Skip to Content

What is the hardest Japanese alphabet?

Learning a new language can be challenging. It can be even harder when the language has a completely different alphabet. For many people, learning Japanese can be daunting because of its three alphabets – hiragana, katakana, and kanji. While all three have their difficulties, many people wonder which is the hardest Japanese alphabet to learn. In this blog post, we will dive into each alphabet and explore their difficulties to determine which is the most challenging.


Hiragana is one of the two syllabic Japanese scripts that are used in conjunction with kanji characters. Hiragana consists of 46 characters, each representing a different sound that can be blended together to create different words. Hiragana is often the first alphabet that Japanese learners study due to its importance in basic communication.

One of the reasons that hiragana can be challenging to learn is that it uses a completely different writing system than English. Instead of letters, hiragana uses characters that represent syllables. This means that learners must memorize the sound that each character represents and how to write it. Additionally, some hiragana characters are very similar in appearance, making it easy to confuse them.

Another challenge with hiragana is that it has several exceptions when it comes to pronunciation. While many of the characters have the same sound as their English counterparts (such as “a” or “ka”), others are pronounced differently. For instance, the character え (e) can be pronounced in a few ways, including “eh”, “ay”, and “ye”.


Katakana is the other syllabic script used in Japanese and is also comprised of 46 characters. Unlike hiragana, which is used for native Japanese words, katakana is used for loanwords and foreign words. It is often used for writing scientific terms or words borrowed from Western languages.

Like hiragana, katakana uses a different writing system than English, with each character representing a syllable. This can be challenging to learn for English speakers who are used to the Latin alphabet. Additionally, some katakana characters can be very similar in appearance to hiragana characters, which can cause confusion.

One of the main challenges with katakana is that it has many exceptions to its pronunciation rules. For example, the character ツ (tsu) is pronounced “tsu” in most cases, but when combined with a small ャ, ュ, or ョ, it takes on a different sound, such as “cha”, “chu”, or “cho”. This requires learners to memorize all of the possible sound combinations for each character.


Kanji is a logographic alphabet used in Japanese, with each character representing a word or concept. The Japanese language has over 50,000 kanji characters, but only around 2,000 are commonly used. Kanji is a challenging alphabet to learn due to the sheer number of characters and the difficulty in memorizing them.

One of the challenges with kanji is that each character can have multiple meanings, depending on the context in which it is used. For example, the character 日 can mean “day”, “sun”, or “Japan”, depending on the context. This can make it challenging for learners to understand the meaning of a sentence when they encounter a kanji character they do not know.

Another challenge with kanji is that each character has a specific stroke order, which can be difficult to master. If the stroke order is incorrect, the character will not be readable, making it imperative to memorize the proper stroke order.


While all three Japanese alphabets – hiragana, katakana, and kanji – have their difficulties, kanji is often considered to be the hardest alphabet to learn due to the sheer number of characters and the difficulty in memorizing them. However, this does not mean that hiragana and katakana are easy – they both present their own challenges for learners. Ultimately, mastering all three of these alphabets is necessary for anyone looking to become fluent in Japanese. By practicing each alphabet regularly and seeking out additional resources such as language classes or textbooks, learners can overcome the challenges and successfully learn Japanese.


Is hiragana or katakana harder?

When it comes to learning Japanese, one of the first challenges that learners face is mastering hiragana and katakana. Both of these scripts are used extensively in written Japanese, and they are essential for any student of the language.

At first glance, hiragana and katakana may look quite similar. They are both phonetic scripts, with each character corresponding to a specific sound. However, there are some key differences between the two that can make one harder to learn than the other.

One reason why many people find katakana harder than hiragana is that it is used primarily for loanwords from other languages. This means that much of the vocabulary written in katakana is made up of foreign words and terms, which can be hard to remember and pronounce correctly. For example, words like “coffee” (コーヒー) and “computer” (コンピューター) are written in katakana, while their native Japanese equivalents are written in hiragana.

Another factor that makes katakana harder to learn is that the characters are more angular and less abstract than hiragana. This can make it more difficult to recognize and remember the individual characters, especially for those who are used to reading alphabetic scripts.

Despite these challenges, it is important to note that neither hiragana nor katakana is inherently harder than the other. Like any new skill, learning these scripts takes time and practice. With enough repetition and exposure, you will eventually become comfortable reading and writing both hiragana and katakana. Moreover, keep in mind that once you have mastered these scripts, you will have unlocked a whole new world of Japanese language learning, making it easier for you to access a wider range of materials and communicate more effectively in both written and spoken Japanese.

Which alphabet is the easiest in Japanese?

When studying Japanese, it’s important to learn and understand the various alphabets that are used in the written language. While Japanese languages use three scripts, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, Hiragana is typically considered to be the easiest to learn. Hiragana is the first script that new learners, including children in Japan, begin with.

Hiragana is a phonetic script that is used primarily for grammatical purposes. Each character in Hiragana represents a sound, with a total of 46 characters covering the entire Japanese phonetic system. In comparison to Katakana, which is typically used for foreign words, and Kanji, which is a set of logographic characters that represent words, Hiragana is simple and easy to learn.

One of the reasons that Hiragana is considered the easiest Japanese alphabet to learn is that it has a blocky, simple structure. The majority of the characters are made up of just three to four strokes, which makes them easy to memorize. Furthermore, there are no significant differences between the printed and handwritten forms of Hiragana, further simplifying the learning process.

Not only is Hiragana easier to learn, it’s also incredibly useful. Many beginner-level textbooks and syllabi use Hiragana to teach the basics of grammar and sentence structure, providing a smooth transition into more complex vocabulary and sentence structures. With its phonetic nature, Hiragana also makes it easier to read Japanese words properly, which can help to further advance one’s understanding of the written language.

In general, Hiragana represents about 50% to 60% of Japanese texts. Therefore, learning this alphabet is an essential and advantageous first step to mastering the written Japanese language. Once you have mastered Hiragana, you can move onto Katakana and Kanji with a solid foundation that will make learning those scripts much easier than starting from scratch.

Should I learn hiragana or kanji?

If you are looking to learn the Japanese language, one of the first things you will need to do is learn the writing system. Japanese consists of three different scripts: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are phonetic scripts, while kanji consists of symbolic characters.

As a beginner, you may wonder which of these scripts to learn first. While it may be tempting to jump straight into kanji, it is recommended to first learn hiragana, followed by katakana and then kanji.

Hiragana is the most basic script in the Japanese writing system and is essential for all beginners. It looks more cursive than katakana or kanji, and is used to write native Japanese words, conjugation endings, and grammar particles. Hiragana consists of 46 characters, with each character representing a syllable. It is easy to learn and memorize, and once you have learned hiragana, you will be able to read basic Japanese sentences.

Katakana is similar to hiragana in that it is a phonetic script, but its characters are more angular than cursive. Katakana is used primarily to write foreign words, loanwords, and onomatopoeia. It is also used for emphasis and to differentiate similar-sounding words. Katakana also has 46 characters, and its writing style is simpler than that of kanji.

Kanji, on the other hand, is a more complex script consisting of thousands of symbolic characters. Kanji characters represent not only sounds, but also meanings. It will take time and effort to learn kanji, and it requires a good understanding of Japanese grammar and vocabulary. However, learning kanji is essential for mastering the Japanese language, as it is used in nearly all aspects of Japanese, from formal writing to text messaging.

Whether you should learn hiragana, katakana, or kanji first depends on your goals for learning Japanese. If you want to read and write basic Japanese sentences, you should start with hiragana. If you plan to communicate in Japanese with other learners or Japanese speakers, learning katakana might also be necessary. If your goal is to achieve fluency in Japanese, it is essential to learn kanji, as it is a crucial part of the language.