Basic Japanese Alphabet: Hiragana


Kanji Characters adapted from the Chinese Characters

50,000 is usually the number given for the number of Kanji characters since the dawn of time. 2,000 is roughly the number than comprises compulsory education in first grade through junior high. Many more are taught in high school and university level.  5,000 is often assigned to particularly well-read persons (e.g. university professors).  And the final challenge is that they usually have 3-5 readings depending on the context of the sentence and the kanji character combinations used to make that particular word.

kanji chart for 1st grade of elementary school in japan

kanji chart for 2nd grade_part23rd grade kanji

As you can see from the 3rd grade chart, there isn’t just one reading but many have many more! It might be partially understood in how difficult this all is when you realize that to truly be able to read a Japanese newspaper, you must have graduated from high school level learning. Or you are a foreigner who has completely immersed themselves in the learning process that takes from 3-5 years to fully understand for both reading and writing. With the dawn of the computer age, even foreigners have a better time due to online translation tools as well as being able to add a Japanese ‘keyboard’ setting that helps us write to others as long as we know what to say and how to say it.  It has been reported that even Japanese who have learned the basic full spectrum, are sometimes finding it hard to recall due to using computers more than hand writing any more.

Basic Alphabet for Foreign Words: Katakana


Bible jn316

(John 3:16 in Japanese)



The Japanese Bible is printed and read differently because of the kanji style writing and reading.  Japanese writing is always vertical and from right to left.  So when a Japanese Bible (Seisho – say/ee/show) is laying on a table it is facing the opposite direction that an English written Bible would lie.

Bible two pagesWe read the Bible from right to left so Genesis is to the right and Revelations at the left hand side of the Bible.  We read from top to bottom on the right page first and when needed continue to read on the right hand side of the left page to go further into the book you are reading.

Bible closeYou might wonder how we are able to read the Bible.  A good question. Can you see the little ‘scribbles’ beside the kanji character?  Those are little readings written in called ‘furigana’ which we know because it is just the Hiragana and Katakana symbols listed in the other two charts on this page.  We can read all of those characters.  Praise God for the freedom to share the Word of God in this needy country.