would it be difficult for me to learn japanese when i already know a little of chinese (mandarin)?

i did a two year course in high school learning mandarin chinese, now deciding on university im very keen on a course that offers a year abroad in japan (if they offered a year in china there wouldnt be a problem) so the problem is, would it be very hard for me to move from chinese to japanese (university offers a compulsory japanese language course with the subject i will be studying)?
i understand kanji is similar to chinese (if not the same) but does it sound the same in both languages? when does hiragana and katakana come in?

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