This page is for tips on how to remember Japanese hiragana, by associating each hiraganan with a mental image.

a i u e o - あ い う え お

HiraganaRomajiStroke orderHow to rememberSound
a
  1. The first stroke is left to right
  2. The second stroke is top to bottom
  3. The last stroke is top, down and around
The last stroke looks similar to an "a", so remember it as "a" "a" as in the vowel sound of "up".
i
  1. The first stroke is top to bottom with a little flick up at the end (left side)
  2. The second stroke is top to botom (right side)
This hiragana looks similar to two "i"'s, so remember is as "i" "i" as in the vowel sound of "eat".
u
  1. The first stroke is from the left, across and down
  2. The second stroke is left to right (the small dash on the top)
Tip this hiragana on it's side and it can look like a "u", so remember it as the Japanese way to read "u" "u" as in the vowel sound from "toot".
e
  1. The first stroke is left to right, back down and left, then up down and flicking out to the right
  2. The second stroke is the left to right dash on the top
If there were a line between the top dash and the first stroke, you could imagine this looks like an "E", so remember it as "e"
or
if you tip it to the left, you can kind of imagine it looks like a tent, so remember it as the "e" from "tent".
"e" as in the vowel sound from "tent".
o
  1. The first stroke is left to right
  2. The second stroke is top to bottom, continuing around up and back down
  3. The third stroke is the dash to the right, left to right.
This is similar to the "あ/a" hiragana, except rather than having an "a" shape at the bottom, it has more of an "o" shape, so remember it as "o". "o" as in a short vowel sound of "or"
HiraganaMemoryHintsAIUEO
Image is visual representation of above descriptions for how to remember hiragana - あ/a い/i う/u え/e お/o

ka ki ku ke ko - か き く け こ

HiraganaRomajiStroke orderHow to rememberSound
ka
  1. The first stroke is top to bottom
  2. The second stroke is left to right and down
  3. The last stroke is the floating dash, top to bottom.
If you can imagine the left part of this is a cutlass, with the dash being the slashing motion a cutlass might make as it is cutting, you can remember it is ka. "ka" as in the cu sound from "cut".
ki
  1. The first stroke is the top left to right stroke.
  2. The second is the next left to right stroke.
  3. The last is top to bottom with a curving hook back and around.
If the hook part is the part you hold, and the two cross lines are the pegs, you can see a "key", so remember this is "ki". (Note: key has a long vowel sound, ki is a short vowel sound.) "ki" as in the first half of "keep".
ku
  1. One stroke, top to left kinking right to bottom.
Extending your imagination, this shape can perhaps be the open beak of a bird. If that bird were a dove, it would be calling "coo, coo". Remember this hiragana as "ku" "ku" as in the "cou" of "coupe".
ke
  1. The first stroke is (the left) top to bottom.
  2. The second stroke is (the right) top to bottom curling in.
  3. The last stroke if left to right, cutting the second stoke.
If the last stroke it a metal band holding the wood together, with a bottom and a lid and filled with beer, you could imagine this hiragana was a keg. "ke" as in "keg".
ko
  1. The first stroke is (the top) left to right
  2. The second stroke is (the bottom) left to right.
Squash this hiragana a bit and colour it yellow, and you might see it look quite like a cob of corn "ko" as in the first part or "corn"

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