I'm trying to use some flash cards to learn the kana (hirigana first, but both in time), and there's simply too much for me to learn at once. Is there a recommended or practiced learning "order" or series? How are children introduced to them?

I already have basic pronunciation down - if I can see it spelled out in Romaji script I can say it with acceptable/reasonable accuracy. I am not concerned about learning actual words or kanji right now, I only wish to master this "basic alphabet" first, to the point that I can sound out words written in kana.

I've thought of simply adding a flashcard from the deck at random each day and drilling through the resulting stack a couple times per day, but I wanted to seek out greater wisdom before doing something so random or rash!

I've got the flashcards produced by White Rabbit Press.

  • 1
    Related: What is the equivalent of “alphabetical order” in Japanese? I'm not sure it's a duplicate...
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 16:47
  • 1
    I didn't ask what the alphabetical order was, but what order children are taught. These are not necessarily tied together.
    – draeath
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 17:59
  • That's why I didn't vote to close or flagged, but they are very close. And yes, they are tied: letters or symbols are taught in alphabetical order. That's why in school you didn't start from Z going backwards, but rather starting from A, B, C, etc.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 18:31
  • @Alenanno Actually, reading instructors nowadays are recommended to avoid teaching in alphabetical order. There's a bunch of different suggested alternate orders, but most instructors agree that you want to switch it up. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 2:58

7 Answers 7


The equivalent of "alphabetical order" for kana that hangs on the wall of classrooms is as follows:

  いきしちにひみ り  
  えけせてねへめ れ  

I believe children are introduced to them based on this, probably vertically (i.e. あいうえお、かきくけこ and so on). [Thanks to Jamie Taylor in the comments.]

I can't really give specific advice on order to learn since that's not the focus of JLU, and different ways work for different people. You can check our resources thread for some resources that may help you learn, or ask in chat.

Once you've learnt the above, make sure you know combinations like しゅ(shu), know about dakuten (eg し(shi) -> じ(ji)), and the purpose of the small っ.

  • 5
    +1 -This is the order that all of my Japanese friends remember being taught the Hirigana (a,i,u,e,o -> ka,ki,ku,ke,ko -> sa,shi,su,se,so -> etc.) Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 15:54
  • If you flip that chart at the upper left corner, so that it reads A I U E O across, that'd be a typical way to display it: the same reading order as Western languages. But if you want vertical reading, you need to go right to left: first column on the far right, and so on, working towards the left. In short, mirror this right to left. The order you show is not one of the ways to write this. Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 5:52
  • @SwissFrank I'm not sure it's necessary to fixate on the ordering (right-to-left or left-to-right) of this. I studied at a language school in Tokyo, so the materials were not specifically westerner-oriented, but the charts in the class looked as above – a quick Google shows that many charts are laid out this way, and many are also right-to-left or rotated as you say.
    – ジョン
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 6:29

I think if you watch this video for 24 hours straight, you will have learned basic hiragana and katakana without much effort. My apologies for any ill effects on your mental health.

Complete Japanese Alphabet Song - Katakana - Hiragana - 日本語

  • Don't suppose you know where to find one that doesn't sound like a VHS transcode? Excellent find, by the way!
    – draeath
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 16:39
  • youtube.com/…. you can find a lot to look through.
    – yadokari
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 17:24

I had a similar problem when first learning how to write kana. It was frustrating to start with the gozyuuon order when you realise how few words you can write after having learned the first ten or fifteen hiragana in that order: あいうえおか…

So what did I do? I (unscientifically) analysed some bodies of text for frequency. The text wasn't properly normalised (it contained kanji), but I did group the small and large kana together. Then I divided it into groups of ten, and randomised each group. This is what I came up with:

1. しかいたんつてな <-- most frequent

2. よのやうあはとら

3. ちさもこるまくに

4. わそきれねすけお

5. せみをほりふえめ

6. むぬろゆへひ     <-- least frequent

This method gave my brain enough immediate rewards to get through the task.

(A frequency analysis of katakana would likely end up quite different)


This is how I learned it. The method takes three days to learn the whole thing.

First, divide Kana into three parts - each for one day: - First part starts at あ and ends at た - Second part starts at な and ends at や - Third day covers the rest and repeats first two parts.

Learn them in three consecutive days without gaps by writing characters on a piece of paper in a random order to remember them perfectly. Do not learn characters of, say, the second part while learning the first to avoid distraction.

It works!


To learn the kana: write, write, write!

Fill a page with あああああ。。。 then いいい。。。

Write the kana tables over and over again many times.

Try to look at examples less and less as you do, until you can reproduce the tables from memory.

If you're going to Japan soon, you will get more "mileage" out of katakana in some sense, if you can decode the English out of it, so I would make that a priority.


As far as I know, most people learn (and most likely master) hiragana first. Then katakana. Then finally kanji. I'm sure there is some overlap but this seems to be the order of learning the different scripts (is that right word for them?).

  • A foreigner in Japan might reasonably do katakana first, since many of these words will be foreign borrowings they recognize. However, children would invariably do hiragana first since they know conversational Japanese already to a limited extent but won't know most of the foreign words written in katakana. Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 5:56

Try a spaced repetition flashcard/multichoice App like "Memrise", it will gradually introduce groups of Kana and remove the ones you keep getting right. In theory you're likely to go through them in the あいうえお、かきくけこ、... order but an App like this will keep the harder Kana in the rotation longer until you're getting the right.

Remember to practice writing them by hand too!

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .