History of Kanamoji (Katakana and Hiragana)

     Japanese language has three different alphabets; Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana. Kanamoji is a generic name for the character of Hiragana and Katakana. It is equivalent to the English alphabet and the kana character has the 46 standard phonetic characters.

     Around 500 AD, the basis of modern Japanese Kanji developed after Japan had a culture contact with Chinese. The Chinese character in that time was called “Manyogana(万葉仮名)“.However, because Manyogana is too difficult, during the Heian Period (794 – 1192), manyogana was adapted to create a Japanese script that was partly syllabic (characters based on sounds; hiragana and katakana) and partly logographic (characters based on concepts; kanji).

      Unlike Katakana which took one part from the Kanji, Hiragana is the simplified version of Kanji.  You can see how to create both characters from Kanji in the table below (Read from right to left).

Reference: Table from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FlowRoot3824.png

     In our page, Katakana-kun and Hiragana-chan are twins since they were born from Kanji in the same period (Heian). See picture below.


     You may notice that Katakana character is angular while Hiragana characters are rounded which made Hiragana look softer than Katakana. These shape also have a meaning.

     ▲In the past, Women normally used Hiragana to write private expressions (ex. diary) or write Waka (Japanese poem; 和歌)/ a tale. Although most women used Hiragana, some men also used Hiragana for writing poem too. It is said that all men needed to send love letter in hiragana to express their loves.

     ▲On the other hand, Katakana was normally used by men as an assist sign for reading Kanji (That’s why even now Japanese still put Katakana on top of Kanji). Moreover, since most of academic books were in Kanji, Katakana was always together with Kanji.

     These are the reasons why Katakana-kun is a boy and Hiragana-chan is a girl.

     And since both two characters were born (derived) from Kanji during Heian Period (794-1192) and even now Japanese people usually put them together with Kanji-kun, that’s why Katakana-kun and Hiragana-chan love Kanji-kun so much.

★Use of Kanamoji

You can write a sentence using only Kanamoji (like when we started to learn Japanese). However, it’s very difficult to understand. Thus, Japanese is usually mix between three characters. The use of Kanamoji is as follows.


  • ending of verbs and adjectives

  • postpositional particles, auxiliary verbs

  • words without Kanji

  • indication of the reading of kanji


  • foreign words, borrowed words, Japanized English

  • foreign names and place-names

  • technical and scientific words

  • names of animals, plants, etc.

  • onomatopoeia

  • indication of the reading of kanji

❤❤❤ ”Katakana was always together with Kanji.”  Later you will see that Katakana is ALWAYS with Kanji EVERWHERE XD ❤❤❤ 





http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1113511891 (in Japanese)

http://www.hana300.com/aakana.html (in Japanese)



One thought on “History of Kanamoji (Katakana and Hiragana)

  1. Pingback: Japanese Writing - Japan Travel Blog

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