Small vs Big Characters

Does your reading answer for 入, 女, 九, 力, 上, or 十 keep getting marked wrong, but you can’t figure out why? Before you smash your computer and swear vengeance on WaniKani, let’s talk about small characters.

Small characters are exactly what they sound like—smaller versions of certain hiragana characters. Here are some examples:

や ゃ (ya)
ゆ ゅ (yu)
よ ょ (yo)

You’ll see these small characters most on WaniKani in contractions. If you don’t know what a contraction is in Japanese, feast your eyes on our guide for how to read hiragana!

じゆう (all normal-sized characters) is pronounced ji-yuu.
じゅう (ゅ is a small character) is pronounced juu, because it’s a contraction.

This is a super important difference not only because of pronunciation, but because of the meanings as well. じゆう means “freedom” and じゅう means “ten.”

Typing small characters is easier than you might think. We have another guide just for typing all of the different characters in Japanese, which you should check out. This includes small kana. Here’s a preview:

How to type contractions

This isn’t just us either, all standard Japanese IMEs use this method of typing contractions, so getting the hang of it now will help you later.

If you just need a quick refresher, here are some of examples of how to type contractions and how not to:

にゆう = niyuu
にゅう = nyuu

じよう = jiyou
じょう = jou [or] jyou

きゆう = kiyuu
きゅう = kyuu

りよく = riyoku
りょく = ryoku

じゆう = jiyuu
じゅう = juu [or] jyuu

じよ = jiyo
じょ = jo [or] jyo

If you’re having a really hard time remember how to type the contraction you want, you can also add an x before the character to make it smaller:

にゅう = nixyuu
じょう = jixyuu

But that leads to slower typing, and you don’t want to be slow, you’re trying to learn 2000+ kanji over here!

Typing in Japanese — Series

This series will answer all of your burning typing questions.