Kanji Stroke Order Guide


Welcome to my Kanji Stroke Order Guide, or, in Japanese, 漢字筆順ガイド kanji hitsujun gaido.

This guide is intended to be a comprehensive and easy to read resource on how to write 漢字 kanji, i.e. the Chinese characters used in the Japanese language.

Kanji stroke diagram showing the text 漢字筆順 kanji hitsujun.
漢字筆順 kanji hitsujun.

Kanji should be written with a rapid, confident movement of the hand. One should never (or rarely) stop to think: “What would be the right way of writing this character?”.

You may be surprised to learn that each stroke of every character in the Japanese language has an exact order and direction that must be followed. Learning all this may sound like a daunting task at first, but having clear rules is in fact what allows the Japanese writing system to be practical and coherent.

Knowing the correct stroke order is also what will allow you to write in cursive form (or writing fast) while keeping your writing intelligible. Following the wrong stroke order/direction, or developing a DIY approach to them, would generate cursive shapes that are impossible to interpret.

All Japanese children have to learn kanji stroke order as part of their scholastic curriculum; as learners of the Japanese language, we also must learn the correct stroke order of every kanji we learn.

What about kanji radicals?

Kanji radicals are never mentioned in this guide. Radicals are, in my opinion, an anachronistic concept that should be put aside to better understand Chinese characters. In this guide I only ever refer to shapes.

Kanji radicals can be useful if you need to consult printed kanji dictionaries, although I don’t see why anyone would want to do that with the technology that is available today.

The three dimensions of kanji stroke order

In kanji stroke order there are:

  1. clearly defined rules;
  2. clearly defined exceptions to those rules;
  3. some characters with unpredictable stroke order that should be memorised.

And that’s it. Your objective is to commit these rules and exceptions to (muscle) memory.

Twenty intuitive rules

In this guide we will learn 20 intuitive rules.

  • Stroke direction: 4 rules.
  • Stroke order: 10 rules.
  • Component order: 6 rules.

What I present here is my personal and original view on what a coherent interpretation of the rules that govern the writing of kanji ought to be.


The font that I used for this guide is Kanji Stroke Order Font, or 漢字の筆順のフォント kanji no hitsujun no fonto.

The colour scheme used in this guide is colour blind friendly, and black&white photocopy friendly.

Colour scheme
Colour scheme.


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