This page is meant to help students of Japanese practice their writing skills. By following along with the motion of several animated GIF files, you can hone your writing skills, making your katakana, hiragana, and kanji more legible. As of now, it does not deal with transliteration, dipthongs, why the characters are organized the way they are, or any other writing conventions; it is only meant to help learn individual characters. The romanized equivalents of the sounds I've used are ones I believe to be most understandable to English speakers, because I've never felt a chill thinking about the beauty of sunrise over Mount Huzi.
When I first began learning Japanese, I found that among all of the other difficulties, writing posed special challenges. Not the least of these challenges was the fact that when writing Japanese characters, you must follow a specific order and direction of the strokes in order to be understood by a native reader of Japanese. Several times when trying to communicate through writing, I was met with blank looks of incomprehension, because what to me looked like the character for "water" looked to the average Japanese person like a scribbled mess.
Any book that deals with Japanese writing (two I have found immensely useful are Reading Japanese by Jorden and Chaplin, and Essential Kanji by P. G. O'Neill) will indicate stroke order, but I feel that a static representation doesn't really create much of an impression. Anything that I learned was quickly forgotten, and I was back to drawing kuchi as a circle.
How to use it
With that in mind, I've constructed a series of animated GIF files that will lead you through how to write each character. Each image is like a brief cartoon on an endless loop. You will first see a large representation of the character on question, then watch as a brush draws the character on paper. Your job is to mimic the movement of the brush with pen or pencil on paper. Practice each character until you feel comfortable and natural drawing it. Just choose a subset to the left (katakana, hiragana, or kanji) and begin.