3 years, 2 long breaks, 1 trip to Japan, and countless reviews later


Took longer than I was initially hoping for back in October '18, but here we are. 60.

If you’re reading this there’s no reason you can’t make it all the way as well, and I hope you do. So, I’ll jot down a few thoughts that might help keep you on track. I can at least say that they worked for me.

Have A Goal
“Well - my goal is to learn Japanese.”

I view language as a means to an end - so what’s the end goal? Maybe it’s speaking with Japanese family members. It might be consuming your favorite manga or anime in Japanese, or watching an old Kurosawa film without subtitles. One way or another, it’s something specific to set your sights on.

It’s conceivable that some might reach a high level of proficiency learning a language just for the hell of it. If so, great! But I suspect this is not the typical experience.

At some point along the way this is going to get hard or life will get in the way or whatever. I found that when I had a specific end in mind (e.g. a trip to Japan) I was far more motivated and likely to stay on course. What’s the next clear and tangible milestone on your journey?

Don’t Be Afraid To Make Adjustments
At some point your studies will be challenging, but smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.

Accept this while you’re still in a smooth sailing phase. That way when it does get tough it’s more a feeling of, “Well I knew this was coming, now what do I want to do about it” rather than feeling overwhelmed and defeated.

Know when to make changes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the number of reviews you have, stop taking lessons for a bit, or only a handful every day. Whatever the situation, it’s fine to change your game plan when something isn’t working out.

This is something I should have done better early on. The initial pace I was on here worked great for about half a year, but then was unsustainable. Instead of adjusting I burned out and was away from my studies for months.

Don’t; or at least I’m glad I didn’t.

I’ve taken two ~6 months breaks and come back to ~3000 reviews both times. In this situation I really think it’s best to just get through them, for a few reasons.

First, it’s not as bad as you might think. Just plan to get it down 50-100 per day and you’ll be back on track in no time; it’s far less intimidating this way.

Second, I suspect resetting will invariably cost you more time in the long run. The cards you’re getting wrong are already “resetting” themselves anyway, so why throw away the progress on the stuff you do know? In my case, even at 33% accuracy - many of those being burn reviews - that’s as many as 1000 cards each time that would have been set back months.

Third, once you prove to yourself that you can do it, you’ll be even more resilient the next time you find yourself challenged. Or if you wake up to find 200-300 reviews awaiting your attention it’s like, “Well I’ve tackled worse than this before, piece of cake.”

User Synonyms
If there’s an area where I think WaniKani can continue to improve it’s expansion of synonyms. In the meantime I highly recommend adding user synonyms to many of your cards.

There are just so many valid ways you might think to answer some of these, especially after not having seen them in months. It’s frustrating getting to a Burn review and getting it wrong because you answered “receiving humbly” versus “humbly receiving.” Or you put in an answer that WK doesn’t accept, but yet it’s listed on Jisho or Weblio as perfectly fine.

So for every new card I started thinking, “Is there another way I might phrase this answer 5 months from now?” Double check it against a Japanese-English dictionary to make sure you’re not stretching the meaning too far. But something along these lines will save a lot of frustration down the road.

Where To From Here?
It’s quite humbling picking up a book of short stories or flipping on the news for a few minutes and finding just how much vocabulary is out there that I still have to learn. With that said I feel like after getting this far on WaniKani you can guess at word readings and meanings with a fair degree of accuracy even if you’re seeing it for the first time. It’s really pretty remarkable.

I’ll finish out my lessons and continue to drill content for some months here, but I’m definitely going to transition more towards consumption of native content, listening practice, and using the language.

Closing Thoughts
I found a video a while back with an encouraging message on perseverance from a (now retired) Japanese athlete. Looks like this may have even originally been recorded on VHS years ago but has been transferred to digital and put on YouTube for posterity. It’s short and entirely in Japanese but this version has English subtitles.

Perhaps this will give you an extra boost of motivation to get through your reviews today, so I leave you with:

Words of Encouragement From 松岡修造


Hope you enjoy your long waited well deserved rest.

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Ooo, tell us about your trip to Japan. I always enjoy reading about others’ adventures. :slightly_smiling_face:


Needed that today thanks. Congrats on making it to 60.


Inspiring. Tks for sharing.

I personally have been studying Japanese on and off for almost years. Wani Kani is the first thing that I could use almost daily. I’m currently revising Genki because it seems I forgot lots of grammar points.

Sometimes I question myself, why I’m even learning this language? In the end, there’s no rational answer. I just like it.

Also, when did you go to Japan? Was it recent? I thought international travel was a bit difficult right now hehe


It was back in April of '19. I’d had plans to return in November of last year, but that obviously had to get scrapped. Plans again this year to go back in November but I give that 50/50 odds at best.

Anyway, it was a great time. ~4 days around Tokyo including a day trip to Kamakura, then ~4 around Kyoto with a day trip to Nara, a day down in Hiroshima, and back up to Tokyo to head back to the US.

Getting Around
I highly recommend flying ANA, the service is just superb. And if you have the right credit card as a transfer partner you can get outrageously good bonus mile redemption rates.

Being accustomed to public transport in the US (or lack thereof), the train system in Japan blew me away. Everything is so convenient, clean, on time, and easy to use. And the shinkansen is totally the way to go for fast, medium distance travel.

I’d go back to Japan just to ride the trains all day. If there’s one thing that takes me back to feeling like I’m in Japan, it’s the station melodies and announcements.

The Language
At that time I’d been studying Japanese for maybe a year and WaniKani for ~5 or 6 months. Obviously a lot of the major cities in Japan are very English friendly, but I found even that amount of Japanese was useful for getting around. Listening comprehension by far was the biggest challenge and I think it’s easy to fall behind there when studying on your own.

I’d been doing language exchange with someone there for a while, and she graciously offered to show me around the Kamakura area my first full day there. Really nice having a local show you the ropes of the train system and little shops and cool places you might not know about. I really liked Iwata Coffee down there in Kamakura.

Highlight of language use for that trip was getting dinner on Easter Sunday at Sushi Ginza Onodera. Knew just enough to get by with basic conversation with the chefs and one of the other patrons. That was probably the top highlight of the trip, felt like an accomplishment. Great meal too. Not at all cheap but a really nice omakase course.

The Food

Omakase and kaiten sushi, ramen at Ichiranj and at Kyoto station (photo above), ekibens on the shikansen, grilled skewers of assorted seafood in Tsukiji, udon, karaage from a street vendor, tonkatsu - there’s so much good stuff to have. As an aside, I highly recommend Tonkatsu Suzuki in Tokyo Station. Ate there twice during my stay, super good.

I don’t know what to say other than there’s just good stuff to be had everywhere you go.

Was most surprised at how popular Italian food is in Japan, or at least some Japan-ified version of it. I did have some shirasu pizza at a tiny cafe in Kamakura, that was an interesting mix of east and west! Nice quiet little spot, that place.


Getting acclimated when I first arrived was an interesting feeling. On one hand it feels very familiar, like any major city. Like it could have been New York… except for everyone speaking Japanese! Definitely a very modern feel, lots of people in suits or school uniforms. But at the same time you have the strong thread of Japanese culture running through the city.

Definitely a good start point for anyone going to Japan for the first time; everything very English-friendly. I only barely scratched the surface, there’s so much to do and explore in the city.


After spending time in Tokyo, you get off the train in Kyoto and it’s like… “Is this the same country?” There’s a tangible atmosphere to the city, dripping in culture, and walking around Gion feels like you’ve gone back in time 1000 years.

Always on the search for good food, wandering around some night I found Gyoza Hohei with a line out the door and around the corner. I figured this was a universal sign for “good place to eat.” Fun just chatting with people in line, and worth the wait. It’s interesting how in Japan so many restaurants pretty much do one thing but do it very well, as opposed to in the US how you can get a little bit of everything almost anywhere you go.

Likewise, only barely scratched the surface here hitting a few of the major tourist spots like Fushimi Inari. The day trip down to Nara is definitely worth it. The deer just chilling everywhere like there aren’t city busses going by, is something else. Toudaiji is pretty wild to see in person too. Absolutely massive.


The demographics of Japan are something like 98% Japanese, 2% everyone else, so as it is you already feel like you stick out like a sore thumb as a foreigner. As an American walking around Hiroshima, I felt extra self conscious about how I’d be perceived. But, if I was going to be in Japan and not know when or if I’d get to go back, I felt like it was appropriate to make the trip down.

The whole experience is just surreal on so many levels. I’d been to Los Alamos and the Trinity Site years ago, and now standing at ground zero, I’d stood at both ends of the Manhattan Project. Crazy being there and looking up, knowing that decades ago that spot was in someone’s bombsight. Then you’ve got the building standing there, as it was in August '45, with the thriving current day city around it. Knowing that at some point years ago you could look in all directions and just see nothing but complete devastation.

The peace museum there is pretty heavy, but worth visiting. I took some time at the Shukkeien gardens afterwards just to mentally decompress from it all.

There really is no anti-American sentiment though. The message of the whole place really is just peace and “no more Hiroshimas.”

Overall a really good trip and I crammed a lot into ~10 days (or whatever it was given the flights and time zone changes). Felt like just as I was really getting acclimated and comfortable getting around the country, it was time to go home. So I’m absolutely ready to go back.


nice thread OP, I am getting a lot of good hints

“receiving humbly” versus “humbly receiving.”

for synonyms, from level 15 I started using them more often! English is not my native language so not answering the exact order got me frustrated like branch office, usually I type office branch. Or even sentence example versus example sentence.

This should be more clearly explained to new users in first three levels.

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Definitely, if you’re also doing enough long-distance travel to make a JR Pass worth the cost (and Tokyo to Hiroshima and back does do the trick). Otherwise it can be a little bit steep.

I would quite like to try flying ANA (or JAL) someday, but honestly the prices don’t even come within hailing distance of Qantas, so…

Ah, tell me about it. Even aside from just the riding of trains, there’s also some very nice scenic lines out there I’d like to try.

One tip: if you ever do manage to visit in November, play the Tokyo Metro Underground Mysteries - here is the website from the 2019 game. It’s been run every year from 2014 to 2019 between October and January (approximately - 2019 started two weeks later, for some reason), and basically you buy a book of puzzles and an all-day pass for Tokyo Metro, and you spend all day travelling around on the trains solving puzzles. (It didn’t happen in 2020, for obvious reasons, and I’m sincerely hoping that’s not a sign that 2019 was the final one. The site’s main page has a note that definitely gives the impression that the plan is just to skip 2020, but you know what they say about the best-laid schemes 'o mice and men…)

Anyway, I’ve done it in both 2017 and 2019 and enjoyed it immensely, though I did do 2019 in the middle of Cyclone Bualoi, which dampened my enthusiasm a little bit.

Another suggestion: not all trains, but the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is a very nice showcase of various types of mass transit. And alpine scenery.

Oh, indeed. I did my first trip in 2010 before I started learning Japanese, and I certainly managed. I brought a phrasebook for assistance, though I quickly realised that it didn’t do me a huge amount of good, because though it allowed me to ask questions, I could never understand the answers. I was able to actually use my Japanese on more recent trips, but yeah, my continued weakness at listening constantly does me in. I’ve had conversations in Japanese that went so smoothly that in my head they happened in English, but I also never once understood someone asking me where I come from, and that’s often the first question I’d get.

You can tell it’s the same country because of the vending machine parked over there on the left. :stuck_out_tongue:

Aye, indeed it is. I try to avoid places with too long a line when I travel, though - I’m there to sightsee, not stand in line. :slightly_smiling_face:

Oh, extremely, on both counts. If you ever get the time to go back there, though, you should spend at least one night on Miyajima. Two would be better - give yourself time to spend the day there.

Tell me about it. I’ve been there four times, two weeks each time, and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of Tokyo or Kyoto, much less the rest of the country. Hiroshima is the furthest west I’ve gone, Ichinoseki the furthest north, so there’s still a lot that I haven’t even seen out the window of a train.


If this thing in November happens, I’ll be flying transpacific business class for something like… $150 out of pocket, the 13 or whatever hours from Houston to Haneda :slight_smile:

The frequent flyer redemption rates on the Japanese carriers are just crazy good, especially with transfer partners. ANA certainly is, but I believe JAL is as well. You’d think there’d be an opportunity there with the Qantas / JAL OneWorld connection

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Ah, Qantas had a sale in 2019 where Business seats were going for just twice the normal price for Economy seats, but by the time I’d checked with work that it was ok for me to vanish for two weeks, they’d all been sold. Sad face.

Congrats on making it to the end! :partying_face: :tada: :birthday:

Please have this cake!


Congratulations on making it to level 60 :partying_face:
…and congratulations to making me post my first reply in the WK forums :sweat_smile:

Honestly, it’s quite a relief to have people out there, who aren’t superhumans, powering through WK in the shortest amount of time possible. That makes me feel at ease, to keep going on my own pace.

You’ve listed some great tips.
I’ve started learning Japanese around March 2020 and for the first few month I had no specific goal in mind. I had just come back from a trip to Japan and since I had such a great time in Tokyo, I felt it was just natural to start learning Japanese.
I’m now at the point, where I’ve already made some adjustments, including formulating specific goals, I want to achieve within a certain time.

For me a big game changer was entering a 日本語のクラス which takes place two times a week and forces me to actually speak. I strongly recommend to use the language as soon as possible!

I really enjoyed the impressions of your trip. It makes me want to board the next plane. Unfortunately most of us might have to wait a little bit longer, until travel is possible again.

I’ll try to make good use of the time and tackle my pile of over 100 lessons…


I’m glad!

I’ll share an annotated version of my WaniKani timeline… it absolutely had its ups and downs and was far from perfect.

If I can do it anyone can. And there’s no such thing as a hole that’s too deep to pull yourself out of.



Great post and very nice travel description, thank you!

Great work, that’s a mighty fine achievement! Thanks for the humbling and inspiring insight, it’s a good reminder that everyone’s journey follows a personal pace.

Your trip looked like a blast, it makes me more excited about being able to visit for the first time! Will add those restaurants to my list! Thanks for sharing.

Biiiiiig congratulations for having made it this far :sparkles:

Wow, great accomplishment! Best of luck in your continued studies.

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