top of page

a, i, u, e, o | Learning Japanese 101


Hiragana characters are the alphabet in Japanese. And as you all know, we all cite our vowels with a, e, i, o, u. But in Japanese, they follow the format of a, i, u, e, o. Yes that's right, the first thing you gotta remember is that we forget about our traditional a, e, i, o, u and now gotta start reciting our vowels by following their format of a, i, u, e, o. Why? Because the entire chart will rely on this order.

I purposely made the rest of the characters unreadable and hurt your eyes so we can focus on today's priority. We need to familiarize ourselves with the vowels.

The five highlighted in red will be today's priority to learn.

It is called "a row syllables" I am not sure if it's "a ぎょう" or "a 段" for the Japanese version of it.

What we are studying is under the gojuuon which means gojuu (50) sounds. This will be the basic alphabet without the dakuten or maru yet. We will get to this later. Just thought I should mention it first.

あ = a

い = i

う = u

え = e

お = o

Look closely.

See if any of my methods are helpful to help you memorize and remember them.

Method 1: Writing with reference.

I wrote each characters one by one to help my muscle memory remember the strokes and form of the character. I re-wrote them dozens of times on a scratch paper or a notebook, which will help me be familiar with the characters.

It is very important that we do not wrote one dot or line in the wrong place, because it's wrong. And in kanji it might even have a whole new meaning. There are many writing sheets for you to download online and have them printed if you want to invest. But for me, I just have a photo in my phone and a piece of paper for me to write on. And write the character as many times as it takes until eventually I can write it without having to look at my phone for reference (Method 3).

Method 2: Remembering with Hints.

Sometimes it is just really hard to remember which is which, what stroke is missing or how the character is what it is. So I used a bunch of hints to remind myself that 'oh, this is that character'.

For example, we have あ (a). It's a cross slightly curved and a reversed e at the bottom.

My teacher called the reverse e as a fish. But it really depends on how you look at it.

How do I know it's "a" through these hints?

It looks like a small letter "a" in a way. For me at least.

i (い) This one is really simple. I just look at it as a reversed "J" and a deformed "i". J is like the base of the small letter i and the little stroke on the right is the dot.

Which makes me think of letter "i".

You can think of your own hint. I believe most tutorials would provide you with an image to remember the character as well.

Let's try う (u). I imagine it is an ear with a cherry on top or half a heart with an eyebrow. It's not exactly related to the letter but it's something to help me remember the form.

Or it looks like sideways u with a mole. Weird. I know.

For え (e) it is a bit complicated but I have a weird combination of ideas for this.

It has 7 as its base shape, a cherry on top and a tail.

Lastly, お (o). This was the last vowel that I mastered, it takes a lot of re-writing without reference but it paid off.

The base 't' is similar to our あ (a). The difference is that we do not let go of the pen and keep going for a sideways 'j' and the dot on its butt.

These are my hints while I was learning. But at the end of the day, I go back to writing to really memorize it.

Method 3: Writing without reference.

This is by far one of the most effective methods for me to memorize and remember the characters since 2014 up to present.

What I do is I apply both method 1 and 2 to one character. And then remove the reference.

For example, I want to learn to write あ (a). I will write it as many times as I can on paper (which is Method 1) while reference is right beside me. Whether a printed material or a phone. And when I felt like I can write it without looking, I will close the gallery and try to write it on my own. If it's right, woohoo! Onto the next character!

But here is the thing, I progress by challenging myself to redo the writing.

For example, after I learned あ (a). I will move on to い (i). Repeating Method 1. But this time, when I close my reference, I will start writing あ (a) again and then い (i).

It is like memorizing words, then we start memorizing sentences and then a paragraph. Same concept. We start with one character, then we start writing 2 characters until we can write all of あ (a), い (i), う (u), え (e), お (o) without reference!

It's too much effort, but it pays off. And it pays off well.

You can test yourself by reading some hiragana characters with only the hiragana that you've learned. Here are a few that you can start with.







Correct answer:

iie (no)

ai (love)

ie (house)

ao (blue)

ue (up)

ii (good)

e (picture)

See you on the next blog.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page