Crocheting Japanese patterns is easier than you might expect, even if you cannot read a word of Japanese. Japanese craft books and magazines rely on many images and charts, including charts for crochet projects. You can buy Japanese crochet books and magazines from many online sources. Some of the most interesting and innovative crochet today is coming out of Japan, and learning how to read Japanese crochet charts can open these designs to you.
Choose a Japanese crochet pattern. Consider a simple pattern for your first try. A hat might be a good choice, but toys are also quite workable, especially if you are familiar with typical toy crochet patterns. A Japanese crochet chart uses symbols to represent each stitch or type of stitch, laid out in rows or, more commonly, in a circular chart. To crochet from Japanese patterns, you should have a good grasp of crochet basics, including chain stitch, single crochet, half double crochet and double crochet.
Learn how to read the Japanese crochet patterns. Have yarn and a hook handy to practice while trying to understand a crochet chart for the first time. Some Japanese craft publications include a key in English, as do some websites. This can be a great starting point, but you can work out a key for the chart even if one is not provided.
Look at the Japanese crochet chart. You will see many different symbols. Some of the common symbols include an open horizontal oval for a chain stitch, an x to represent a single crochet stitch and an uppercase T with a slanted crossbar for a double crochet and without the crossbar for a half double crochet. Additional symbols may represent treble crochet to indicate that multiple double crochet stitches should be taken into a stitch of the previous round or to show a puff stitch. While charts are not commonly used in the U.S., Japanese and American crochet charts do use the same symbols. You might have an acceptable key for the crochet chart in another resource you already own.
Start from the center if your chart is to be worked in the round. You might need to start with an adjustable ring. This is not as commonly used in U.S. crochet but is frequently seen in Japanese crochet patterns. Mark the end of your round with a safety pin or split ring marker, moving this with each round. Compare your work to the image of the finished project to make sure that you are progressing along with the pattern.
Move on to crocheting more complex projects from Japanese crochet charts. There are many adorable toy patterns available as Japanese crochet charts, and these can be a lot of fun to make, as well as offering new crochet challenges. Have a translation guide available when making toys to work out which piece is which and avoid confusion on a toy that has two arms, two legs, a tail and ears as well as a head and body.