Starting writing in Japanese

Not sure if this is the right place to put this but I just reset to level 1 from 10 in pretty sure.

Anyway I want to start learning to write at the same time, I know a lot of people recommend it later in the journey but I’m interested in starting it now as I go.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to start? Like should u practice hiragana and katakana and then the kanji I learn?

Also what should i get to start writing? Pencil or pens? Is regular lined paper what I use or is there a special kind I need?



Well even if you don’t study kanji writing so much, you should absolutely be able to write hiragana and katakana proficiently. The reason people recommend it later is that its kind of a time suck when you should be concentrating on progressing as a beginner. But different strokes for different folks. You can use apps or physical notes. I recommend getting graphing paper so you can balance your kanji nicely. It might be helpful to write words or sentences so that you are able to passively practice grammar and vocab at the same time. There isn’t any special writing devices necessary but I find a fine pencil or pen works pretty well. Thicker leads or tips can make for bulky kanji and difficult to write all the strokes in a small space. Good luck!


Workbooks with pages of graphs and some characters to trace over are readily available. I found a couple at our one remaining used book store. Otherwise, print out some graph paper or make extra lines on regular paper. It does help to use big squares, because there is a certain balance to the characters.

There was another thread with more, but I can’t find it now.

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I use dotted notebooks, because I find a three by three grid of dots enough to balance the kanji somewhat… though I’ll admit that I only write them once, when I do the initial lesson, because of a habbit of always writing notes when learning stuff because I read something once about handwriting sticking better in the memory.


I do mostly the same, except that I write each kanji and each vocab once. (And also your notebook looks much nicer than mine.) When learning a kanji, I also trace over the drawn lines multiple times to reinforce the “feeling” of the strokes, and say the primary reading out loud as I do so. That’s the only writing that I do, but it appears to be quite effective for me in terms of reinforcing the kanji in my memory.

This is the lesson that I just did:


I started with hiragana and then moved on to katakana. I’m learning in a classroom setting, though, so knowing how to write the basic scripts are a must. We are not restricted to specific writing instruments or paper in class – anything goes. I’ve written on single-line paper and blank paper, with pens and with pencils, but personally, I pencil on grid-square paper the best when it comes to writing practice. In fact, I’ve recently acquired a stack of 田字格本. It’s a special sort of grid-square paper used for practicing Chinese writing that also works for Japanese script. Great if you can get them, but totally not required to start writing! I just think that writing on this kind of paper makes your production more precise, that’s all.

Also sharing this:

Japanese Calligrapher Writing Hiragana

This person has great penmanship omg. Check out his other writing videos if you want to be inspired.

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I practice writing Kanji all the time on graph paper with mechanical pencils. I follow stroke orders from It’s a lot to take in at first, but after a while, the stroke orders become more intuitive.

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Here’s a couple of things we did back in school:

  • writing kanji onto each others back / hand: it was meant to be kind of a guessing game. One would write a kanji onto another person’s back. So they could not see the kanji but had to recognize it only from stroke order and stroke origin and stuff.
    => A version for self study would be writing the kanji into your own non-writing hand. You will know the kanji you’re about to write so there is no “guessing part”. The idea is, to focus on the feeling inside of the hand that is written on and picture the kanji from there.
    => A more “modern version” would be using an app / website like kanshudo or kokugo. The difference is though, you can’t feel anything onto your non-writing hand.
    => And to avoid misunderstandings, back then we kind of played this as games. We did not see this as some “officially approved to be helpful” study method :slight_smile:

  • pen or pencil?: back then we used a brush type pen. So the top of the pen was way more soft and flexible than either pencil or (ballpoint) pen. Nowadays, when you probably just type most of the time, I would argue they are way too expensive for what they are worth for. A good trade off might be using a marker.

  • write sentences / essays: we did write single kanji during handwriting lectures but mainly because that was the way we learned kanji back then. Nowadays, with all the different digital tools and SRS and stuff, I personally don’t see much use in it (and don’t do it parallel to WK). The major parts of writing we did were during grammar lectures or via writing (small) essays.
    => that’s something you can start doing right now. Start with simple sentences like This is two mountains. Between the mountains is a river. Above the mountains is heaven. ...
    => This may sounds “boring” at the beginning but gives you some good topics you can come back to once you’ve learned more grammar points and vocabulary. You then can re-write the sentences / essays into more sophisticated ones.

  • type of paper: back in school we had special type of paper for either “kanji study group” or essays.
    => What I use nowadays is an ordinary math notebook. I usually use 2x2 square when writing essays and 1x2 rectangle for spaces between groups of characters and 1x1 square between lines with characters. It feels slightly too large but gives me zero overhead in drawing any squares or lines myself.

So for people who made their decision and wish to practice handwriting I would probably recommend writing full sentences and essays. You can also use the Japanese Sentence a Day Challenge to get some feedback. Or you can write on topics from the Japanese only section and after writing it by hand you can type it into the corresponding thread and get some feedback. Or you can first translate some of the texts from your textbook and (a couple of weeks later) try to re-write something close to the Japanese original based on your translations.

@Joeni @xyrill: I do like your notebooks though. Both of them look pretty cool. And you can benefit from your habits writing down new kanji / vocab when encountering them “in the wild”, e. g. native material or while being in Japan or …
…oh and maybe toshi ue should be like this: 年上 :blush:


Huh, thanks! I’ll be sure to post every subsequent page to you for review. :wink:

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Well, let’s just assume I’m very good in making (a lot of) mistakes so I decided to start to work on some of them … But maybe next time I can send you some notes I took and I’m pretty sure we will be more than just even :grin:

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