There are four kinds of characters in Japanese language,which are ①Roma-ji, ②Hiragana, ③Katakana and ④Kanji(Chinese character).
“英国時間19日（日本時間20日深夜）、イングランド南部ブライトンでラグビーワールドカップ2015、南アフリカ対日本戦が行われ、過去24年間、勝ち星のなかった日本が過去２度の優勝を誇る世界ランキング３位の南アフリカを34—32で破る大金星を挙げた。” from Japan Rugby Football Union.
This is sample of Japanese sentence from recent news saying that Japanese national rugby team beat South Africa national team in World Cup on September 19, 2015. Can you recognize which character is Roma-ji, Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji? Of course, you do not need to recognize now! Don’t worry.
Roma-ji literally means roman letters. This is developed by Christian missionaries from Portugal in 16th century. Roma-ji is now used in any context where Japanese text is targeted at non-Japanese speakers who cannot read kanji or kana. So if you can not read Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji, just read and pronounce with Roma-ji. I will add Roma-ji to examples for beginner who can not understand Japanese in this site.
Hiragana is a syllabary, one basic componet of Japanese writing system along with Katakana and Kanji. Hiragana consists of vowel such as a (あ) and consonant followed by vowel such as k (k+a=ka, か). Hiragana is used to write words for which there are no kanji. 46 charcters in Hiragana system.
⇒ Learn Hiragana
Katakana is similar with Hiragana in terms of sound and vowel/consonant structure, only apperance is difference. 46 characters in Katakana system and each Hiragana has each Katakana one by one. Katakana is used mainly for words from foreign country such as country name, personal name and some words which does not have kanji such as pen(ペン).
⇒ Learn Katakana
Kanji comes from ancient China and is introduced to Japanese writing system. Nowadays some simplified kanji are used in China. Each kanji has its own meaning and some sounds. They say there are more than 50,000 kanji but we Japanese only use about 4,000 in daily life and we learn 2,136 kanji at Japanese school now. We will learn about 2,000 kanji in this site! One by one, Ganbatte!
⇒ Learn Kanji