I am learning kana and have some problems with similar construction. I found an excellent source (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TohUrbpdYJY) where Yuko sensei described a left-start and top-start concept that works for シ vs ツ and ン vs ソ. I suppose it's similar to the way > = and < are the same elements with a different orientation. I'm not able to find any similar distinction between い and り.

I can see that both have a similar J on the left with another stroke oriented to the right and left respectively. Is there something more I should be considering? How are these taught in Japan?

--------------Update------------------ I was able to find some help with this video showing someone hand-writing the hiragana. For now I focusing on the start, direction, and end of the characters in the 4-square graph. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSQi34uKMmY

I also found this set of instructions which does show progressively worse examples of 0i until you end up at ri. http://japanese-lesson.com/characters/hiragana/hiragana_drill/hiragana01_writing.html

  • I don't think the intent of that diagram is to show a progression toward り. It's just different bad examples of い, and also り for comparison.
    – Leebo
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 11:06

1 Answer 1



Both consist of a left レ-like stroke and a right J-like stroke.

The main differences are:

  • As for い, the left stroke is longer (a > b) and the whole shape fits in a horizontally long rectangle (E ≧ a);
  • As for り, the right stroke is longer (d > c) and the whole shape fits in a vertically long rectangle (d ≧ F)

Comparing these two,

  • usually d > a > c ≧ b;
  • as implied by the above, E > F.

Additionally, you may wonder if い need to be slanted like in the picture. Practically, the answer is no (it can be a left vertical stroke + a right stroke which is shorter), but it tends to be so than (strokes in) り.

If you have other questions, let me know.

Probably a standard instruction is something like this

  • WOW! that is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. The video is a great explanation (I wish I could understand the audio) on how the end of strokes should be terminated. The a, b, c, d, e, and f sizes, however, is really useful. Is there a general term for this so I might look up the same size/structure description for other kana?
    – BSD
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 19:57
  • 1
    @BSD If you mean the overall rectangular shapes that include the characters or the length of strokes, I don't think there are special terms for them (for the lengths, we simply say 長さ). This video seems to contain some advice with English subtitles. Japanese-only, but this looks useful as well. What is important is how much space is between strokes and where the strokes should be written in the whole square.
    – sundowner
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 2:37
  • Thanks again. Those are great sites. I’m going to pull more of those resources into our class work.
    – BSD
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 19:05

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