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I know there's あいうえお, but what about at the consonant level? Also, are there any common mnemonics used by Japanese children to remember these?

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Basic but important question for beginners. +1 :) –  Alenanno Jun 5 '11 at 14:19
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3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Hiragana syllables are always schematised in a given order which is this one (from right to left, as you may already know):


HIRAGANA enter image description here


KATAKANA enter image description here


After a while I started Japanese, I also found this video, the Japanese Alphabet song (only for hiragana), that can be interesting for absolute beginners.

One of the best ways to remember Hiragana (and Katakana as well), in my opinion, is to write vocabulary words using Hiragana. It might seem banal, but it works.
After you master it, you can start learning Kanji to substitute the "hiragana word" with the appropriate Kanji. I remember I used to write them, some examples are:

  • しんせつ (kindness/gentleness which is 親切);
  • つくえ (desk/table which is 机);
  • やま (mountain which is 山).
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Thanks! I was mostly just looking for the order, but your chart covers that nicely, so I'll accept your answer. –  zakvdm Jun 5 '11 at 14:54
    
@zakvdm Thanks to you! :) –  Alenanno Jun 5 '11 at 23:10
    
Is there a name for this order? –  hippietrail Jun 14 '11 at 4:22
    
I think they are called "Kana tables", at least that's the name I've seen, both on my grammar, and if I change the computer input from mine to Hiragana, I get a new option called "Type using Kana table". :) –  Alenanno Jun 14 '11 at 8:56
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@hippietrail, it's called either 五十音順{ごじゅうおんじゅん} (fifty sound order, from the traditional ideal of 50 kana, even though there are actually only 48), or あいうえお順{じゅん} (a i u e o order). More in Japanese at this Japanese Wikipedia article. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Jul 15 at 7:00
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The order used today pretty much everywhere is called Gojūon, and this is what Alenanno has described, but there's also a traditional order, with its own song, called Iroha. This order is actually based on the poem (instead of the other way around), and interestingly enough, it is possible because the poem managed to include every letter of the traditional alphabet exactly once. It was less useful than the Gojūon, because you needed to remember the song to use it, and over time the kana have lost two of the letters in Iroha (ゑ and ゐ) and gained a new one (ん).

いろはにほへと
ちりぬるを
わかよたれそ
つねならむ
うゐのおくやま
けふこえて
あさきゆめみし
ゑひもせす

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Thanks for the additional info. That's very interesting. I have never seen the characters ゑ and ゐ before! Coincidentally, the wikipedia article you linked to has several mnemonics for remembering the order, my favourite being: A K ind S amurai T old N aomi H ow M y Y ak R an W ild! –  zakvdm Jun 5 '11 at 14:57
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Because in older time 濁音 was not distinguished from 清音 in writing, you should write the last letter as す. If you distinguish them in writing, I think that と, か, そ and し are also pronounced as 濁音 in this poem and therefore should be written as ど, が, ぞ and じ, respectively. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Jun 5 '11 at 15:59
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The order is

あ か さ た な は ま や ら わ

If you have a Japanese cell phone, you can use the keypad to check the order, which runs from the 1 to 0 keys. If you have an iPhone, you can activate a Ten Key Japanese keyboard in the Keyboard settings, which is in the same order.

enter image description here

You can also listen to this cheesy Japanese hip-hop song by Kreva to hammer it into your head. The chorus is:

猫はニャー 犬ならワン
象はパオーン ライオンがオーッ
僕たちは 人間だもん
あかさたなはまやらわをぉぉん

I don't know if this song is famous, but it runs through each of the groups and makes a story. This one is annoying enough to be memorable

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+1 for the phone keypad pic. So, do you have to press 2 key five times to get こ? –  Lukman Jun 5 '11 at 14:58
    
Yep, it goes in the same order, かきくけこ. –  nevan king Jun 5 '11 at 15:02
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That Kreva song lol –  flamingspinach Jun 6 '11 at 17:18
    
@flamingspinach Yeah, eh. Pretty catchy though. –  nevan king Jun 6 '11 at 17:36
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