Japanese from Scratch 1.1.3 – k/s sounds

If you’re new to this series, check out my previous posts under the “Japanese from Scratch” category.

In this lesson, we learn the next two columns in the Hiragana chart: the /k/ and /s/ sounds.

Have you noticed that the new sounds have the same vowels we just learned in the last segment? As we learn more of Hiragana, we simply add a new consonant with the 5 vowels we already learned.

Handwritten vs type

The best way to practice writing is to use plain old-fashion pen and paper. You can download the Hiragana practice writing sheet here:

Just like how we would never write “a” by hand how it looks in a computer font, some Hiragana characters are not written they way they look typed on a computer.

  1. If you compare the Hiragana for “ki” and “sa” below with the version in the practice sheet, you’ll notice that there’s a gap in the handwritten version not in the typed version.


  2. 「せ」 is also not usually written with such a large hook in the second stroke as it displayed by most computer fonts. In fact, many (including myself) write it with no hook at all.
  3. 「そ」 is fine written exactly the way it looks typed. However, you can also decide to write the first stroke differently as shown below, making it two strokes。

There’s no single “correct” way to write these characters and often depends on personal preference. Keep an eye out for these discrepancies and go with what works best for you.

Sushi and other tidbits

Now you know how to write “sushi” in Hiragana: 「すし」. However, in Japanese, it is usually called 「おすし」. 「お」 is an honorific prefix that is used before certain words such as “money” or “store”. I’m not really sure why. Another thing you may often see in sushi restaurants is 「しそ」, that green leaf used for decoration that I personally never eat.

Reading Practice

So what kind of words can you say with /k/? How about romantic love? While 「あい」 is a very deep kind of love nurtured with time and effort, 「こい」 describes more of a romantic, exciting, or infatuation type of love. The same word is also used for “koi” fish, of course! If you ever go to a fancy Japanese restaurant that has a koi pond, you should say, “You know, these fish are called 「こい」 in Japanese.” They probably already knew that but they would be impressed if only they could see that you said it in Hiragana.

Speaking of homophones, the word 「かき」 has over 10 different meanings including “oyster” and “persimmon”. Those two can be particularly difficult to sort out in a conversation since they’re both edible. Because Japanese has many homophones, most of these words are written in Kanji or Chinese characters. But we still use Hiragana to describe how the Kanji is read or pronounced. Don’t worry, we’ll get to it all soon enough.

Here are some other words for additional reading practice using the /k/ and /s/ sounds.

  1. あか – red
  2. いけ – lake
  3. いく – to go
  4. かく – to write
  5. あし – foot; leg
  6. あさ – morning
  7. いす – chair
  8. かさ – umbrella
  9. あせ – sweat
  10. うそ – lie
  11. (お)すし – sushi
  12. せかい – world

With 「あか」, we now know 2 of the 3 traffic light colors. And unlike green/blue, they do use “red” for red light in Japan (and yellow). Here’s a random, scandalous tidbit: in Japanese, the verb 「いく」 is used for orgasms instead of “to come”, basically the opposite of English. But I wouldn’t recommend practicing this!

Um, anyway, why don’t you play around with this cool koi flash thingamajig and feed the fish. Until next time!

Bored with feeding the fish? Check out my page on Hiragana.

7 thoughts on “Japanese from Scratch 1.1.3 – k/s sounds

  1. Thanks for the post, Tae.

    Hm, I don’t like computer fonts. The hand written (not mine, though 😉 ) are so much better.

  2. その「いく」の情報は役立ちになるかもしれない (^_^) 将来のかなのエントリは楽しみ!

  3. Pingback: Articles with a theme: Learn hiragana in no time! | Wafu – miez japonez

  4. This whole handwritten/typed kana thing is very confusing at first, nice to see it explained this early in the series!

  5. so as what sir show above..
    ex :
    the left one is type (computer)
    and the right one is written version?

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