There are 3 Japanese scripts : Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji. Mostof the Japanese sentences are written in Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji, all three.
Hiragana is used for the endings of verbs and for grammatical particles.
Katakanais used for transcription of words borrowed from foreign languages(except Chinese), like country names, personal names, etc.
Both Hiragana and Katakana letters are a phonetic representation of sound, representing exactly the same set of sounds.
Kanji, which is a set of Chinese characters called sinograms, is used for the nouns and the radicals of verbs.
The Hiragana script has a Kanji equivalent (excepts the endings of verbs and the particles).
The Katakana script does not have a Kanji equivalent.
Whereas Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic representations of sound, Kanji conveys sounds as well as meanings.
A sentence in Japanese can be written in Hiragana and Katakana only (without Kanji).
Romaji (Roman letters) is simply the transliteration of Japanese in the Latin script. It is sometimes used for the convenience of foreigners, mostly on sign-boards and at stations.
The Romaji vowelsā,ī, ū,ē signify emphasis, and hence are also written asaa, ii, uuetee. ex.īe = iie
The vowel ō becomes ou and notooex. gakkō = gakkou
In Katakana, the emphasis on the vowel signifies a long sound written as ー. ex.nōto (notebook), will be written in katakana as : ノート
Example. The sentence 'Little Tarō saw a gorilla in the zoo' is written in :
Japanese Romaji : Tarō kun wa dōbutsuen de gorira o mimashita ;
Japanese traditional (Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji) : たろうくんは動物園でゴリラを見ました。; where Kanji = 動物園 (dōbutsuen = zoo), 見 (mi) ; Katakana =ゴリラ(gorira = gorilla) and the rest is Hiragana.
Japanese Hiragana and Katakana (without Kanji) : こどもはどうぶつえんでゴリラをみました。 Note - The Kanjis in the sentence written in Japanese traditional, 動物園 and 見 are replaced by their hiragana equivalentsどうぶつえん(dōbutsuen) and み (mi) respectively.
Note : Kun is used as a suffix to a small boy's name and is the equivalent of Master. Japanese names (Tarō) are written in Hiragana and Kanji as shown in the above example.
は(ha) is read (wa) only when it is used as the particle attached to the noun or the subject of a sentence. In other words, one writes は notわ for the particle wa. は(wa) is always used after the subject. In the example above, は(wa) comes after the subject depāto デパート (department store) .
を(o) is used as the particle in a sentence to indicate the direct object of a transitive verb. を(o) is always used after the object and before the verb. In the example above, を(o)comes after the object gorira ゴリラ(gorilla) and before the verb mimashita (saw).
Kanji is sometimes written in combination with Hiragana. In the above example mimashita (saw) is written in Kanji as 見ました and in Hiragana as みました.