38

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?

  • Basic but important question for beginners. +1 :) – Alenanno Jun 5 '11 at 14:19
  • 1
    In addition to the answers as of today (gojuuon, iroha), there's a small twist: voiced sounds (with dakuten) are placed after their non-voiced sounds, and handakuten (ぱ) after those. Wikipedia's entry on gojuuon gives this as an alphabetized list: "すず, すすいろ, すすき, すずき, すずしい, すすむ". – Ahmed Fasih Aug 5 '14 at 6:44
25

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).
  • 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
  • 3
    @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 '14 at 7:00
19

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

  • 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
  • 1
    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
13

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

  • +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
  • 1
    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
  • +1 The kana order あ か さ た な は ま や ら わ can be found as tab index of physical dictionaries, which is equivalent to the alphabetical order AB, CD, EF ... in English. Supporting fact: Quick index tab on Japanese and English-English dictionary – clearkimura Apr 12 at 8:02
-1

Nevan King answer is wrong actually. That's not the order of the Hiragana alphabet. That's just a convention used on cell keyboards, because they have few buttons at their disposal. The correct answer is the one above by Alenanno, albeit presented that way it MUST be read top to bottom then left to right. i.e. a, i, u e o, ka, ki, ku ke, ko sa, shi su, etc...

  • 1
    -1 No, the answer by nevan king is correct. The said kana order is also used in physical dictionaries, similar to the alphabetical order in English counterpart. – clearkimura Apr 12 at 8:05
  • The answer you claim to be wrong only gives the order of the columns, a i u e o ka ki ku ke ko sa shi ... but gives this order correctly. – Earthliŋ Apr 12 at 8:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.