may still be attending high school and wearing plated skirts, Katakana is her older, cooler, tight black leather wearing cousin.

Examples of Katakana:

Ecchi, or perverted, softcore for us.

Katakana is generally used for titles, or for foreign words. If you want to write your name in japanese, it should correctly be written in katakana.


These are the reason many people don't go past elementary level Japanese. You must learn at least 3000 of them to be accepted into college. Now that doesn't sound so bad. Oh wait, some of them having more than 4 pronunciations depending on context and what letters are next to them does sound bad!

Now Kanji do have several strokes.

Ranging from the simple. The semi complex . And the very complex.

Because you have several pronounciations for a Kanji, the best way to look them up in a dictionary is for you to count the strokes. Because yes, Japanese Kanji dictionaries are not organized by pronounciation but by how many lines your kanji has. While many here at Cracked may try to convince you of such things as the 50 stroke Kanji that means masculinity, non-baldness, dragon-slaying, and balls-so-big-they-require-an-ultradimensional-pocket-to-not-rip-your-pants-ness that our Columnists have on their schlongs, politely refuse an invitation to see them, and ignore their hints at their shoe size.

How about some practice?

Concentrate on the different kinds of letters now:

Not as easy as it seems huh?

Now the next time you want to critize Japan try to be more understanding, you would be like this too if you had to study for years only to comprehend what the cover of your porn mag is.

Or maybe this is the cause.