2000 kanji in 6 months (learning how to write)

Spoiler: Learning how to write was so much easier after knowing how to read

Last summer I had a conversation with a Japanese woman in a hotel lobby.
While on the topic of kanji, she asked me:

- Are you able to write the kanji that you can read?"
- Oh… no, I’m currently only focusing on learning how to read. Besides, Japanese people have told me that writing by hand is very rare nowadays and if you’re able to write using a keyboard, that’s all you’ll need."
- Well, I think that you should learn how to write someday because it is still good to know…"

I remember thinking to myself “yeah right, maybe when I’m fluent and bored with other aspects of Japanese I’ll consider it”.

But somehow, this small comment that she made stuck with me and shortly afterwards I embarked on my journey towards being able to handwrite 2000 kanji.
Why 2000? Cause that’s the lovely round number that’s being thrown around everywhere.

I sat down and literally spent two full days creating an anki deck that would make the process as smooth and pain free as possible. I managed to accomplish my goal in 6 months by adding 10 new kanji to my review pile everyday (〜45min studying a day).

I already knew how to read 2000+ kanji before starting and my vocab knowledge was around 10k words. I found it to be a much more pleasant experience learning how to write after actually being familiar with what I wanted to put down on paper.


I came up with a method that I had yet to encounter and decided to give it a shot. Maybe a deck like this exists somewhere already but I haven’t come across one so far. Feel free to make your own.

  • I grabbed 3 vocab words (from wanikani) for each kanji
  • Replaced the requested kanji with its kana version
  • Kanji and stroke order diagram on the back

This forces you to recall on your own while quickly giving you clear clues regarding which kanji is being asked for + there’s no English translations involved. You’re doing it all in Japanese.

You can also go full kana in the front and highlight the requested kanji if you want. ぜったい instead of ぜっ対 when asking for 絶.

My deck currently consists of all the kanji taught by WaniKani while also including others that I have encountered in the wild accumulating a total of 2239 kanji. I am not sure if I will post the deck for public use since it is deeply tied to WaniKani’s way of ordering kanji and there might be copyright laws concerning the matter.

  • I get up 1 hour earlier every morning to do my writing practice. I found that practising in the evening was less effective since my accuracy would drop if I had a tough day and came home exhausted.
  • I write in a notebook with square pattern in order to easily balance the kanji
  • I usually only write down the words on the front of the card once and then move on to the next card.
  • If feel that I can’t write the kanji comfortably, I write the words once more.
  • Around 45min every day



  • You get much better at distinguishing between similar looking kanji 緑 縁
  • You can write letters, take physical notes, fill out forms, etc
  • Look up words in dictionaries using stroke order, writing them down, etc
  • It becomes easier to read handwritten Japanese


  • Rather time consuming
  • Not incredibly necessary skill to learn (can get by with kana + using phone dictionary)
  • Frustrating at times
  • Low sense of reward as you go

I must say that after learning 1500 commonly used kanji, learning the rest of the 500 felt like a chore and a waste of time. The kanji became more obscure and even my Japanese friend saw what I was practising and said:

“Wow, there are so many kanji here that I can’t even write… 頑張って”

We all know that even Japanese people have trouble remembering how to write all the kanji they were taught in school and I’m also fine with forgetting a lot of them. But at least when I google a kanji that I’ve forgotten, I’ll be able to remember it with just a quick glance.

I am extremely proud of myself due to the fact that I managed to go through with the daunting task of writing kanji and I can finally remove it from my list of future things to deal with. If you are wondering whether you should be practising handwriting or not I say give it some time and don’t rush it. You can start once you are able to read and that’s ok.
I attempted to learn handwriting alongside reading and it was just far to slow and painful for me.

new character, new meaning, new kun- and onyomi, learning a stroke order + the vocab :exploding_head:

Learning how to write was so much easier after knowing how to read


Bookmarking this. It’s really fun to learn to write, I think, but I agree that doing it afterwards makes much more sense. I’ll use this deck after I finish wk.


A lot of times a (dedicated) learner of a foreign language knows more about the language than a native speaker. We still make mistakes when speaking/writing but we know more about terms such as transitive/intransitive verbs, past/present participle, volitional form, etc. just to mention examples from European languages. And in the case of Japanese I guess being able to pass JLPT 1 or Kanken 1, being able to handwrite all Joyo kanji, etc.


I love everything about this post but this is my favorite part. I often sleep in and I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time. After finishing wanikani (will take some time still) I want to try this too. Thank you for this!


I could swear I read somewhere here that they don’t mind WaniKani based decks but maybe that was just wishful thinking.


I often sleep in and that’s the best part of my day :sob:


I know😭

I can’t believe how light this picture is at 6am


You can just change the order and no one can say it’s taken from Wanikani, they can’t have copyrights on Vocabulary or kanji so the order is all there is


Omg, for me beeing able to write kanji is SO EXTREMELY USEFUL!

I just started with the intermediate book club (Kino no tabi) and I have to look up a whole bunch of vocabs. Often I just have some kanji without furigana, so I handwrite them with my Japanese handwriting keyboard at my phone into Jisho.org. I don’t even have to look up from the book, I just do some strokes in the right order and BAM! the right kanji appear on my phone.

Of course you can guess the stroke orders of unknown kanji, when you wrote similar kanji…

Btw: I combine learning to write kanji with the English-Japanese translation (aka KaniWani). Works really good, but of course it’s also very time consuming.

~T :lion:


I use Midori and it just does the guessing for me perfectly. So yet another reason down why I don’t have to know how to write…

But I still want to get back into practicing writing once I finished WaniKani and feel like there is finally some time left for other stuff. So this post is very inspiring.


Which ones are the 1500 commonly used Kanji?

What I’m doing is going through WaniKani and KameSame at the same time (and bunpro
(・_・;)) , and since I do all my lessons and reviews on my phone I just use Google keyboard’s handwriting input.
This way it doesn’t feel so overwhelming since I’m only writing kanji as I guru them (and I’m also more familiar with them).
On one hand it’s the most annoying part of my daily Japanese routine, but I do get more familiarized with these kanjis and it also helps me recall them instead of just recognizing them, so I’ll just deal with it.
Anyways, congratulations on your achievement! And reaching level 60\(^o^)/



Tragically, the frequency list cited on WK Stats doesn’t seem to exist any more…



NHK Easy News frequency source: https://gist.github.com/adrian17/836b97ee5740b20e63edbe35251d6bc1

Other frequency sources: https://github.com/scriptin/topokanji/tree/master/data/kanji-frequency


Congratulations on this! I know that many some people intend to get around to writing once they can read: it is nice to see that some people do!


Maybe Alaska?
During parts of the year it never turns dark


Oh wow! Nice work, bookmarking this :slight_smile:

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So, you’re ready to sign up for Kanken? :slight_smile:


To anyone who does practice writing Kanji, do you think there is any benefit to maybe drawing the radicals a few times when you get new ones, or would that screw up stroke order too much?

I used to looooooove to sleep in as well but I realized that my Japanese ability is rather strong in the morning while my brain is fresh. Being able to fit in 2 hours of Japanese study before your day even started is not bad :wink:

I’m honestly really interested in what they would think of me releasing this deck to the public since there seems to be people interested in it. I just don’t want to do anything that would be frowned upon by the WaniKani team.

…I guess, also, it does include a lot of non-wanikani items at this point…

I mean yeah, I don’t really see any big reason to learn handwriting at all. It just feels right for me to somehow to be able to write the language that you studied for so long I guess :rofl: I totally feel you

I bet there are kanji frequency lists floating around on the internet but I guess I should’ve said kanji up until lvl 45-ish since that’s what I thought of when writing that.

1500 commonly used and not “1500 most commonly used” :blush:

Sounds like a solid routine.
I can say that since I didn’t write at all during my WaniKani journey and therefore my kanji knowledge was a bit shaky at times. Writing kanji has for sure made it a lot more solid than ever before! :raised_hands:

I thought it would be interesting to share my experience since I do not see a lot of people speaking of reaching 2000 or beyond when it comes to writing (except for some RTK people).

Oh nooo, If I do Kanken it’ll have to be at least Level 2 and I don’t have all the Joyo kanji down just yet :thinking:
Did you take it? What was your experience if you did?
I never realised how poor my okurigana knowledge was until I began handwriting… :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

I don’t know what you are referring to when asking if it would screw up stroke order or not?
I never practised radicals separately but it became second nature after learning how to write about 500 kanji or so. You start to understand patterns and stroke order even becomes something that you don’t have to actively care about as much.