In this article, you will read about how to remember Hiragana characters with Chinese characters. 
Hiragana was derived from Chinese characters. 
It can be a good mnemonic for those already knowing Chinese characters.

Reading time: 23 minutes

1. Hiragana characters: a, i, u, e, o

See figure 1 for the Chinese characters and the simplified versions of these characters.

A: あ

Look: looks similar to the simplified version.
Sound: in Cantonese, 安 is pronounced as “an”, “an”-n is the “a” sound.

I: い 

Look: it’s the left part of the original version.
Sound: 以 is pronounced as “i” in Min Nan and Hakka language, so they have the same sound.

U: う

Look: a stretched-out top part of the simplified version.
Sound: the 宇 is pronounced as “u” in Min Nan language, so they have the same sound.

Figure 1: the hiragana characters a, i, u, e, o with Chinese characters.

E: え

Look: similar to the simplified version.
Sound: the Chinese character does not sound “e” in no Chinese dialect. 

To remember, we can use the Chinese character 茄, spoken as “ke” in Cantonese. 
Minus -k is “e”.

O: お

Look: not very similar looking.
Sound: the Chinese character, unfortunately, does not sound “o” in Chinese languages.

We can use 屙 as an alternative to remember お, which is spoken as “o” in Cantonese. 
屙屎 “o si” means “defecate” in English.


An overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

A あ安 “an”-n (Cantonese)
I い以 “i” (Min Nan, Hakka)
U う宇 “u” (Min Nan)
E え茄 “ke”-k (Cantonese)
O お屙 “o” (Cantonese)

A little test

To test your memory of the Hiragana characters learned so far, below is a test you can try out.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

  1. 宇 “u”:

  2. 茄 “ke”-k:

  3. 以 “i”:

  4. 安 “an”-n:

  5. 屙 “o”:

  6. 宇 “u”:

  7. 茄 “ke”-k:

  8. 安 “an”-n:

  9. 以 “i”:

  10. 屙 “o”:

2. Hiragana characters: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko

See figure 2 for the Chinese characters and the simplified versions of the Chinese characters.

Ka: か

Look: similar to the simplified version and the right side with one dash is even simpler.
Sound: 加 is pronounced “ka” in Cantonese and Hakka language, so they have the same sound.

Ki: き

Look: almost similar to the simplified version but with the half-circle the other way around.
Sound: 幾 is pronounced “ki” in the Hakka language, so they have the same sound.

Ku: く

Look: it is the right part of the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately 久 is not “ku” in any Chinese language.

To remember it, we can use the Chinese character 腳 as an alternative to remember.

This is in Cantonese spoken as “kuk”, so kuk -k is “ku”.  

Figure 2: the hiragana characters ka, ki, ku, ke and ko with Chinese characters.

Ke: け

Look: similar to the simplified version and even simpler.
Sound: unfortunately 計 is not “ke” in Chinese. 

We can use 茄 as an alternative to remembering け, which is pronounced as “ke” in Cantonese.

Ko: こ

Look: straighten out and “turned around version” of the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately 己 does not “ko” in Chinese.

However, we can use 歌 as an alternative, which is “ko” in the Cantonese language.

An overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Ka か加 “ka” (Cantonese, Hakka)
Ki き幾 “ki” (Hakka)
Ku く腳 “kuk”-k (Cantonese)
Ke け茄 “ke” (Cantonese)
Ko: こ歌 “ko” (Cantonese)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

  1. 幾 “ki”:

  2. 歌 “ko”:

  3. 加 “ka”:

  4. 腳 “kuk”-k:

  5. 幾 “ki”:

  6. 加 “ka”:

  7. 腳 “kuk”-k:

  8. 茄 “ke”:

  9. 歌 “ko”:

10. 茄 “ke”:

3. Hiragana characters: sa, shi, su, se, so

See figure 3 for the Chinese characters and the simplified forms.

Sa: さ

Look: an even simpler version of the simplified version.
Sound: Unfortunately, 左 is not “sa” in any Chinese language.

We can use 殺, which is “saak” pronounced in Cantonese, so “saak”-ak is “sa”.

Shi: し

Look: it looks much like the simplified version but even simpler.
Sound: we need to use the alternative 是 character to remember, which is “shi” in Mandarin.

Su: す

Look: similar looking to the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately the character 寸 does not sound “su” in any Chinese language.

We need to use 術, which is pronounced “sut” in Cantonese, so “sut”-t is “su”.

Figure 3: Hiragana characters sa, shi, su, se, so with the Chinese characters.

Se: せ

Look: it looks similar to the simplified form and the original Chinese character.
Sound: 世 is pronounced “se” in the Wu Chinese language, so they have the same sound.

So: そ

Look: it does not really look like the other characters. 
Sound: we need to use an alternative like 傻, pronounced as “so” in Cantonese.

An overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Sa さ殺 “saak”-ak (Cantonese)
Shi し是 “shi” (Mandarin)
Su す術 “sut”-t (Cantonese)
Se せ世 “se” (Wu)
So そ傻 “so” (Cantonese)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

    1. 術 “sut”-t:

    2. 傻 “so”:

    3. 殺 “saak”-ak:

    4. 是 “shi”:

    5. 殺 “saak”-ak:

    6. 世 “se”:

    7. 傻 “so”:

    8. 是 “shi”:

    9. 世 “se”:

    10. 術 “sut”-t:

4. Hiragana characters: ta, chi, te, tsu, to

See figure 4 for the Chinese characters and the simplified forms.

Ta: た

Look: it looks very similar to the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately 太 does not sound “ta” in any Chinese language.

We can use the alternative 他, pronounced as “ta” in Cantonese and Mandarin.

Chi: ち

Look: it looks almost similar to the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately 知 does not sound “chi” in any Chinese language.

We can use the alternative 嚏, pronounced as “chi” in Cantonese to remember.

Tsu: つ

Look: similar to the simplified version and even simpler.
Sound: unfortunately 川 does not sound “tsu” in any Chinese language.

We can use the alternative 出, which is “tsut” in Cantonese, “tsut”-t is “tsu”.

Figure 4: the Hiragana characters ta, chi, tsu, te, to with the Chinese characters.

Te: て

Look: very similar to and even simpler than the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately 天 does not sound “te” in any Chinese language.

Instead, we can use 踢 which is “tek” in Cantonese to remember, “tek”-k is “tek”.

To: と

Look: it looks very similar to the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately does not sound “to” in any Chinese language.

We can use 陀, which is “to” in Cantonese, to remember it.

An overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Ta た他 “ta” (Cantonese and Mandarin)
Chi ち嚏 “chi” (Cantonese)
Tsu つ出 “tsut”-t (Cantonese)
Te: て踢 “tek”-k (Cantonese)
To と陀 “to” (Cantonese)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

  1. 嚏 “chi”:

  2. 陀 “to”:

  3. 他 “ta”:

  4. 踢 “tek”-k:

  5. 出 “tsut”-t:

  6. 他 “ta”:

  7. 陀 “to”:

  8. 嚏 “chi”:

  9. 出 “tsut”-t:

  10. 踢 “tek”-k:


5. Hiragana characters: na, ni, nu, ne, no

See figure 5 for the Chinese characters and the simplified forms.

Na: な

Look: similar to the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately, 奈 does not sound “na”. 

We can use the alternative 哪, spoken as “na” in Cantonese to remember.

Ni: に

Look: very similar to the simplified version and the Chinese version.
Sound: unfortunately 仁 does not sound “ni”.

We can use the alternative 你, spoken as “ni” in Mandarin Chinese to remember it. 

Nu: ぬ

Look: looks very similar to the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately, 奴 does not sound “nu” in any Chinese language. 

We can use the alternative 女 spoken as “nu” in Mandarin Chinese.

Figure 5: Hiragana characters na, ni, nu, ne, no with the Chinese characters

Ne: ね

Look: not very similar to both versions.
Sound: unfortunately the 祢 does not sound “ne” in any Chinese language.

To remember, we can use 呢, which is “ne” in Cantonese.

No: の

Look: it looks similar to the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately 乃 does not sound “no”. 

We need an alternative like 挪 which is spoken as “no” in Cantonese and Mandarin.

An overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Na な哪 “na” (Cantonese)
Ni に你 “ni” (Mandarin)
Nu ぬ女 “nu” (Mandarin)
Ne ね呢 “ne” (Cantonese)
No の挪 “no” (Cantonese, Mandarin)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

  1. 挪 “no”:

  2. 女 “nu”:

  3. 你 “ni”:

  4. 呢 “ne”:

  5. 哪 “na”:

  6. 你 “ni”:

  7. 挪 “no”:

  8. 女 “nu”:

  9. 哪 “na”:

  10. 呢 “ne”:

6. Hiragana characters: ha, hi, fu, he, ho

See figure 6 for the Chinese characters and the simplified forms.

Ha: は

Look: it looks similar to the simplified form.
Sound: unfortunately, 波 does not sound “ha” in any Chinese language.

So we can use an alternative like 哈, spoken as “ha” in Mandarin and Cantonese language.

Hi: ひ

Look: look a bit more like the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately, 比 does not sound “hi” in any Chinese language.

We can use 謙 “him”, spoken in Cantonese but without the “m” at the end. 

Fu: ふ

Look: look a lot like the simplified version. 
Sound: unfortunately, 不 does not sound “fu” in any Chinese language.

However, we can use 血 pronounced as “hyut” in Cantonese, without t, sounds like “fu”. 

6: Hiragana characters ha, hi, fu, he, ho with the Chinese characters

He: へ

Look: looks a bit like the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately 部 does not sound “he” in any Chinese language.

We can use the alternative 吃, pronounced as “hek” in Cantonese, minus the “k” is “he”.

Ho: ほ

Look: looks similar to the simplified form.
Sound: unfortunately 保 does not sound “ho” in any Chinese language.

We can use the alternative 可, pronounced “ho” in Cantonese to remember it.

An overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Ha は哈 “ha” (Cantonese, Mandarin)
Hi ひ謙 “him”-m (Cantonese)
Fu ふ血 “hyut”-t (Cantonese)
He へ吃 “hek”-k (Cantonese)
Ho ほ可 “ho” (Cantonese)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

  1. 吃 “hek”-k:

  2. 哈 “ha”:

  3. 謙 “him”-m:

  4. 可 “ho”:

  5. 血 “hyut”-t:

  6. 謙 “him”-m:

  7. 血 “hyut”-t:

  8. 哈 “ha”:

  9. 可 “ho”:

  10. 吃 “hek”-k:

7. Hiragana characters: ma, mi, mu, me, mo

See figure 7 for the Chinese characters and the simplified forms.

Ma: ま

Look: looks quite like the simplified form and close to the Chinese character.
Sound: 末 sounds “ma” in Wu Chinese and Min Dong Chinese languages.

Mi: み

Look: み looks very alike with the simplified version.
Sound: 美 sounds “mi” in Min Dong language. 

Mu: む

Look: む looks very alike to the simplified version.
Sound: unfortunately, 武 does not sound “mu” in Chinese. 

We can use 女, pronounced as “nu” in Mandarin and replace it with “m”, it becomes “mu”.

Figure 7: Hiragana characters ma, mi, mu, me, mo and the Chinese characters

Me: め

Look: it looks very similar to the simplified version and a bit like the Chinese character. 
Sound: unfortunately 女 does not sound “me” in Chinese. 

We can use 命, pronounced as “meng” in Cantonese minus ”ng”, becomes “me”.

Mo: も

Look: very similar to the simplified and the Chinese version.
Sound: 毛 is “mo” in Cantonese, basically the same sound.

Now an overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Ma ま末 “ma” (Wu Chinese, Min Dong Chinese)
Mi み美 “mi” (Min Dong)
Mu む女 “nu”-n +m “mu” (Mandarin)
Me め命 “meng”-ng “me” (Cantonese)
Mo も毛 “mo” (Cantonese)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

    1. 美 “mi”:

    2. 末 “ma”:

    3. 命 “meng”-ng “me”:

    4. 毛 “mo”:

    5. 女 “nu”-n +m “mu”:

    6. 美 “mi”:

    7. 命 “meng”-ng “me”:

    8. 女 “nu”-n +m “mu”:

    9. 毛 “mo”:

    10. 末 “ma”:

8. Hiragana characters: ya, yu, yo

See figure 8 for the Chinese characters and the simplified forms.

Ya: や

Look: very similar to the simplified version.
Sound: the Chinese character “也” in Cantonese and Hakka is “ya”.

Basically same sound.

Yu: ゆ

Look: look more similar to the simplified version.
Sound: the Chinese character 由 is pronounced as “yu” in Jin Chinese. 

The same sound.

Figure 8: Hiragana characters ya, yu, yo and the Chinese characters

Yo: よ

Look: similar to the simplified version.
Sound: the Chinese character 与 does not sound yo in any Chinese language.

To remember, we can use 玉, spoken as “yok” in Cantonese, -k is “yo”.

Now an overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Ya や也 “ya” (Cantonese)
Yu ゆ由 “yu” (Jin Chinese)
Yo よ玉 “yok”-k (Cantonese)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

  1. 由 “yu”:

  2. 玉 “yok”-k:

  3. 也 “ya”:

  4. 由 “yu”:

  5. 也 “ya”:

  6. 玉 “yok”-k:

9. Hiragana characters: ra, ri, ru, re, ro

See figure 9 for the Chinese characters and the simplified forms.

Ra: ら

Look: a bit similar to the simplified form. 
Sound: unfortunately 良 does not sound “ra” in Chinese. 

To remember, we can use  拉 spoken as “la” in Mandarin Chinese, replacing with r becomes “ra”.

Ri: り

Look: not really look alike. 
Sound: 利 is spoken as “ri” in Wu Chinese, they have the same sound.

Ru: る 

Look: it looks similar to the simplified form.
Sound: unfortunately 留 is not spoken as “ru”.

To remember, we can use 如, spoken as “yu” in Cantonese and replaced with “r”, to become “ru”.  

Figure 9: Hiragana characters ra, ri, ru, re, ro and the Chinese characters

Re: れ

Look: it looks very similar to the simplified form.
Sound: in Min Nan language, 礼 is pronounced as “re”, basically the same sound.

Ro: ろ

Look: it looks very similar to the simplified form. 
Sound: unfortunately, 呂 does not sound “ro” in Chinese. 

To remember, we can use 六, pronounced as “lok” in Cantonese.

Lok +r -k, becomes “ro”.

Now an overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Ra ら拉 la -l +r, “ra” (Mandarin)
Ri り利 “ri” (Wu Chinese)
Ru る如 yu -y +r “ru” (Cantonese)
Re れ礼 “re” (Min nan)
Ro ろ六 “lok” -l -k +r “ro” (Cantonese)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

  1. 利 “ri”:

  2. 如 yu -y +r “ru”:

  3. 六 “lok” -l -k +r “ro”:

  4. 礼 “re”:

  5. 拉 la -l +r, “ra”:

  6. 六 “lok” -l -k +r “ro”:

  7. 礼 “re”:

  8. 利 “ri”:

  9. 拉 la -l +r, “ra”:

  10. 如 yu -y +r “ru”:

10. Hiragana characters: wa, wi, we, wo, n

See figure 10 for the Chinese characters and the simplified forms.

Wa: わ

Look: it looks a bit similar to the simplified form. 
Sound: unfortunately, 和 does not sound “wa” in Chinese. 

To remember, we can use 娃, spoken as “wa” in Cantonese.

Wi: ゐ

Look: it looks similar to the similar form. 
Sound: 為 is pronounced as “wi” in Min Nan language.

We: ゑ

Look: it looks similar to the simplified form.
Sound: unfortunately, 恵 does not sound “we”. 

To remember, we can use 為, pronounced as “we” in Wu Chinese.

Figure 10: Hiragana characters wa, wi, we, wo, n and the Chinese characters

Wo: を

Look: it looks much like the simplified form. 
Sound: unfortunately, 遠 does not sound “wo” in Chinese. 

We can use 屙 as an alternative to remember を, which is spoken as “o” in Cantonese.

It is the same mnemonic used for お.

N: ん

Look: looks somewhat similar to the simplified form. 
Sound: in Min nan language 无 is pronounced as “ng”, so it is a similar sound.

Now an overview of the mnemonic for the Hiragana characters:

Wa わ娃 “wa” (Cantonese)
Wi ゐ為 “wi” (Min nan)
We ゑ為 “we” (Wu Chinese)
Wo を屙 “o” (Cantonese)
N ん无 “Ng” (Min nan)

A little test

Do the test below to check out your memory of the Hiragana characters.

Write down the hiragana characters next to each Chinese character’s sound.

To check the answer in case you don’t remember, select the space next to the colon: 

  1. 屙 “(w)o”:

  2. 无 “Ng”:

  3. 為 “wi”:

  4. 娃 “wa”:

  5. 為 “we”:

  6. 无 “Ng”:

  7. 為 “wi”:

  8. 屙 “(w)o”:

  9. 娃 “wa”:

  10. 為 “we”:

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