Japanese is an Asian language with a writing system more complicated than the Latin alphabet. Of Chinese origin, it uses two syllabaries and one ideograph script, possibly all in the same sentence.
The Japanese writing system is originally based on Chinese ideograph script. These often complicated characters (consisting of up to two dozen so-called brush strokes) are called kanji and each represent a full word or concept. There are 2,136 recognised kanji, with an additional 983 showing up in proper names.
As opposed to Chinese, Japanese also uses two phonetic syllabaries. Hiragana is a flowing longhand-like script and is used for propositions, small particles without a (simple) kanji and for prefixes and suffixes to kanji to (among others) conjugate verbs or indicate grammatical case, politeness level or verb tense. Hiragana consists of 46 characters, each a syllable.
Katakana is a more angular script and is mainly used to write foreign loanwords and onomatopoeia or as an equivalent to all caps. Katakana has 48 glyphs, mostly corresponding to the hiragana ones.