J-List
hiragana example
(above) From Kanji Book: Book One
by Naoe Naganuma,
calligraphy by Chikudō Takatsuka.
Tokyo: Chōfūsha Co., 1951.
While other people's mnemonics are a big help in the beginning, I found it more meaningful and the effects longer lasting when you create your own. To improve my listening, I watch and listen to anime. To improve my reading comprehension, I read manga. But to improve my character recognition, I use a combination of mnemonics and stroke order writing practice.

H = hiragana (what Japanese schoolchildren learn first)
K = katakana (used for writing words adapted from foreign languages)

NOTE: The background graphic is a translation of Kokkuri-san, a Ouija-like board that Japanese schoolchildren can make by writing hiragana characters on a piece of paper and using a 10-yen coin (about 10 cents and the size of a quarter) as an indicator. Sometimes participants hold onto a pen or pencil and use that as a pointer. Kokkuri-san is the name given to the fox spirit who possesses the participants and provides the answers: "Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, if you're here...." The red torii at the top of the board represents a gateway to a Shintō shrine where foxes are often guardians and messengers as they are associated with Inari, the deity of rice cultivation.


a i u e o
aru ("there is/are" for
things, pres.), atta (past),
nai (neg.), nakatta (neg. past);
iru ("there is/are" for people
and animals, pres.), ita (past),
inai (neg.), inakatta (neg. past)
i-adj. (—ai, —ii, —ui, —oi):
—ku (-ly), —katta (past),
—kunai (neg.),
—ku arimasen (polite neg.),
—kunakatta (neg. past)
Ki (w)o tsukero!
HE, also pronounced [e],
is used for writing the particle
following a direction/place.
Ki (w)o tsukero!
WO, also pronounced [o],
is used for writing
the direct object particle.
ka ki ku ke ko
kara (from, starting point)
dai ikka (lesson one)
kore KA are KA (this or that)
phrase GA, contrary phrase
sumimasen GA (sorry but)
KI + (half-size ya) = kya
kya, kyu, kyū, kyo, kyō
gya, gyu, gyū, gyo, gyō
clause particle: KE (~ but, …)

ge-ge-ge (cackling), e.g.,
manga GeGeGe-no-Kitarō.
sa shi su se so
SHI + (half-size ya) = sha
sha, shu, shū, sho, shō
ja, ju, jū, jo, jō
(katakana only) she, je
ta chi tsu te to
-tai (I wish to or want to)
dare (who)
CHI + (half-size ya) = cha
cha, chu, chū, cho, chō
(katakana only)
TE + (half-size i) = ti
DE + (half-size i) = di

desu ("to be"), deshita (past),
dewa/ja* arimasen (neg.),
dewa/ja* arimasen deshita
(neg. past), *"ja" is informal.
(katakana only)
TO + (half-size U) = tu
DO + (half-size U) = du

doko (where),
dono or dore ga (which),
dono kurai (to what degree),
donata (who [female speech]),
dou (how, how about)


na ni nu ne no
na-adj. (—ei, non-i)
+ NA + noun

na-adj. + de (-te form),
+ deshita (polite past),
+ dewa/ja* arimasen (p. neg.),
dewa/ja* arimasen
deshita (polite neg. past)
*"ja" = informal form
NI + (half-size YA) = nya
nya, nyu, nyū, nyo, nyō

1) subject + WA (write HA)
+ place + NI + aru/iru
2) ko-/so-/aso-/doko (place)
+ NI + subject + GA + aru/iru
3) place of work + NI
+ tsutomeru ("to work")
ha hi fu he ho
HA is pronounced [wa]
when used as a particle.

someone + WA (write HA)
+ something + GA + adj. + desu

time phrase + WA (write HA);
HA ("as for," modifies time)
HI + (half-size YA) = hya
hya, hyu, hyū, hyo, hyō
bya, byu, byū, byo, byō
pya, pyu, pyū, pyo, pyō
(katakana only)
FU + (half-size vowel) =
fa, fi, fe, fo
HE is pronounced [e]
when used as a particle.

doko + E (write HE) + ?-mark
ma mi mu me mo
made (until, ending point)
masu: future action,
mashita: past action
masen deshita (neg. past)
MI + (half-size YA) = mya
mya, myu, myū, myo, myō
ya yu yo
ra ri ru re ro
RI + (half-size YA) = rya
rya, ryu, ryū, ryo, ryō
wa wo n dash
Ki (w)o tsukero!
HA, also pronounced [wa],
is used for writing
the topic particle.
U.S.: subject + verb
+ direct object
JAPAN: subject + direct object
+ O (write WO) + verb

place moved from/through
+ O (write WO)
nani + O (write WO) + verb