My former teacher made us really pay attention to kana stroke order and stroke types (とめる、はねる、and はらう). Yet when it came to kanji she only made us study the stroke order. I've noticed that other people also disregard kanji stroke type.

Why is that? Is it because of the sheer amount of information? (It's easy to remember a few kana stroke types while the same does not hold true to kanji.) What do natives have to say about this?

  • I'm not completely sure but maybe because stroke type is not that distinguishable when you use a pen or pencil (e.g. there's not much difference in how 右払い and 左払い look). When you write with a brush though, stroke type is very important.
    – Szymon
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 8:41
  • 1
    Why is that? I feel like any answer is going to be too opinion-based.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 19:47

2 Answers 2


I think that in elementary school stroke type (at least はねる) is definitely regarded an important part of learning kanji.

For instance, the kanji 竹 is a first-year character and the hook on the last stroke is an important part. I think that most elementary schools would take marks off (i.e. not ◯ but △) for omitting the hook in a test.

(The hook is even part of ゴシック fonts, which often don't detail はらう or とめる.)

When written in pen or pencil, とめる and はらう are much harder to identify and produce and are often neglected.

In any case, stroke type is definitely taught in elementary school. I don't know why your teacher chose not to teach you stroke type. One reason may be that she assumes you'll be sensitive enough to stroke type once she showed you how important it was (for kana).

If you feel you need more practice, I can highly recommend practice books (like this one) for school children for developing nice handwriting. (Many foreigners I've seen try to imitate a 明朝 font...)


Not a native, however here are a couple of observations on my part between my learning experience and the semester of 書道 I studied when I was in Japan. 大丈夫 has always been a favorite example of mine to use for this topic, because I can't think of any other word in Japanese that composed of more similar, yet different, characters. The first two (大丈), in particular, use all of the same strokes and types of strokes, just with the short leg offset to the left a bit.

Likewise, if you compare 夫 with 天, a slight change in positioning can produce a radically different character. In this case, however, you also have the lengths of the horizontal strokes to help provide an additional clue in the case of sloppy handwriting, as 夫 has the longer stroke on bottom while 天 has it on top.

Going beyond the mere positioning of similar strokes, however, using the right type of stroke can make a big difference in some cases, especially if it ends in a hook or a sweep. For an example that uses both of these, let's look at 月. If we ignored the sweep on the left vertical stroke and the hook on the right—just drawing straight lines that extended further downward—it can cause confusion as to whether it's supposed to be 月 or a sloppily-written 日 whose bottom stroke was written a bit too high.

Likewise, the types of strokes and their positioning matters for making sure that 人, 入, and 八 all remain distinct. In the case of 入 and 八, the right-hand strokes both have a flat that points off to the left prior to descending (though in some fonts this may be optional in the case of 八). In both cases, however, making sure that the strokes are connected at the top for 人 and 入 helps prevent confusion with 八, and vice versa.

These are just a few examples off the top of my head from someone who's probably spent far too much time studying kanji. If I get a chance tomorrow, I'll see about adding some pictures to illustrate the points a little bit better.

  • 4
    slight changes in positioning: 士土工干千、午牛、矢失、弔引、由甲申、など
    – davewp
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 21:40
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    My favorite will always be 曰 and 日, but 永 and 氷 are up there too
    – ssb
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 6:47
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    I'm not sure if the question is about stroke positioning or length. It seems to me to be more about various stroke types as in calligraphy (when you write with a brush, it's important to use the correct type) but I may be wrong.
    – Szymon
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 6:50
  • @Szymon I think you're right, although Kaji does talk about stroke type in his third paragraph.
    – user1478
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 7:25
  • 1
    what about 未 and 末 ?
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 4:00

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