If you’re interested in learning Japanese or planning a trip to Japan, you may be wondering how many letters are in the Japanese alphabet.

The Japanese alphabet has 46 characters, consisting of 5 vowels and 41 consonants.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the Japanese writing system and explore the different types of characters, how they’re used, and some tips for learning the language.

Types of Characters

When it comes to the Japanese writing system, there are three types of characters: hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

  • Hiragana: This is a syllabic writing system consisting of 46 characters. Hiragana is used for native Japanese words, verb endings, particles, and other grammatical constructs. It has a cursive, flowing appearance and is considered the most basic of the three writing systems.
  • Katakana: This is also a syllabic writing system consisting of 46 characters. Katakana is used primarily for loanwords from foreign languages, such as English, and for emphasis. It has a more angular appearance than hiragana.
  • Kanji: This is a logographic writing system consisting of thousands of characters, each representing a word or concept. Kanji characters were originally borrowed from China, and many of them have multiple readings and meanings. Learning kanji is considered one of the biggest challenges for non-native speakers of Japanese.

Together, these three writing systems make up the Japanese alphabet. While hiragana and katakana are each made up of 46 characters, the number of kanji characters is much larger and more difficult to quantify. Some estimates put the total number of kanji characters at over 50,000, but only a few thousand are commonly used in everyday communication.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Japanese writing system, there are many resources available online, including Tofugu, JapanesePod101, and Wasabi.

How Characters Are Used

The Japanese language uses a combination of three writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Each system has its own unique character set, and all three are used together in written communication.

  • Reading and Writing: Hiragana and katakana are phonetic systems, with hiragana being used for native Japanese words and katakana for foreign loanwords. Hiragana and katakana each consist of 46 characters, for a total of 92.
  • Pronunciation: One of the interesting things about Japanese pronunciation is that each syllable is pronounced with equal emphasis. This means that every vowel and consonant sound is pronounced equally, giving the language a very distinct rhythm.
  • Grammar: Japanese grammar is quite different from English, with a focus on particles to indicate the function of words in a sentence. Word order is also more flexible in Japanese than in English, with the subject, object, and verb often appearing in a different order than we are used to.

Kanji, on the other hand, are characters borrowed from Chinese and are used to represent words or ideas. There are thousands of kanji characters, but the Japanese government has identified 2,136 “common use” kanji that are taught in schools and considered essential for everyday communication.

Writing System Number of Characters Example
Hiragana 46 あいうえお (a-i-u-e-o)
Katakana 46 アイウエオ (a-i-u-e-o)
Kanji 2,136 日本 (Nihon, Japan)

Learning to read and write in Japanese can be a challenging but rewarding experience. With practice and dedication, anyone can become proficient in this fascinating language.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Japanese language, check out the website Japan-Guide for more information on grammar, vocabulary, and culture.

Tips for Learning Japanese

Learning Japanese can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with Hiragana and Katakana: These two writing systems form the basis of the Japanese language. Hiragana is used for native Japanese words, while Katakana is used for loanwords from other languages. Learning these two scripts will help you read and write basic Japanese sentences.
  • Learn Kanji Gradually: Kanji are Chinese characters that have been adopted into the Japanese writing system. There are over 2,000 kanji in common use, so it’s important to take your time and learn them gradually. Start with the most common characters and work your way up from there.
  • Practice Reading and Writing: Japanese is a highly visual language, so it’s important to practice reading and writing on a regular basis. Try writing out simple sentences in Japanese and reading Japanese texts out loud to improve your pronunciation.
  • Find a Language Partner: One of the best ways to learn Japanese is to practice speaking with native speakers. Look for language exchange programs in your area or find a language partner online. This will help you improve your speaking and listening skills and gain a better understanding of Japanese culture.

By following these tips and staying committed to your language learning journey, you’ll be able to speak and understand Japanese in no time!


Learning the Japanese writing system may seem daunting at first, but with practice and patience, it can become a rewarding experience. Remember to start with the basics, practice regularly, and seek out resources and support.

Whether you’re interested in Japanese culture, planning a trip to Japan, or simply want to challenge yourself, learning the language can open up a world of opportunities. We hope this article has given you a better understanding of the Japanese writing system and provided some helpful tips for your language journey.

Similar Posts