Today, each syllable in Japanese is represented by a single hiragana. But this wasn't always the case: for more than a millennium, individual syllables were written using a variety of hiragana, each based on the cursive form of a different kanji. In modern times, these traditional kana came to be known as hentaigana, or "variant kana.” The kanji from which hentaigana were derived are called jibo, "parent characters."
Teaching yourself to read hentaigana has always had a reputation for being tedious and difficult, because it involved a lot of poring over charts and dictionaries. But the truth is that with the right app to help you out, it isn’t difficult at all—far from being tedious, it's addictive. All you have to do is learn to recognize which kanji each kana is based on, and how that kanji is read. This app will help you do that.
The Hentaigana App was developed as a collaboration between UCLA and Waseda University as a project of the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities.
We'd love to hear your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org