Image credit: Kanko* from Nagasaki, JAPAN
Did you know that there is a correct way to write in Japanese and an incorrect way? It might come as a surprise to you since in English you can write the letters of the alphabet in any way that you like.
What do I mean by this? Well if you were going to write the letter A for example, you could make the arch part by starting at the lower left side, going up, and then coming down and to the right. Or you could do it in the reverse way that I just described and both ways would be fine.
This is not the case in Japanese. There is a specific order for the strokes of each Hiragana, each Katakana, and each Kanji. Fortunately there are a few rules (sometimes they don’t apply) that will help you know how to write in Japanese correctly almost every time, even when it is a brand new Kana or Kanji.
There are a few irregular Kanji however, that you will have to learn the correct stroke order by heart. Let’s start with what will help us out the most and work on the irregulars at a later time.
There are nine rules to follow when writing Japanese. I’m talking primarily about Kanji here, but it also applies to both hiragana and katakana. For the most part the Kanas max out at four strokes, so they are easy to do.
Kanji on the other hand can have upwards of twelve strokes, so knowing the correct stoke order is a lifesaver. Trust me, when you want to look up a new Kanji in the dictionary, you are going to need to know how many strokes are in that bad boy. By knowing the general rules for writing Kanji, you can deconstruct a new one and look it up in the dictionary by stroke count.
Two last things:
- When you draw a horizontal line, go from the left to the right.
- When you draw a vertical line, go from the top to the bottom.
Alright, let’s begin!
Rule #1 – Write from the left to the right
Rule #2 – Write from the top to the bottom
Rule #3 – Write horizontal lines before vertical lines
Rule #4 – If symmetrical (line in middle) do the middle first, then go left, then right
Rule #5 – Do the outside (except bottom) before the center
Rule #6 – A left diagonal comes before a right diagonal
When you write a diagonal, start at the top, and go down and to the left or right.
Rule #7 – If the middle line PIERCES the Kanji, write it last
By now you will have noticed that a horizontal line that is immediately followed by a line going down is one stroke.
Rule #8 – A horizontal line that PIERCES the middle goes last
Rule #9 – A short left diagonal comes before a horizontal line
However, a long left diagonal comes after a horizontal line
Whew! What a workout!
I know that may seem like a lot, but there are very good reasons for having proper stroke order.
First of all, it’s a smooth way to go from one stroke to the next in order to create the complete Kanji.
And secondly, everyone’s handwriting is a little bit different from each other. And sometimes a LOT different! But as long as you wrote it the correct way, other people can follow it logically and figure out which Kanji it is.
Now I want to hear from you! Did you find it hard? Easy? Interesting? Have you every written things like Kanji before? Let me know!