‘Royal’ Kanji- why do we learn it so early?

New learner here with a purely curious question.

Why is it that wanikani chooses to teach us kanji such as ‘king’ 王 or ‘prince’ 王子 so early?

It seems like something that wouldn’t be used very often (since Japan doesn’t have a monarchy or anything- so their leader is a PM, not a king). But I assume since the vocabulary is taught at low levels, it must be significant.

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Hello! Welcome to WaniKani and the forums! :smile:

WaniKani’s purpose is to teach you kanji. The vocab is there to reinforce the kanji, which means that the vocab that are being teached are not ordered by how important they are. Since king, child etc. happen to be lower level items, the vocab that use them (or at least most of them, since I don’t know if there are more in the later levels) are also placed at the lower levels.


Wanikani is ordered roughly by visual complexity, so 王子naturally comes before 勉強 for example, even though the latter is a more common word.


Also, they do have an anything :slight_smile:


yes, also, I think king is one of the radicals that allow you to write kanjis like 玉、国 , and 駐 so it’s the base for writing other common things
the number of strokes is another reason for being there so early


王 is on a list of kanji that Japanese children learn in their first year of elementary school.

jpdb lists 王 as a top 1500 word

It’s interesting how all three radicals in 天皇 are taught in level 2, but you don’t learn that word until level 33 :thinking:


The kanji 皇 is taught at level 33. WK doesn’t immediately teach all kanji that can be built from the current “radicals”, and thankfully so otherwise by level 4 you’d have a thousand or so kanji to learn…


I was thinking that one would come across the word 天皇 in Japan more often than 王.

But now that I think about it, children in the US seem to learn the words “King”, “Queen”, “Prince” and “Princess” long before they learn “president”.


Ah I see. According to the frequency data I looked up quickly, 王 is still vastly more common.

But in practice I suspect that it will depend heavily on the type of content you read. I mainly read fiction myself, and 王 is very common there, while I don’t think I’ve encountered 天皇 once.

Beyond that WaniKani’s ordering is always a bit arbitrary anyway, although they’ve improved it quite a bit over the past year I think. They’ve been moving common words/kanji down and rarer ones up.


Japan has an Emperor (King) and Imperial Family, complete with Princes and Princesses. I frequently walk past the Imperial Palace when I am out and about in that part of Tokyo. The Japanese monarchy is the oldest monarchy in the world, dating back to about 660 BC (although verifiable records before around 500 AD are not solid and the first few in the list are, today, generally accepted to be mythical). The current Emperor is #126 in the long list.

So yes, in Japan and to most Japanese people (and those of us non-Japanese that live here), there is some significance.


WK ordering (or any ordering for that matter) has to make a compromise between kanji frequency, word frequency, and the way you can decompose kanjis in elements you have already learned.

For instance, it teaches 便 before 更. I believe the first one is more common, but the second one is a part of the first one…
It teaches 機 and 械 in the same level to make the word 機械, but I don’t think I have ever seen the second kanji anywhere beside this word when reading.

Quite a puzzle.


Both (おう) and 王子(おうじ) can be used figuratively.

Also, many people like fairy tales, and want a dance with 王子(おうじ).


Fun fact that has absolutely nothing to do with WaniKani: is the most common family name in China. There are 100,000,000 people named 王 in China alone, so you can learn it to recognize their names. :slight_smile:


I thought a monarchy is supposed to have only one king? :thinking:

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We are all 王s on this blessed day.

There are about as many 王s in the world as there are Japanese people!


Long live the 王s! :crown:

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You’re gonna see 王 probably a fair amount. To pick one specific example, 八王子 is a fairly major city within Tokyo, the sixth-most populous municipality overall, and the first-most populous outside of the twenty-three special wards.


So can 女王. I use it from time to time at home for my wife :slight_smile:


That makes sense. I guess when I googled it I confused myself since it declared that Japan had a Prime Minister.

Perhaps I should look more closely next time. Now I’m curious if the king is more of a figure head rather than a decision maker.

Either way, everyone is so friendly! Thank you for all the information, everyone!

As @spaceboy6 hinted at earlier in the thread than the post you quoted, the emperor’s title in Japanese is 天皇 (and, fun fact, he’s the only remaining head-of-state in the world whose English title is “emperor”). However, many terms related to the office and the royal family still use 王 - to begin with, “royal family” is 王家. The title of his younger brother (the next in line to the throne, since his only child is a daughter and thus (currently) can’t inherit) is 親王.

The Japanese wikipedia article on 天皇 uses the 王 kanji some 246 times.

The role is largely symbolic only - one of the American conditions for the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII was that the Emperor relinquish much of his power (and his claims to godhood), and this was laid out in the 1947 constitution. He’s also recognised as the head of the Shinto religion.