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Mnemonics for the ウ (u), ワ (wa), フ (fu), ラ (ra) and ヲ (wo/o) Characters

In this section we will analyse the ウ (u), ワ (wa), フ (fu), ラ (ra) and ヲ (wo/o) characters.

First of all, let’s separate the characters into two separate groups. The ウ (u), ワ (wa) characters into Group 1, and the フ (fu), ラ (ra) and ヲ (wo/o) characters into Group 2. Now with the Group 1 characters (ウ (u), ワ (wa) ), you’ll notice that they both have a slight vertical dip coming down from the horizontal line towards the left side.


ウ (u), ワ (wa)

The only thing that separates these two characters is the fact that one of them has a small vertical stick coming up from the middle (ウ) and the other doesn’t (ワ).

So how do we distinguish between the two? Imagine that you’re at a golf driving range. You’re on a platform, and the slight dip to the left side of both the characters represents a sharp drop at the edge of this platform. On the right side of the characters you can see some stairs which lead up to the platform. Imagine now that you have a golf tee placed in the middle of the platform.

For the first character ウ (u), imagine that you’re assessing how you should hit the golf ball (which is placed on the tee). You look into the distance and go ‘oooo!’ when you realise how you should hit the ball. This ‘oooo’ sounds identical to the Japanese ‘u’ sound. The ‘oooo’ represents you thinking of the perfect way to hit the ball!

Now imagine you approach the tee, and with one mighty stroke, you go ‘whaaaaammm!’ and hit the ball far into the distance. The golf tee also goes flying off the platform. Now looking at the character ワ (wa), the golf tee has gone, because you’ve gone ‘whaaam!’ and sent it flying. Think ‘wa’ for ‘wham’.

Now let’s look at Group 2 (the フ (fu), ラ (ra) and ヲ (wo/o) characters).

All of these characters represents a wok (a type of round pan that you can use for cooking). Notice how you can see the right side of the wok? The straight horizontal line represents the top of the wok, and the right curved line represents the shape of the wok’s base.


フ (fu), ラ (ra) and ヲ (wo/o)

The first character, フ (fu), represents the wok when it has some ‘food’ which is filled up to the brim. Think of the word ‘food’, which sounds similar to ‘fu’.

The second character, ラ (ra), represents the wok when it is full of Ramen! A tasty type of Japanese noodle dish. You can see the steam of the Ramen coming out of the wok at the top. So when you see the steam, obviously some nice Ramen is cooking. So think ‘ra’ for ‘Ramen’.

The last character, ヲ (wo/o), represents the wok after you’ve finished cooking and have placed some water in it for cleaning. You can see the water filling up the wok half way. Since the wok has nothing in it, just think of the wok by itself. Think ‘wo’ for ‘wok’. (Note that ‘wo’ is usually pronounced ‘o’, however sometimes the ‘wo’ pronunciation is used).

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