カタカナ! How do I memorize those pesky characters?

Just for clarification:
“These characters” refers to the entire Gatakana Gojūon

So I’ve been trying to memorize katakana since I started on WK(Actually for the past 6 weeks, but I tried to SERIOUSLY memorize them for the past 2), and I’ve made 0 progress.

The ~60% of kana I do recognize, feel more like guessing, and the other 40%… I’ve failed the same 17 kana about 8 times so far over the past 3 days.

I tried Benkyou, real kana, kana mind, actual physical flashcards(these physical cards are the ones that gave me the statistic above), and filling page after page of an A5 notebook with the same kana over and over, along with the romaji reading of that kana(And while I love writing on paper with my fountain pen, my hand is seriously sore now).

Meanwhile, I barely even tried, and reading Hiragana might not come naturally(I still have to think over each digraph), but I almost don’t experience any "Is it MA? MO? YO? HO?(Actually, these 4 are the only ones I still sometimes get confused over, but only like in 30% of cases).

Any tips for memorizing these characters, so that I won’t feel like an uneducated heathen?


Your flashcards, are they kana on their own? Or are they katakana words? In context seems like the best way to go.

As for the individual characters, モ seems like a fairly straightforward one, since both the hiragana も and the katakana モ were based on the same very similar-looking kanji, 毛.

Others might not always come out as clean as that from their kanji versions. Like ま and マ are both from 末, but for the katakana マ it’s kinda hard to see the relation (apparently it’s from the two horizontal lines written in a quick, cursive way).

1 Like

Just the kana.

モ is consistently in the remember column.

The worst offenders tho are…


You mean something like ふラんす人 for the ラ flashcard?


I guess I misread, I thought you were talking about katakana with the ma, mo, yo, and ho part.

I meant, it would be like フランス on one side and “furansu” on the other side. Instead of just 4 cards for フ, ラ, ン, and ス. Because katakana in the real world are read in words.

Or if you’re comfortable enough with hiragana, then having hiragana on the reverse would be fine too.

1 Like

What helped me learn them really quickly was to use little pictures, tofugu has some on their site plus this video about learning them in an hour from Japanese Pod 101 on youtube helped me a whole bunch! Maybe worth trying to remember them with mnemonics the same way wanikani teaches kanji?
Learning Katakana in an Hour


Have you ever watched Evangelion? The main character’s name is シンジ。spelled entirely with those pesky kana where the little ’ is turned on its side, as opposed to upright as in ソ and ツ。

I know it’s not the greatest mnemonic but remembering シ/ジ and ン as the “shinji trio” helped me a ton.

1 Like

Mnemonics don’t work for people who don’t have a mind’s eye(Aphantasia).

So mnemonics go out the window.


1 Like

I remembered them by making them into a story much like Wanikani does in general as it teaches you more material. You have a good basis already knowing hiragana. So you could do what I did and write the katakana over and over again (I’m talking 10 times a day for the next few weeks) and as you write them out make a story for why those specific characters are in those specific locations. For instance I remember シ because it looks like a smiley and “She is smiling at me.”

1 Like

Oh wow!

This might actually work for me, at least for those 5.

Now to memorize the rest

1 Like

Ok I must be misunderstanding then sorry about that. Now I can’t even wrap my head around how you are using Wanikani?

Are you only using it for the SRS system it provides since its technique of teaching kanji is irrelevant to you?

Well there are some other members with aphantasia and the people in that thread seem to find the mnemonics … not entirely useless?

Might be interesting to check out nonetheless.

1 Like

Yeah, the feelings ones are golden(like the one for the 土 radical, where you need to imagine the dirt going under your fingernails, or the scent of the fresh soil. Which I then associated with my dog digging in the dirt(ど). The つち read? Yeah, that one’s an (synonym for donkey) to remember, because it requires you to imagine SEEING 2 pieces of cheese).

Now that I think about it, that WOULD explain the inconsistency

I see, so it doesn’t work to just sort of know of these cheese pieces existing without actually seeing anything?

Sorry if I’m being inquisitive!

But they don’t?

I mean, in terms of remembering “soil”, I lean on past experiences.
At the moment, my best way to remember the vocab reading of つち is a dumb sentence that I’d rather not share, because it’ll mess with your own mnemonics.

Sadly… I had a traditional teacher who told us that we would just have to memorize.

remember that Ma and Mu are reversed. Mu looks like the radical for private.

Shi has two eyes and the curve comes from the bottom. Looks almost like a smiley face.
Tsu comes from the top and so does So.

Try to remember the stroke order, maybe that would help?

ンソシツ the nasty ones

These ones I recommend seeing the stroke order for. The drops (those tiny strokes at the top) are horizontal in ン and シ , just like the line. In ソ and ツ both the drops and the line are downwards. Another one to distinguish for シ and ツ is with ツ you start from left to right then down, with シ you go top to bottom, then the horizontal stroke slightly upwards.

If you want something quicker think of a vertical line going through the drops and touching the bottom stroke for シ you would make something likeし. If you look at ツ you make a つ if you make a horizontal line through the drops.

I think watching closer will help. The difference is also easier if you make them bigger, like one quick glance in this fontsize would make you think this kanji 士 is the same as 土 , but they’re different. It also throws me off when I don’t pay enough attention in reviews.

The start is always the hardest. I remember it also took me a good while the first time I encountered hiragana and katakana. After that it will stick.

It might not help at all but my way of remembering them is kinda like that:
ツ and シ have two strokes, one more stroke than ン and ソ. If you write it in romaji tsu and shi also have one more letter. More strokes → more letters. So when I see more strokes I know it must be either tsu or shi and when I see one stroke it must be n or so.

ム was a difficult one for me. I ended up using a rather convoluted mnemonic. Basically: hey look it’s a triangle, pizza is my favorite set of triangles, pizza comes with cheese, cheese is made of milk, milk comes from cows, cows go ム

Imagine ソ as a rain drop falling straight down to the ground.
Imagine ツ as a lot of rain falling straight down to the ground.
Imagine ン as a rain drop falling sideways. It’s been picked up by the wind.
Imagine シ as a lot of rain falling sideways.
Imagine ノ as there being no rain.

You’re going to get soaking wet (ソ) because there’s a tsunami (ツ) coming.
But wait! The storm just shifted (シ) direction, so there’s going to be no (ノ) rain today.
Just some nearby droplets (ン).


I just finished my hiragana/katakana binge. I have a disconnect in my brain with sounds and symbols/letters so this may not apply but I use an app called JustKana. Its basically a multi-choice flash card system. I just used the quiz section and I would do a round of test and note all the ones I got wrong then write them down saying the sound about 3 to 5 times. I would focus on 5 to 10 at a time and spaced my practice over time so I was not spending hours and hours writing so it was not that overwhelming. After all your brain needs time of rest to commit events to memory.