Have you ever heard or iroha?

いろは is the name of a japanese poem. いろは are the first three characters of the poem. It is a pangram of the Japanese kana.  This means that it uses every character of the alphabet.  The poem is known by all Japanese people. Some people may not remember it completely but they are aware of it and have most likely read it when they were students.

Why should I know it?

Well, it is a part of Japanese culture and history.  That is usually enough to have at least a bit of knowledge of something.  I think this is no exception.

More importantly, you may see it in real life in Japan.  While it will probably not be seen everywhere nowadays, in older building it can be used to label seats.  For example, in a movie theater the rows of seats could be labeled with  イ ロ ハ… instead of A B C etc.

What does it mean?

There are numerous translation but I think the most beautiful one is from a Japanese Harvard Professor.

Although its scent still lingers on

the form of a flower has scattered away

For whom will the glory

of this world remain unchanged?

Arriving today at the yonder side

of the deep mountains of evanescent existence

We shall never allow ourselves to drift away

intoxicated, in the world of shallow dreams.

Its beautiful!

How do I study?

Here it is:


iroha A4 PDF


Print out a few copies.  Trace over the characters.  This starts at the top right and goes down.  I usually go over the sheet several times before I use a new one.  This is more interesting if you are still studying hiragana.





Wikipedia – Iroha


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About steve

I have lived in Japan since 2004. I love Japan and studying Japanese.