I've noticed that certain hiragan characters are written in the same way. For example one could look at の め あ ぬ as progressions on a similar theme. If I could put it crudely, we have swoop, line+swoop, line+cross+swoop, line+swoop+loop.

Other groups of similar construction include: き さ て ち る ろ - characters with a hook け は ま ほ よ お お - cross-first T loops れ ね わ - 3-part Ts

These may just be visual consequences of a limited number of paint strokes but I'm hoping there is some relationship here. I certainly don't see a phonetic connection.


Folks I realize that some of you have taken my question to mean that I'm expecting the kana to be decomposed into different semantic elements. I know that they have individually evolved from different kanji, but they have simplified into forms that are very similar. I saw another question where someone responded along the same lines saying that t is not l with another line and b is not L+o, etc. but they are groups of letters in the Latin alphabet that are written in similar ways and students who are learning the characters do practice them in groups. For example, n, m, u, r, and h are practiced together because of a similar structure. Morever, the elements of the characters do have names. The dot on the i and j is called a jot. The cross on the t is a title.

Getting back to my question, are there terms used in Japanese to teach the very similar characters? Maybe elements of the character that are used? I'm imagining some 6 year old being told by his teacher to make all the swoops the same in の め あ and ぬ. I say swoops because I don't have a better name for what this might be. Or the Z shapes in れ, わ, and ね. Surely there are grade school workbooks where they teach the young students to draw those zig zags in the same way on all three characters.

  • I feel like we must already have a question covering the development of hiragana and katakana from kanji... Maybe I just searched with the wrong keywords.
    – Leebo
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 5:55
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    See also japanese.stackexchange.com/q/76313/18200
    – Sweeper
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 11:46
  • I get the origins of the characters came from more complex origins and an oversimplification process. I think the similarities are more drawn from the lack of variety in brush techniques. I’m just looking for a way to categorize them to teach them to others. I guess there’s no real relationship between the characters other than a superficial one
    – BSD
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 12:59
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    Extending from my comment a moment ago, I think the English-language terminology for what you're trying to talk about might be "typeface anatomy" and "stroke", the names for the various graphical elements that make up a glyph (character shape). The corresponding Japanese term for "stroke" is 筆画【ひっかく】. Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 18:05
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    @EiríkrÚtlendi I ant to give you credit for ja.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%AD%86%E7%94%BB. That page has a list of all the different character elements.
    – BSD
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


Thanks to the comments thread, I now have a clearer idea of what the poster was looking for in specific. :)

According to the Japanese Wikipedia article for 筆画【ひっかく】 ("stroke [single stroke of a writing implement when writing any character]"), the following are the basic graphical components that make up any kanji.

Japanese Wikipedia table of basic stroke types

Again, the strokes above are the basic ones used in kanji, and there are some stroke varieties specific to kana that are not listed here.

Just below the table on the Wikipedia page, the text mentions the ループ ("loop") stroke for certain special kanji, and I suspect that this word might also apply to the loops on the bottoms of certain kana, such as よ or は.

I am uncertain of the terminology for other graphical components, such as the bend-y bit that's almost a loop in や or も, or the big less-circular loop with cross-strokes going through it in あ, め, or ぬ. If anyone can provide the names for these elements, I would be happy to update this post.

  • Do you have a link to the strokes for kana? I can’t just google “kana 筆画”
    – BSD
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 14:13
  • @BSD: If you're interested in the stroke order, Wiktionary and Wikipedia have good resources. (Full disclosure: I edit some at Wikipedia, and I'm an admin at Wiktionary.) For instance, at Wiktionary, see the or entries, and at Wikipedia, see the Yo (kana) or Ne (kana) entries. Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 23:02
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    There are also the Hiragana and Katakana articles at Wikipedia, which include tables showing the stroke order for all of the kana all at once (but that might also be harder to read, since it's all crammed in together). Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 23:03
  • Thanks Eirkr but I'm referring to the names of the stroke types as with the table in your anaswer.
    – BSD
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 19:49
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    @BSD, the names of the strokes for kanji should also apply to those same strokes that are used for kana. The kana strokes that aren't included in the list of kanji-stroke names are probably the ones I mentioned above: the loop in よ or ま (probably ループ?), and the squashed-loop-plus-crosstrokes in め or ぬ or あ (maybe also just ループ?). Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 17:33

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