For instance English texts to learn Japanese will refer to ま、み、む、め、も as the Ma column, and I've even seen this terminology used in translations of Japanese material (although I unfortunately couldn't find the original text for these) but I've never seen what the actual words used in Japanese to refer to it are.


1 Answer 1


Actually, I think it's more typically thought of as a row line of text. See for example Wikipedia. The row line that contains ま would be called ま行{ぎょう}, where 行{ぎょう} just means a line of text/row/column.

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    Even though 行 usually means (horizonal) row, in the traditional 五十音図 these 行 actually correspond to (vertical) columns, no? See for example the table at 五十音, and the Meiji era prints in that same wiki article.
    – Will
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 1:26
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    @Will Traditional 五十音図 are in vertical writing, where lines/行 flow vertically. So まみむめも belong to the ま行, and あかさたなはまやらわ belong to the あ段, regardless of the table style.
    – naruto
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 2:46
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    @naruto Good point. As you hint at, taking into account that 行 essentially means a line of text (and that its "row" interpretation is only indirectly derived from that) eliminates any horizontal/vertical confusion that might arise when translating things too literally.
    – Will
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 4:01

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