I understand that in Japan children start school at 6 years of age and that they are expected to learn the 46 hiragana and 46 katakana syllables by the end of that year. I'd like to know more about the methods used to teach them. I have heard that a lot of Japanese school is straight memorization and if that is the case, it's unfortunate. I'd love to hear about anything other than memorization to help children assimilate the symbols.

—————update————- We are using this method and practicing groups of structurally similar kana. 14 so far. Any critique with better methods would be most helpful enter image description here


1 Answer 1


In 1st grade they do (officially) learn the kana, but they also have to learn 80 kanji characters as well. In practice, many students are already quite familiar with kana by then. If they attended yochien or hoikuen, they certainly spent time writing their name on things, making cards and letters for family, etc. But, in "school" they are taught more strictly about how to properly make the strokes; and, lots of repetitive practice and tests.

All kana come from kanji. In the case of hiragana they are actually cursive script versions of kanji. For example, む is cursive for 無. Most adults don't know this and educationally using this connection to the more complex thing would not be very effective with 6 year olds.

When they get to 2nd grade (where they must learn 160 more kanji), more time is spent learning the primary radicals of characters as an aid to understanding meaning.

  • this is really good. You gave me several new terms that I wasn't aware of that is extremely helpful. I'm upvoting, but not yet ready to say this is "THE" answer. Two follow on thoughts to expand on your answer. I find radicals for kanji, but not kana. Is there a different term for the strokes/elements of kana? Also, I'm going to search for ways that kana are taught in yochien or hoikuen, but I'd appreciate any additional notes you have.
    – BSD
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 20:29
  • Yes, I don't think I am the person to give "THE" answer, as I was more of an observer than a participant in these aspects of life in Japan. Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 21:40

You must log in to answer this question.

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