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Hiragana (平 仮 名 in Japanese) with one literal translation of the characters being flat temporary name.
First, allow me to go briefly into the background of the Japanese language a bit.
I have not been able to find much information on a pre-Chinese influenced writing system in Japan. It seems as if there was no written language in Japan before contact with the Chinese, although I am not certain of this. When the Chinese-characters were imported, certain ones were chosen to represent the sounds of Japanese while other ones retained their meaning. That meant that although ancient manuscripts would be written all in kanji, people would have to be very educated in order to decipher which ones were used as phonetical symbols and which ones were used as representations of ideas. Also, writing out each individual stroke of the kanji was a tedious process. Eventually normal folk developed a sort of short hand (done by writing the kanji extremely quickly and not paying much attention to the stroke order) for the kanji used for phonetic representation. These became the hiragana that we knew today.
Many of the hiragana still look like the kanji that they descended from. I have compiled a full list of the hiragana (including the archaic ones) with the kanji it derived from, along with a short explanation of the meaning of the kanji, for those interested. Also note that the meanings for the kanji may not be completely accurate, due to the fact that some kanji in Japanese are never used alone and therefore sometimes only have a concete meaning when combined with another kanji.
If the kanji has already been noded in the Japanese Kanji project, they will be marked with more info and a link that leads to the kanji in question.
あ - 安 meaning peaceful
い - 以 and is a modifier that means approximately compared with
う - 宇 meaning roof or heaven
え - 衣 meaning coating
お - 於 and carries the connotation as for, in, or at
か - 加 meaning join or include
き - 幾 and is used in asking regarding a amount (how much, how many, etc.)
く - 久 meaning long time ago
け - 計 meaning plan
こ - 己 meaning serpent
さ - 左 meaning left | more info
し - 之 and is a modifier meaning of or this
す - 寸 and is an old Chinese unit of length
せ - 世 meaning society
, or world
そ - 曾 meaning once, former, or ex-
た - 太 meaning plump or thick
ち - 知 meaning knowledge
つ - 州 meaning state or province
て - 天 meaning sky or heaven | more info
と - 止 meaning stop
な - 奈 meaning "what?"
に - 仁 meaning humanity
ぬ - 奴 meaning fellow or manservant
ね - 禰 meaning ancestral shrine
の - 乃 meaning from or accordingly
は - 波 meaning waves or billows
ひ - 比 meaning compare or ratio
ふ - 不 and is the negative modifier
へ - 部 meaning part or section
ほ - 保 meaning protect
, or support
ま - 末 meaning end or tip
み - 美 meaning beautiful
む - 武 meaning warrior or chivalry
め - 女 meaning female | more info
も - 毛 meaning animal fur
や - 也 meaning "to be"
ゆ - 由 meaning reason
よ - 与 meaning to give, award, or provide
ら - 良 meaning good or skillful
り - 利 meaning advantage
る - 留 meaning detain or stop
れ - 礼 meaning renumeration
ろ - 呂 meaning spine
わ - 和 meaning peace
and also Japan
ゐ - 為 meaning to change, make, or as a result of (this hiragana is no longer used in modern Japanese)
ゑ - 恵 meaning grace
or kindness (this hiragana is no longer used in modern Japanese)
を - 遠 meaning distant | more info
ん - 无 meaning the abscence of things (nothing)
A note that the meanings of the kanji probably have more or less nothing to do with the hiragana. Also, when writing Japanese, hiragana is considered to give off a "softer" feel because it was often used by women (due to the fact that they usually did not recieve a formal education and could not use many kanji). So next time you're writing a love letter in Japanese, don't strain yourself too hard trying to remember all those kanji that you've forgotten.
Credits go out to liveforever's previous node for the Unicode for all the hiragana, the Kojigen Japanese dictionary for all the origins, and Jim Breen's online Japanese dictionary (located http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/wwwjdic.html) for the kanji Unicode.