【Learn Japanese from scratch】What is Kanji?


What is Kanji?

Kanji is one of the three types of Japanese alphabets which are used in reading and writing.


Other alphabets are Hiragana and Katakana.


Let’s see how Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji are used in a sentence.


I am going to have a barbecue with friends tomorrow.

  • Hiragana in yellow
  • Katakana in pink
  • Kanji in blue

There are actually ‘roles’ for each alphabet.

  • Hiragana is for noun, adjective, verb (at the end), particle
  • Katakana is for loan noun
  • Kanji is for noun, verb (at the start)

Loan nouns are nouns which are originally from other countries, バーベキュー(ba a be kyu u)in pink above for example.


You can watch the video below up to 1 minute and 42 seconds to learn about the Japanese writing system including Kanji.

Number of Kanji

There are millions of Kanji characters, so it is impossible to remember all of them even for Japanese people.

As a Japanese learner, it would be great if you could remember very basic 200 Kanji characters. See more details here.

The Japanese government says that Japanese people should be able to use about 2100 Kanji characters by the end of Year 12. They start to learn Kanji characters in Grade 1 and finish learning about 1000 of them by the end of Grade 6.

Kanji sound system

Each Kanji character has a basic meaning and a couple of different ways of pronunciation. For example, 林 means ‘small forest’ and the pronunciation is either ‘ha ya shi’ or ‘ri n’.