Advice for levels heavy on "concept" words?

I have had so many issues with levels 13-15ish because they’re full of concepts rather than tangible things. To think, to feel, to believe, to trust, to know, idea, thought, feeling, etc. (Some of those may be earlier levels but this is the point where I’m getting them mixed up.) If I try using a mnemonic for them, my brain associates them with the “things” or actions in the mnemonic, rather than the concepts.

And that’s just talking raw kanji meaning or verb forms, but there are so many ways to put them together to mean similar things as well.

Do you guys have issues with this? If you’ve gotten past related mental hurdles, how did you do it? Are there any other levels/level ranges where this seems particularly bad?

Sincerely, someone with a lot of

on the matter.


I think most of my leeches are just “concept” words. My biggest one is 提案 which means proposition and has a mnemonic that reads something like “I want you to present this plan in the form of a proposition” which seems simple to remember but I ALWAYS forget it. Couldn’t find a good way to deal with them yet, but they say the best way to squash leeches is to first notice them, and then just complain about them. That might be a good way to start dealing with “concept” words?

The simpler the mnemonic (i.e. I am thinking that it is so simple to remember) tends to be, the more likely I will forget it.
The harder (i.e. I am thinking that I will never ever remember this), the more likely I am still remembering it.

So I try to thing of harder/longer/weirder mnemonics every time I think “That is so easy/obvious” now…


How about 提案 as “take”/“carry” for 提 and then “plan” for 案 so “take a plan” to “propose”? This works nicely alongside 提出 which I confused it with for ages before settling on “hand-in”/“submit” for the latter.

On the subject of concepts I find “illusion” 幻 compounds the hardest.

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KW clarifies it some for me. Not completely, but it’s a pretty decent start.

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The best advice I can give for abstract concepts is to associate certain concepts and sounds with more concrete things.

Like, てい I always associate with tea, あん I associate with a character An from an anime a while back, and proposal I associate with marriage. Therefore, when I want to remember 提案 (ていあん), I associate someone giving てい to あん in the same way one would propose for marriage i.e. on one knee holding the item in hand.


Yikes! That looks rough!

Are you aware that the 忄radical is a form of heart - 心 ? So you can see that both of the kanji in your list have heart in them, so you could build your own mnemonics focusing on the emotion meaning of the word feeling, and try to build up some sort of emotion in your own heart as you recall the mnemonic. 情 already has emotion listed as a synonym, and I don’t think it would be too off to add emotion as a synonym for 感, if that would help.

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For conceptual vocabulary, you have to really learn the kanji. Unlike English, where many synonyms come from different linguistic roots or slight nuances, Japanese words are (usually) based on the kanji. Unfortunately, WaniKani normally just provides the most common meaning for kanji, so sometimes you’ll miss out on secondary meanings if you don’t do extra research.


気 can mean “feeling” with a focus on its meaning as spirit or energy. 気 is used when neither a particular emotion nor physical state can be described stand-alone but rather a general sense. Usually, when 気 is used in a way to denote “feeling,” it indicates some sort of change in the status quo.

感 is “feeling” with a focus towards “sensation.” As you’ll learn later, this kanji is used when referring to the five senses. If you have a “feeling” that someone is watching you, you’re looking at 感.

情 is “feeling” as in emotion. If you have “feelings” for someone or a movie gave you the feels, you’re looking at 情.


気持ち are emotional feelings brought about by a circumstance. If you’re really hot and a cool breeze blows by, it would be 気持ちいい. If you’re shirt starts sticking to you because of the sweat, it would be 気持ち悪い. 気 is your current emotional state, while 持ち describes how it has be “touched.”

感じ most closely resembles “feeling” with a reference to how something “seems,” most appropriately, a “sense/sensation” or “impression.” It’s a very common word that usually describes an abstract concept that invokes a feeling. Say you were about to give a speech. If you describe how your heart was racing quickly, your mind was racing through what you had to say, etc., it’s that sort of sense (感じ).

感情 are “feelings” as in emotions. The combination of physical feelings 感 and emotional feelings 情 are what we know as emotions. 感じ described the effects you experienced, but didn’t describe how you actually felt. 感情 would be that you were very nervous.

気分 is “feeling” as in your mood. If you’re not in the mood to play a game, このゲームを遊ぶ気分になりない is effectively “I can’t get into the mood to play this game.” However, this refers to your mood specifically, and cannot be used to describe someone else’s mood or a general “mood” (such as a two lovers on a date having a good mood going). Those words are covered by other Japanese words. To reference the kanji, 気分 describes that their are many parts 分 of your spirit 気. The current 気 you have is your 気分.

心持ち is “feeling” as in an emotional state. If you can describe someone as a happy personal, you are describing their 心持ち.

To sum up: You wake up right before your alarm feeling refreshed and awake (気分). When you stand up, you stretch, enjoying the feeling of your body loosening up (気持ち). When you walk out your door and see the clear, blue sky with the occasional puffy white cloud, it feels like like a day where nothing can go wrong (感じ). As you walk into work, your boss tells you you’re getting a promotion because you’re a very positive person (心持ち). This makes you incredibly happy (感情).

Hope this helped! If you ever get stumbled by the concepts being synonyms in English, put some research into the kanji to figure out the combo. Not only will this make understanding how to use the word easier, but the time taken to do so will embed the word in your memory. :wink:


For those types of words, I try and create/find my own example sentence that uses the word. Like for the 気持ち I always think of Asuka at the end of End of Evangelion saying “気持ち悪い” after Shinji chokes her. It got translated as “I feel sick,” which always struck me as an interesting choice, since I’ve seen it used as often by japanese kids and teens being disgusted by the behavior of others, and literally means “bad feeling.” But this interpretive dissonance is what makes the sentence, and thus the word, sticky.

Anyways, what I’m trying to say is, its better to ground those words in context sentences, and try to remember the sentence– that way you’ll get the meaning and the usage at once.

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Thank you to everyone! I actually wasn’t having too much trouble with remembering that all of those meant feeling, I was just using them as an example. I think I shouldn’t have done that, since a lot of people focused specifically on those words.

However, @EiriMatsu added some wonderful information about those words. Is there a good place you look those differences up, or is that something you learn with access to a teacher/tutor/native? I’m not sure I could pick up that much nuance through example sentences. If anyone knows of a good place to look up kanji etymology, that might help me out too.

Again, thank you all so much!

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You’re quite welcome. Those types of word groups cause me to go on a research tangent whenever I find them since I’m sensitive to word choice.

Nowadays, my method is a combination of simple analysis, research, and discussing with natives, especially the 国語 teachers who have every dictionary imaginable. Popping a search on words on sites like Hinative can yield a lot of results from people with the same question in the past. Of course, is a go-to for alternative meanings, especially if you’re not confident or don’t have access to actual Japanese dictionaries.

Just like English, you also end up with those times where some words are just interchangeable due how the populace views them. 兵器 and 武器 have always yielded funny results in that department, especially since many dictionaries use them to define each other, but different people have different interpretations.

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