Based on Japanesepod101′s videos, here is a helpful list of memory aids for all the Japanese Hiragana characters / symbols:
あ a – looks like an apple
い i – 2 “i”s side by side
う u – like a boxer getting punched in the stomach, saying “uu!”
え e – looks like an Energetic ninja
お o – looks like a ufO, or like a mouth saying “oh” with x ‘ eyes
か ka – blade cutting a stick
き ki – looks like a key
く ku – kuku’s beak / cuckoo’s beak
け ke – looks like a keg (ke has a cane as the first stroke)
こ ko – like 2 koi fish swimming, or like a cockerel with a comb on his head
さ sa – sa-neaky grin face
し shi – looks like a fiSHIng hook
す su – like curly SUe, or like a su-piral / spiral straw
せ se – mouth about to Se-y say something / or a Sensei saying something
そ So – zigzag sewing stitch – it looks like a fraction / if something is 50/50 it’s so-so
た ta – looks like the lettera t+a “ta!”
ち chi – shouting chi-eer leader – cheerleader, angry at “sa” for copying her. It looks like the number 5 coz cheerleaders come in groups (eg of 5) 5 cheerleaders.
つ tsu – looks like a tsunami wave, or like a sideways u
て te – looks like a te-il tail and like the letter T
と to – looks like a tornado, also it has sa funny stalk on TOp
な na – cross X for “nah” and sticking out tongue – or a complicated “kna-t” knot
に ni- looks like an elongated n (h) + a sideways i: ni. Or looks like a knee cap
ぬ nu – chopsticks holding NOOdles – also you can see the “n” and the chopsticks liike like an angular “u”
ね ne – sNAIl hiding behind a NAIl – looks like Re but with an extra hoop – if it has a Hoop it’s NE not Re.
の no – looks like a “no” sign, and looks like an n + an “o” put together
は ha – looks like a capital H with a little “a”. Looks similar to ke, but “Ha” has a hoop, whereas Ke does not.
ひ hi – like a smiling mouth going “hihihi!”
ふ hu / fu – looks like mount Fuji, or like a nose blowing air going foooo
へ he – He, like an arrow pointing up to Heaven
ほ ho – like a HOrse face with mane. Looks similar to Ha but with double line. Unlike “ke”, “H” ones have a “hoop”. Ho has 2 HOrizontal lines wherehas ha only has one (Ha has HAlf the number of lines as Ho).
ま ma – like musical note on stave ma for ma-usic – or a MAn with a MAsk on his eyes
み Mi – it looks like a capital “I” and a small “i” joined together “Mi and mi”. Or like a musical quaver note for “do-re-MI”)
む Mu – looks like a cow, or like a weird clown who makes fun by imitating animals and saying moooo
め Me – Me looks like a pretzel which is MEtzuyan. Me looks like Nu (chopsticks & noodles) – how do you differentiate? When the chopsticks drop the noodle hoop, they make a MEss
も Mo – looks like a sailboat Moshit, or like a Monitor lizard with a tail
ら ra – 5 cheerleaders go rah rah rah! Or like a rabbit sitting on its hind legs. Ra looks like Chi, but Chi (cheerleader) has it all connected coz it’s a person, and Rah is a sound so is more spread out.
り or リ ri – (the second one is used most often). The second one looks like a River. Looks similar to “i” but with Ri the RIGHT stroke is longer; river is long too.
る Ru – hand holding a ruby
れ Re – Reindeer
ろ Ro – Row row row your boat – 3 rows, looks like a 3. (Or it’s a Ru hand holding a ruby, without a ruby, Ru got RObbed and became Ro)
や Ya – yaaa it looks like a YAk or a giraffe!
ゆ Yu – looks like a unicorn or like a finger pointing at you
よ Yo – looks like a y without the cup on top, or it looks like a yoyo dangling from a finger.
わ Wa – like a dog WAgging his tail, (or as a W white sWAn). Looks similar to “ne” and “re”. Reindeer is happiest with happy tail for Xmas. Wa’s WAggy tail is more subdued, and Ne’s tail is swirly coz it’s a SNAIL.
を wo – “woah” it’s a complicated one that looks like a crack in the Wall (wo-ll). Wo is never used in a word; only used as a particle to indicate a word is an object of the sentence.
ん n – looks like an elongated n.