Japanese Katakana - Another
Japanese Alphabet You Need to Know

Japanese katakana (片仮名 or カタカナ), another Japanese alphabet, are more straight and have more angular corners in terms of shape as compared to hiragana.

It has three functions as follow...

1. Foreign Words

Katakana are mainly used to express foreign words, foreign places, foreign countries, foreign names, things "loaned" from foreign languages.

For examples, エアコン (eakon) derived from the word air-con, ラジオ (rajio) derived from the word radio.

The foreign languages here refer not only to English, but also to languages like German, French, Dutch, etc. For example, アルバイト (arubaito which means"part-time job") comes from the German word "Arbeit".

2. Onomatopoeia

Japanese katakana are also used to describe sounds, what we called onomatopoeia, or 擬音語 (giongo) in Japanese.

For example, ザーザー (za- za-) describes the sound of heavy rain.

In a Japanese quiz show, when someone give an correct answer, the host will say ピンポーン (pinpo-n), indicates the answer is correct. If the answer is wrong, ブー (bu-) is used.

3. Emphasize Words in Sentence

They are also used when someone wants to emphasize words in a sentence, the same effect as bold words.

See the katakana chart for the basic katakana characters, plus additional characters with 濁音 (dakuon), 半濁音 (handakuon), 拗音 (youon), and some descriptions on 促音 (sokuon) and 長音 (chouon).

Some Basic Katakana Examples

Below are examples of some useful Japanese katakana...

Katakana Romaji Meaning
1. トイレ to i re Toilet
2. ライオン ra i on Lion
3. テレビ te re bi Television
4. バス ba su Bus
5. テニス te ni su Tennis
6. クラス ku ra su Class
7. ドラマ do ra ma Drama
8. スーパー su- pa- Supermarket
9. ビール bi- ru Beer
10. ケーキ ke- ki Cake
11. コーヒー ko- hi- Coffee
12. アイスクリーム a i su ku ri- mu Ice-cream


Japanese Katakana Chart

Again, spend some time to get yourself familiar with Japanese katakana by studying the katakana chart.

If you are looking for a related book, I recommend this book on katakana "Let's Learn Katakana".

Disclosure: Please note that some links on this page are affiliate links. That means I will receive a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through those links, at no additional cost to you.

Some Rules on Katakana Notation

There are some rules governing how Japanese katakana are used to represent English words.

For Long Vowels 長音 (chouon)

Add 長音 (chouon) to the katakana for the following cases...

  1. English words ended with "~er", For example,
    コンピュータ (computer)
    プリンタ (printer)
    シャワ (shower)
  2. English words ended with "~or", For example,
    エレベータ (elevator)
    エラ (error)
  3.  English words ended with "~ar", For example,
    カレンダ (calendar)
    ギタ (guitar)
    Exception: ウェア (wear)
  4. English words ended with "~y", For example,
    エネルギ (energy)
    アクセサリ (accessory)
  5. English words with the phonetic symbols of [ou] or [ei]. For example,
    ト (boat)
    ナー (owner)
    ル (mail)
    ジ (page)
    Exception: メイン (main)
  6. English words with the phonetic symbols of [u:] or [i:]. For example,
    スクル (school)
    プ (soup)
    ム (team)
    ティ (tea)

For 促音 (sokuon) (ッ)

Add 促音 (sokuon) to the katakana for the following cases...

  1. English words ended with "~ck" and the katakana will be represented with "ック". For example,
    チェック (check)
    ック (knock)
  2. English words ended with "~sh" and the katakana will be represented with "ッシュ". For example,
    キャッシュ (cash)
    フレッシュ (fresh)
  3. English words ended with "~shion" or "~ssion" and the katakana will be represented with "ッション". For example,
    ッション (cushion)
    ッション (mission)



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