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TYJ Hiragana shapes

This article is in the series Teach Yourself Japanese

4.3. Hiragana shapes

4.3.1. Hiragana fonts

The following hiragana often have different shapes for different fonts. Since all the Japanese characters have the same height and width, they don't have a different width in proportional fonts. Even the smaller kana used for double kana have the same height and width, considering the space around them.


Most newspapers and books published in Japan use the Minchô font, which is a modern font equivalent to the Times Roman font in English. This font is based on the style of China's Míng Dynasty (1368-1644), which is called Minchô in Japanese. By the way, Chinese people prefer the Sôchô font, which is based on the style of Sòng Dynasty (960-1279).

The Gothic font is equivalent to the Helvetica font in English. The font has nothing to do with the German Gothic font. This font is easier to learn with because it has no serif. The Minchô font and Gothic font are the two most popular fonts on computers.

The Kaisho font is similar to the Script font in English, and hiragana are often drawn like this font in calligraphy. The traditional equipment to write characters that have been used for more than two thousand years in East Asia is a brush and paper, not a quill and parchment, and the Kaisho font has beautiful brushstrokes that appeal to East Asians.

The Textbook font is a kind of Kaisho font, but its brushstrokes are not so strong. This font is good to learn Japanese with because it is similar to hand-writing. Textbooks for elementary schools in Japan use the Textbook font.

The Maru Gothic font and the Pop font are funny fonts often used for advertisements.

4.3.2. Confusing hiragana

The following hiragana resemble one another.







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About author
My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

I work as a display engineer.

One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.


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