Introduction to Japanese Writing: Hiragana Group 13: Small Y Combinations (きゃ きゅ きょ, etc.)

Did you miss our introduction to Hiragana?  If so, you can go back and read it here.

At last, we’ve made it to the final group of Hiragana!  Congratulations on making it this far!

So far we’ve covered all of the columns of the Kana table, and the rows for each of the basic vowels.  But were you aware that there are three further rows beneath those five?

Small や YA, ゆ YU, and よ YO

In its fullest form, the Kana Table has three final rows at the bottom that look like the gray rows in the following:

k g s z t d n h b p m y r w n
a
i
u
e
o
ya きゃ ぎゃ しゃ じゃ ちゃ ぢゃ にゃ ひゃ びゃ ぴゃ みゃ りゃ
yu きゅ ぎゅ しゅ じゅ ちゅ ぢゅ にゅ ひゅ びゅ ぴゅ みゅ りゅ
yo きょ ぎょ しょ じょ ちょ ぢょ にょ ひょ びょ ぴょ みょ りょ

As you can see, not all columns use this row.  Further for the ones that do use it, the pattern is always the same: The column’s I character is written in front of a small や YA, ゆ YU, or よ YO.

The default readings for these character combinations (as well as the way they are typically written in romanized Japanese) is the consonant plus the appropriate Y-column sound.  Thus, for example:

  • きゃ = K + YA = KYA
  • にゅ = N + YU = NYU
  • ぴょ = P + YO = PYO

For the S, Z, T, and D columns, the pronunciation follows the variants we discussed when we covered these initially.  Thus:

  • SYA = しゃ = SHI + YA = SHA
  • JYA = じゃ = JI + YA = JA
  • TYA = ちゃ = CHI + YA = CHA
  • DYA = ぢゃ = DJI + YA = DJA

We’ll review all of the columns individually next, so if this is confusing at the moment, it should become clearer shortly.

K Column

  • きゃ [KYA]
  • きゅ [KYU]
  • きょ [KYO]

G Column

  • ぎゃ [GYA]
  • ぎゅ [GYU]
  • ぎょ [GYO]

S Column

All combinations here are derived from し SHI, and thus use an intial SH instead of SY.

  • しゃ [SHA]
  • しゅ [SHU]
  • しょ [SHO]

Z Column

All combinations here are derived from じ JI, and thus use an initial J instead of ZY.

  • じゃ [JA]
  • じゅ [JU]
  • じょ [JO]

T Column

All combinations here are derived from ち CHI, and thus use an initial CH instead of TY.

  • ちゃ [CHA]
  • ちゅ [CHU]
  • ちょ [CHO]

D Column

All combinations here are derived from ぢ DJI, and thus use an initial DJ instead of DY.  That said, these particular combinations are so rare in modern Japanese that it is unlikely you will ever encounter them in the wild.

  • ぢゃ [DJA]
  • ぢゅ [DJU]
  • ぢょ [DJO]

N Column

  • にゃ [NYA]
  • にゅ [NYU]
  • にょ [NYO]

H Column

  • ひゃ [HYA]
  • ひゅ [HYU]
  • ひょ [HYO]

B Column

  • びゃ [BYA]
  • びゅ [BYU]
  • びょ [BYO]

P Column

  • ぴゃ [PYA]
  • ぴゅ [PYU]
  • ぴょ [PYO]

M Column

  • みゃ [MYA]
  • みゅ [MYU]
  • みょ [MYO]

R Column

  • りゃ [RYA]
  • りゅ [RYU]
  • りょ [RYO]

How to Write

There’s nothing new in this lesson, except to note that the Y characters in each combination should be half their usual height.

Vocabulary Practice

The following words can be written using only the characters we have covered so far.  Once you’ve practiced reading them a couple of times, try writing them on a piece of paper without looking and see how well you do.

K Column

  • きゃく [kya ku] customer
  • きゅうじつ [kyu u ji tsu] day off
  • きょう [kyo u] today

G Column

  • ぎゃく [gya ku] reverse
  • ぎゅうどん [gyu u do n] beef bowl
  • ぎょうざ [gyo u za] gyoza

S Column

  • しゃしん [sha shi n] picture, photograph
  • しゅうまつ [shu u ma tsu] weekend
  • しょうかい [sho u ka i] introduction

Z Column

  • じゃま [ja ma] bother, nuisance
  • じゅうどう [ju u do u] Judo
  • じょうだん [jo u da n] a joke

T Column

  • おちゃ [o cha] green tea
  • ちゅうもん [chu u mo n] an order (e.g. at a restaurant)
  • ちょっと [cho t to] a little bit

D Column

  • These combinations are almost never used except for things like sound effects

N Column

  • にゃん [nya n] meow
  • にゅうもん [nyu u mo n] primer, introductory manual
  • にょうぼう [nyo u bo u] archaic word for “wife” used in some dramatic settings

H Column

  • ひゃく [hya ku] 100
  • ひゅうが [hyu u ga] Hyuuga (Japanese family name)
  • ひょうご [hyo u go] Hyougo (name of one of Japan’s prefectures)

B Column

  • さんびゃく [sa n bya ku] 300
  • びょうき [byo u ki] sickness

I’m having trouble coming up with any exmaple words for びゅ [byu].  If you can think of one, drop it in the comments!

P Column

  • はっぴゃく [ha p pya ku] 800
  • はっぴょう [ha p pyo u] announcement

Again, having trouble coming up with examples for ぴゅ [pyu], other than perhaps the “pew pew” sound effect…

M Column

  • みゃく [mya ku] pulse
  • みょうじ [myo u ji] family name

Ditto みゅ [myu].

R Column

  • りゃく [rya ku] abbreviation, shortened form
  • りゅう [ryu u] dragon
  • りょう [ryo u] dormitory

Congratulations!

With that we’ve finished our introduction to Hiragana, and you have taken some significant steps to becoming a better student of Japanese!

Published by

Paul Baptist

Paul Baptist

Japanese linguist, web developer, bassist, teacher, and long-time anime fan.

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