Japanese characters have been greatly influenced by Chinese characters. Japanese characters consist of ‘Hiragana (平仮名)’, ‘Katakana (片仮名)’, ‘Kanji (漢字)’, and ‘Romaji (ローマ字/ Romanized Letters)’. In fact, ‘Hiragana’ and ‘Katakana’ are also derived from Chinese characters. Let’s have a look some examples:
One interesting fact is that females in Japan used to write ‘Hiragana’ whereas the majority of males used to write ‘Katakana’. The reason for that was ‘Hiragana’ looks more gentle and elegant. It was seemed to possess the characteristics of a female but ‘Katakana’ has sharp corners and straight lines, which makes it appears more muscular like men. However, in modern Japanese, ‘Katakana’ is generally used for words that come from a foreign language. Exceptions are not discussed here to avoid confusion.
P.S. Table of the Basic 50 Japanese Characters from Free Downloads.
Source: 3A Corporation for Oversea Licensee, 日本海外技術者研究協会, 1995, 新日本語の基礎 I, Taiwan, 大新書局