This set of 50 wooden blocks inside a wooden open box features the 46 hiragana characters. The kana (characters) are stenciled on one side of each block; a corresponding word and picture are painted on the reverse side. Four of the blocks are blank, one of which has a blue square stenciled on one side.
This game, called "Mojiasobi" ("Character Play"), was used to teach young children hiragana. Hiragana is one of the three writing systems used in Japanese (along with katakana and kanji; "rōmaji," or the Latin alphabet, is also occasionally used). Hiragana and katakana are both syllabaries, in which a kana (character) phonetically represents one sound. Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji, suffixes, and verb and adjective conjugations. It is typically the first writing system a Japanese language learner is taught. These sorts of educational toys are popular because education is highly valued in Japan, and they enable preschoolers to gain a head start.