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Issue 5: Study Tips

February 20, 2010


No more chicken scratch handwriting, write hiragana how it’s really written!

explanation-3awhitene of the things that’s typical to gaijins learning Japanese, even the ones living in Japan, is that they have atrocious handwriting. So you’ve past JLTP level 1, yet nobody can read the chicken scratch some call handwriting (maybe niwatori can understand it). Seriously, have you ever seen a non-native Japanese learner (excluding the Chinese and Korean) write beautifully? Unless you were born there, grew up there during your childhood or just one of those rare gifted people who write beautifully even if it were Egyptian hieroglyphs. It’s a fact that the girnormously large part of learners writes downright UGLY (you ain’t got no alibi) when not writing their own native alphabet.

Yes, we don’t have to write as much as we used to do (in fact, some people have claimed never even seen a pen) cus we all have our iPhones permanently strapped to the palm of our hands. Nevertheless, beautiful handwriting is something that is looked up upon and in countries such as Japan it earns you admiration and respect (especially if you’re a gaijin).

Print vs Handwritten
Handwriting Masterclass is a three-part series in handwriting covering hiragana, katakana and kanji. In todays issue we’ll handle part 1 and focus on the basics, hiragana. As you might know, hiragana was derived, just like katakana, from Chinese characters. Often used more by women when created in the beginning, it has more curvy features than kanji and a more flowing feel to it.

New learners of Japanese often copy hiragana directly as printed in their textbooks resulting in unnatural handwriting. Because printed text is often based on characters written using a『 (ふで、calligraphy brush)』, writing them with a normal ballpen isn’t the same. Just as you don’t write the printed letter『a』like that, handwritten hiragana also differs from printed text. We’re going to learn how to write written hiragana, comparing them with printed versions and practise natural writing step by step.


explanation-3aWhat’s a good pen to write?
You know, I’ve seen people asking this question on forums wanting to know what kind of pen is the best to write Japanese with. One will recommend a 0.5mm fineliner, another one would say one of those special pens with a fancy brush-like tip, but you know what?


It don’t matter with what you write with, it should all be the same. You could write with fingerpaint and it still should look nice, don’t you agree? Writing is writing no matter what you’re holding between your digits.

Now here’s a real recommendation on writing tools, ROTATE. While it is true that certain kind of pens are easier to write with, in order write good, rotate between writing tools such as ballpoints, pencils and fine markers switching from one to another every now and then to promote a steady hand at writing and creating balance.
Yes, practise makes perfect and practising writing is ofcourse no different. Japanese kids have the luxury of having countless material like books, practise sheets and writing courses at their disposal helping them to write beautifully, courtesy of their mums. We Japanese learners have to do it with the small hiragana chart printed at the back of our textbooks. After a lot of writing and getting corrected numerous times, not to mention a whole worth of paper, my handwriting finally looks quite natural and not unnative-like (if I maybe so bold to say so myself).

explanation-3aTo help you develop real handwriting, I’ve created a set of 5 practise sheets each covering 8 – 10 hiragana (and yes, I wrote them myself and traced every single one of ’em in Illustrator). On the left you’ll see the printed version of a character (including romaji pronunciation for those still learning hiragana) and on the right the actual written version. Arrows and pointers will guide you through and dotted examples as well as practise squares let’s you practise them on your own. Also included is a handy checklist for you to keep track.

Feel free to download (click to open or right-click to download) the sheets (in high quality PDF) below and print them out in glorious color or black and white (laser printers: don’t forget to turn on raster for even better prints) as many times as you want.


Your feedback is important
If you liked the sheets (or don’t) or if you think it needs improvement, give me a shout in the comment section helping me improving and providing you with the best quality possible. Well, that wraps up this issue of Chokochoko. Next time: Handwriting Masterclass part 2: Katakana, be sure not to miss it!


43 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2010 3:02 am

    this is really useful! I remember being frustrated by how difficult hiragana looks – and sometimes the different types of fonts used by different textbooks made some of the characters look different. ><

    • February 21, 2010 5:04 pm

      Hangul is even more difficult imo! hehe cus everything just looks too similar. At least hiragana is somewhat more distinct from eachother.

  2. February 21, 2010 6:20 pm

    I’m just starting to learn hiragana also. Those fonts which use brush pen with their little ticks confuse me.

    For example, on your PDF, for the character “KI”. The brush pen font had that character’s 3rd stroke continue down without breaking and then turning left for a curve and then turn back to right.

    However, based on your handwriting, your 3rd stroke stops at the bottom. And that “curve” is replaced by a short curve (your 4th stroke).

    Same situation with the character “SA”.

    On wikipedia, under the “How to write Hiragana” section, their handwriting instructions seems to teach the brush pen stroke styles.

    • February 21, 2010 6:30 pm

      Yea, thats why there is a difference between fonts (which are based on brush strokes) and actual handwriting. And most books/sites teaching hiragana are based on printed fonts and this sometimes confuses when reading (seeing) handwritten versions which are a bit different. 🙂
      Well good luck with the writing!

  3. February 21, 2010 9:09 pm

    Love the new site! I think it interesting the difference between Japanese and Korean language systems and how people tend to find Hangul harder than Hiragana and Katakana. Personally, I find it the other way.. haha. Maybe I’m just weird eh? 😉

    축하해요 on the new site! Looks terrific! ^_^

    • February 21, 2010 11:03 pm

      Thanks! Haven’t figured out what that says there in Korean, I can read it but what does it mean…? BUT WAIT!! Don’t translate it! I will figure it out by myself! hehe

  4. February 21, 2010 9:32 pm

    Is back! and what a return back! jesus christ! those issues are awesome. I loved the PDF sheet, I already printed and it is perfect for practice a bit ^^

    Anyway, a similar sheet for katakana would be nice!

  5. February 22, 2010 2:02 am

    First off, wow! This is a great site you have here, very nice! 😉

    And honestly, my writing still sucks after 1.5 years worth of Japanese studies. But I can’t say that I have practiced beautiful writing a whole lot either. And actually, my English handwriting is just as ugly 😛

    • February 23, 2010 6:07 pm

      Well after a lot of practise, I still can write like chicken scratch! Its absolutely horrendous haha, thanks for visiting btw.

  6. February 22, 2010 7:33 pm

    Yeah handwriting is important. I trieded some games for the Nintendo DS but it´s still a diffrence between a sheet of paper you are writing on or the screen of your DS.

  7. ニケ permalink
    February 22, 2010 7:37 pm

    とても便利ですよ! I haven’t had too much hiragana practice yet so I haven’t really developed my own proper handwriting yet, and I was aware of some but not all differences between printed and handwritten characters. Thanks to your practice sheet I found out I should (or can?) write a few characters differently than I do now. For example, I always write the そ in one swoop while you use two strokes, I write the わ and ね as they are printed while you simplify the 2nd stroke. I also make my い and こ rounder than you do. And now I know what a proper ふ should look like, mine was a pathetic copy of the printed version. ありがとうございます!!

  8. February 23, 2010 2:15 pm

    Never thought I would actually get a chance to start studying japanese writing again. So many years has passed since I even tried to learn japanese as a teenager. Thanks to this site and some other great ones, and thanks to your sheets I am on me way to learn this beautiful language again. To learn a language meens aswell to learn its hidden culture ( culture is indeed embeded in a countries language :D) and to that part writing beautifully ( as you have pointed out is important in Nipon) is important. Thank you once again for a great site and for the training sheets.

    • February 23, 2010 6:05 pm

      Well, you know what they say, you’re never too ‘old’ to learn 🙂 Glad the sheets were helpful!

  9. March 20, 2010 5:25 pm

    Say, do you plan to do an article on 習字? You’re really good at explaining things… I think it would be interesting to read your take on 習字。 I received this practice kanji board that makes letters appear just with water and disappear when its dry. Really cool to practice with. 聞いたことがありますか。

    • March 21, 2010 12:00 am

      Yeah, im still working on finishing part 2 (which is Katakana) and then the biggie part 3, kanji! Might even have to split that into several parts. Im not sure how Im gonna put that together yet since obviously I cant create a practise sheet foor lets say 2000 kanji haha.

      Interesting, I havent heard of that yet (care to share?). Or you mean something similar to a water bottle brush? My 書道先生 always wanted me to practise with him in the morning writing on the ground (at 7.30 in the morning).

  10. March 21, 2010 6:30 am

    If you did make practice sheets for 2000 kanjis, I can imagine how long that’ll take ^_^’
    Hmm.. I’m not so sure what you mean by water bottle brush.
    I tried looking for a site in English, but I couldn’t find one. I’m pretty sure you’re ok with a japanese one:
    It’s not exactly the one I have, but the thought is there.

    • March 21, 2010 10:31 am

      Thats why I won’t attempt to hahaha.

      That’s so awesome!!! I’ve never seen it before. That’s perfect for me because I really hate taking out the inkt (scrubbing inkt), washing the brushes, take out the mat and paper etc. I might order it! Btw, it didn’t really say, well it said water, is it just regular water or some kind of special water?
      Thanks for sharing this!

  11. March 22, 2010 6:19 pm

    Yeah, I know how the cleanup just doesn’t want you to even start ^_^.

    It’s plain water. You can just even use your finger, dip it in water and draw away on the board. I don’t know how long it has been around but it’s really quite an amazing 製品. I’m quite surprised not a lot of people know it yet. 🙂 Glad to share it.

  12. March 27, 2010 11:46 pm

    Thanks for the practice sheet. Your blog is amazing!

  13. Eldon Reeves permalink
    March 28, 2010 2:00 am

    It’s a very good point about printed and written a’s. My Hong Kong friends found my Chinese handwriting amusing (since it was modeled on printed fonts); changed it pretty speedily to match their handwriting after that! I think it’s also a good point when you said you got lots of corrections to get beautiful handwriting – self-studying only gets you so far… Kudos for getting beautiful handwriting; really interesting post, too 🙂

  14. Jacki permalink
    April 1, 2010 6:25 pm

    This is super cute! Just discovered the site and I love it already. The formatting and everything is just so wonderful, and the pdf looks incredibly professional! So much detail, nice balance of colors, and best of all, it’s useful. I am very impressed!

    Despite knowing my hiragana and katakana by heart, I think I could use a little more writing practice as I get sloppy. I hope to see maybe a few of these sheets for kanji (but don’t go crazy!). I’ll print out a few copies of this for my study group (we’re elementary 2 students this semester).

    Thank you so much! Keep up the excellence ^_^

    • April 1, 2010 10:28 pm

      Thanks for dropping by, and Im glad you like it! I think it’s great you study it together with your study group, ganbatte! 🙂

  15. April 1, 2010 9:11 pm

    Been writing out this PDF a couple of times now, just kept on practising and practising 🙂 I cant praise it enough 🙂

    I can suggest for peopel running Linux or OSX or even as I do, own a Nokia N900 phone ( or any phone that runs Maeomo operative ssyte…shoudl be only N900 so far 😀 ) To check out “kanatest”. Google it and you will find it straight away. its a wonderfull smal application that lets you test yoru Hiragana and katakana knowledge in small tests and then gives you stats about how well you did. On my phone it looks great 🙂

    I would soooooo love to se same type of PDF as this one but for Katana 🙂 I write horrible even in my mothertounge 🙂 and I love this PDF since it lets me practise from the beginning Hiragana ( just started to learn japanes 😀 )

    Keep up the great work, I wish I could create this type of great graphocs, I cant get nough of look at yoru blog 😀

    I even created a full PDF folder on me compuutaah from all of your mini tips and tips posts with all the great grapphics so I can study no matter where I am with great graphics to look at 😀

    • April 1, 2010 10:31 pm

      Always great to hear that people like it! Wish you all the best with your Japanese studies (read it on your blog), and whatever you do, don’t stop! 🙂
      (and yes there will be a katakana version)

      Love your new theme btw!

      • April 2, 2010 2:04 pm

        Thanx 🙂 I see that it was pretty late when I wrote that post, my fingers worked faster then my brain…. horrible spelling 🙂

        Thank you for the theme, we liked it way better then the old one 🙂 This one is somehow ..hoomey 🙂

  16. lupelupic permalink
    April 4, 2010 3:27 pm

    This is very helpful.
    I especially find the dotted lines and stroke orders useful — I admit that I always cheat with the stroke orders. It’s become quite a bad habit of mine, and I have unfortunately grown quite accustomed to the wrong stroke order. Ah well.

    This is a great blog you’ve got going on here; keep it up!

    • April 5, 2010 9:52 am

      Great you found it helpful! I also used to write some stroke order differently, and it is difficult to write it in another order when you’re already accustomed to it. Nevertheless, I’d still encourage you to teach yourself the correct way 🙂
      Thanks for visiting btw!

  17. April 9, 2010 12:43 am

    Dear folks, the katakana practise sheets are also available! 🙂

  18. Sevieve permalink
    April 17, 2010 10:23 pm

    Hi there! Great sheets!
    Just one question, will there also be sheets with が ざ and きゃ letters? Or do these not get used a lot?

    Oh and could you tell me if these sentences are alright?
    I’m a bit unsure about the use of ga and if I don’t need to say orandajin wa desu
    I mean, I know I’m the one whose talking but the conversation suddenly switches to something else…

    • April 17, 2010 10:37 pm

      You’re welcome! There won’t be any sheets for letters like が / ざ / きゃ etc. because you write them basically the same, just add the double dot or write them smaller like in き. The sheets were created to ‘learn how to write correctly’ rather than to learn hiragana, though I added romaji as a convenience. が / ざ / きゃ etc. do get used a lot, so you outta learn them too 🙂

      • 私はセビベです。correct!

      • オランダ人ですしアムステルダムすみますし日本語が習います。understand meaning but incorrect usage

      There are obviously many ways to say the same thing, but keeping it as close to yours as possible:
      • オランダ人、アムステルダムすんでいます。(technically correct but a bit static)
      • アムステルダムすんでいるオランダ人です。(more natural)

      • 今は日本語習います。

  19. BPR permalink
    August 18, 2010 8:23 am

    Thanq So much !!!!!

  20. Warre permalink
    August 26, 2011 2:26 pm

    Ehm, I’m learning it like this:
    Is this okay, or would you prefer me to do this? 😀
    I really love this site ^ __ ^

  21. Corliss permalink
    March 26, 2013 3:22 pm

    Reblogged this on 平凡な日 and commented:
    So…. my handwriting ain’t that bad? LOL IDK JUST STRESSED FOR JLPT

  22. October 18, 2013 9:03 am

    Hi, just dropping a line 😉

    I do love the worksheets, but I wish there were more boxes to trace on, it takes a while for me to get a hang of, so I end up scribbling everywhere to get it right.

    • Squire Starsquid permalink
      October 18, 2013 11:54 am

      Thanks for stopping by!

  23. T-Dog permalink
    April 18, 2016 3:39 am

    I realize this article was written 6 years ago, but I’m unable to find the practice sheets… are they still available at all?


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