Stroke Order Posted by on Apr 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

By request, I’ll give you four basic rules on how to write kanji (かんじ) letters. Keep in mind that stroke order differs with each calligraphy school. One school my cultivate a certain style while another may reject that style. Really, what matters is how the letters look. I’ve seen people go against the basic rules and their characters came out just fine. On the same token I’ve seen people follow the rules, with awful looking charcters. Everyone has a certain writing preference. If you go against innate preference for the sake of following the rules, the characters may not turn out as you would have liked. As a result, there is no wrong way to write Japanese characters.

You should write in a way that makes the character readable. As long as it looks remotely something close to the character, it’s fine. There has been some debate among others as to how kanji (かんじ) should be written, but I am telling you that it’s pointless because it’s the end that matters, not the means. In the end, people don’t care how you write it, they just care that it’s legible and comprehensible. With that said, here are some basic guidelines:

1) Start from the left to the right. Here’s an example : the Japanese charcter for “one” is (). It’s just a horizontal dash written from the left hand side to the right hand side.

2) Start from the top to the bottom. The Japanese character for “three” is (). Start from the left top and create a straight line. Then skip a space and from the left draw another straight line. Do the same for the last line.

3) Horizontals are written first. After the horizontals, you can deal with the verticals. The Japanese character for “ten” () is drawn with the horizontal starting from the left hand side. Then finnish it off with a straight vertical line from the top to the bottom.

4) The outside strokes are written before the inside stroke. The Japanese character for “four” () is written with a box or square like character first, then the insides are drawn. I’ll use a metaphor for this character. Draw the “window” first (the square) and then draw the “curtains” (the two inside strokes).

Again, if you enroll in a particular school, the philosophy of the school will go into much more depth with complicated characters. Again, you don’t have to know all those rules to write Japanese characters. The fact that we no longer write with an ink brush and have computerized ways of transcribing Japanese characters have made some of the rules obsolete, so don’t worry too much about the stroke order.

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  1. Delta:

    That helps alot,I’ve always been confused about how I should write kanji but this helped clear up some of the confusion. Thank you for doing this article. 😀

  2. Tatiana:

    Arigatou gozaimasu!!

    I’ve always wondered! I wonder if you know where I can find an application or something of the sort to give me an on-screen Japanese keyboard, or at least the ability to write with Kanji/Kana?

  3. Ginny:


    I think I might have what you’re looking for. Go to this link:

    and press the play button

  4. Tatiana:

    Thank you, Ginny! That definitely helped! =)

  5. Anna:

    Thanks Ginny! I do write kanji in a way that feels comfortable to ME, which infuriates my husband, who tells me I’m doing it wrong. But still, the end result needs improving – my characters resemble chicken scratches.

  6. Sarah:

    This is an interesting YouTube video about stroke order: