How to Start a Lesson (keirei)

KEIREI (けいれい) is a classroom greeting procedure that is performed at the start and end of each lesson, or when a teacher enters the classroom.

  1. The inchou (いんちょう:class representative) says KIRITSU(きりつ)
    Everyone stands up
  2. The いんちょうsays CHUUMOKU(ちゅうもく)
    Everyone stands at attention
  3. The いんちょうsays REI(れい)
    Students bow and say:SENSEI(せんせい)+
    OHAYOUGOZAIMASU (おはようございます)before recess or
    (こんにちは)after recess or
    (ありがとうございました)at the end of the lesson

    The せんせい replies:
    MINASAN (みなさん)and same greeting as above
  4. The いんちょうsays CHAKUSEKI (ちゃくせき)
    Everyone sits.



This very large set of characters com from China and are often called Chinese characters. They stand for particular meaning and are often read in a number of different ways depending on their place in a word. The Japanese commonly use almost 2000 of these characters. Although some of these characters are very simple, many of them are impressively complicated.

How well do Japanese people know their kanji? Let’s test them!

So, if Japanese native speakers are struggling, why do we have to learn and use kanji? 

Download Prescribed Characters for the Japanese Beginners Stage 6 Syllabus

Tools to help you learn

  1. Kanji Memory Hint Version 1 & 2
  2. Stroke Order / Caligraphy videos

Talking about the means of transport: ~で

So far, we have learnt that the particle で is used to indicate a place where an activity occurs. In this unit, we will see that it can also be placed after the means of transport by which you travel.

Revise vocabualry: Transport

  • ひこうきで by aeroplane
  • 電車で by train
  • とっきゅうで by special express
  • しんかんせんで by bullet train
  • ちかてつで by subway
  • じてんしゃで by bicycle
  • ふねで by boat
  • フェリーで by ferry
  • タクシーで by taxi
  • バスで by bus
  • 車で by car
  • つぎの電車で by the next train
  • 東京行きのバスで by the bus bound for Tokyo
  • あるいて on foot (あるきます→てfor)


Read as ~ゆき or ~いき, this is written after the destination (place) to mean ‘bound for’.


  • 東京行きの電車で行きます。I’ll go by the Tokyo-bound train.
  • 大阪にJALで行きます。I’ll go to Osaka by/on JAL.
  • 東京えきまで、ちかてつで行けますか。Can I get to Tokyo station by subway?
  • つぎのフェリーで行きたいです。I want to take the next ferry.

More on ~で

This particle can also be used to indicate the instrument by which an action is performed.

  • ペンでかいてください。
  • テレビでそのニュースを見ました。



When do we use katakana?

  • Loan (foreign) words except for Chinese origin words, which are written in kanji
    • Names of countries and people
  • Company names and their products
  • Onomatopoeia e.g. ワンワン, ドキドキ
    • Sounds made by rain, wind, motorbikes and animals
    • Even imagined sounds – even a death stare (ジー)
  • Some animal and insect names e.g. ゴキブリ
  • Emphasis e.g. それはダメです。
  • Change of tone – Use of katakana suggests more masculine and stronger tone, whereas hiragana suggests a softer and feminine speech.

Use of katakana

Signs in dotonbori
Manga (Emphasis)
Manga (Onomatopoeia)
Scientific name of plants (Loan Words)

How do we use katakana?

Essentially, katakana is used and read the same way as hiragana. Refer to the katakana chart below for its pronunciation.


Basic Katakana

Katakana Basic Reading

Modified Syllables (dakuon)

Dakuon Katakana

Consonants Plus “y”

Consonant Y.PNG

Long Vowels

Long vowels in katakana are indicated by “ー” for horizontal writing and flipped 90 degrees for vertical writing for all rows of katakana table.

Long vowel Katakana.PNG

Double Consonants

Doubling consonants is indicated by the katakana small tsu, ッ.

double consonants

Special device

So far, except for the simpler method of lengthening vowels, the use of katakana has been identical to the use of hiragana. We next come to a device that is used in katakana but not in hiragana. Some foreign words use sounds that are not used in Japanese. In order to express these sounds, a small a, i, e, o (ァ,ィ,ェ,ォ) is used. Their methods of use should be clear from examples below.


When compound words or names are written in katakana, sometimes, a dot is placed between the words.

  • ジョン・スミス (John Smith)
  • ホーム・ステイ (home-stay)
  • アウトドア・リビング (outdoor living)
  • ファッション・ショー (fashion show)
  • ハーバー・ブリッジ (harbour bridge)

Tools to help you learn

Katakana by Marugoto

Katakana stroke order animations, listen to each katakana, see how the katakana is used in common vocabulary, and take katakana quizzes.
(Click image to play)


Learn katakana in 10 days (Playlist)

Katakana Practice Booklet

(Click image to download)


Katakana Reading Exercises

Organised in levels of difficulty (Lv. 1 to 9)
(Click image to download)


Katakana Mnemonics

(Click image for access)


Katakana Memory Hint App by Japan Foundation

(Click image to download)

Katakana Quiz

(Click image to play)



Basic Hiragana

The Japanese writing system is made up from 46 basic syllabic letters. The basic hiragana are shown in the chart below. The method of writing them is shown in the Stroke Order Videos further down the page.


Basically, in Japanese script, all letters are pronounced individually (exceptions to this will be mentioned later). For instance, look at the first column.

あ い う え お

あおい, blue, is pronounced, a, o, i, as three separate vowels. There is no blurring of vowels as in the English word peal. An exception to this is when one vowel is repeated. It is then read as one long sound (i.e. the sound is held for two syllables), rather than being voiced twice. For instance:

  • いい good
  • ええ yes
  • ああ oh!




See more from


Similar Hiragana

Click image for more

Reading practice

Reading Practice

Advanced Hiragana

Modified Syllables (dakuon)

Some basic syllables can be modified by adding two dots (e.g. が) or a circle (e.g. ぺ). The pronunciation of these syllables is shown below.


When ga, gi, gu, ge or go is in the middle of the word, it may also be pronounced with a nasal ng or with the English pronunciation sound.

  • おりがみ paper folding
  • でんわ telephone
  • かぞく family
  • ともだち friend
  • さんぽ walk/stroll
  • えんぴつ pencil

Consonants plus “y”

If a small ゃ is added after the syllable き, it is then pronounced kya and written as きゃ. The small ゃ,ゅor ょ can be added any い sounds.

See Combo Hiragana below.Combo.PNG


It has been previously mentioned that いい, ええ and ああ are each pronounced as one long vowel. The vowels that are sounded in combination with consonants may also be lengthened by adding a vowel. For example, かあ is pronounced kaa (long a), not ka, a (two distinct vowel sounds).

Long vowels

It has been previously mentioned that いい, ええ and ああ are each pronounced as one long vowel. The vowels that are sounded in combination with consonants may also be lengthened by adding a vowel. For example, かあ is pronounced kaa (long a), not ka, a (two distinct vowel sounds).


  • あ sound + あ = long a sound
    • おかあさん mother
    • おばあさん grandmother
  • い sound + い = long i sound
    • いいえ no
    • いい good
    • ちいさい small
    • おにいさん older brother
  • お sound + う = long sound
    • こうこう high school
    • こうえん park
    • どうぞ please
  • え sound + い = long e sound
    • せんせい teacher
    • せいふく uniform
    • ていしょく set menu/meal
  • お sound + う = long sound
    • こうこう high school
    • こうえん park
    • どうぞ please
  • However, the following common words are exceptions, since they are lengthed by adding お instead:
    • おおきい big
    • おおさか Osaka
    • とおい far

Double Consonants

There are no syllables for individual consonants in Japanese. Hence, a special device is needed to indicate a double consonant. This device is called small tsu, っ.  Notice the difference in the size between つ and っ. The small っ is not pronounced. Instead, it indicates a pause before the next letter.

Practise writing hiragana including those with ten ten and maru.
(Click to download)

Practice booklets

Practise writing hiragana including those with ten ten and maru.
(Click to download)


Tools to help you learn

Hiragana by Marugoto

Hiragana stroke order animations, listen to each hiragana, see how the hiragana is used in common vocabulary, and take hiragana quizzes.
(Click image to play)


Hiragana Drag-n-Drop

(Click image to play)

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 9.49.34 pm.png

Hiragana Listening Acitivity

(Click image to play)


Hiragana Memory App by Japan Foundation

Download Link:

Hiragana Board Games

(Click image to download)

Basic Version
Advanced Version

Stroke Order Video Playlist

Japanese Sound System

Japanese sounds system only contains 5 vowel sounds.

  • /ah/ as in car
  • /i/ as in key
  • /u/ as in moo
  • /eh/ as in edge
  • /oh/ as in joe

These vowel sounds are combined with consonants to make a syllable.
For example:

  • /ka/
  • /su/
  • /yo/


The Japanese /r/

Although the Japanese consonant /r/ is written using Roman letters r, the pronunciation is closer to /l/. This results in Japanese people making errors in English such as:

  • rice vs lice
  • wrong vs long
  • right vs light

Watch the following video to practice Japanese /r/.

See the following hiragana chart to get an understanding of the Japanese sounds.

Be aware of the reading order (from right to left and top to bottom)

Version 1. Standard hiragana chart


Version 1. Extended hiragana chart with romaji


Here are some resources to help you become familiar with Japanese sounds!

Hiragana Song

Hiragana Rap

Hiragana Cartoon