Already know over meanings of 1600 Kanji, is it worth starting WaniKani?

Hey guys, I know there was a similar question posted by my situation is slightly different.

I’ve been studying Kanji using Anki and the Heisig method. I already know the meanings of just over 1600 Kanji, with approx. 300 I am busy learning and approx. 300 I haven’t seen yet. I know the readings of some (can’t estimate how many) that I have been picking up through vocab but for the majority of them I only know the meanings. WaniKani looks like it could help me with the readings.

I am preparing for my N4, and looking at WaniKani as a potential tool for learning, but I’m worried I might waste a lot of time redoing work I have already done. I am also a little concerned that it will teach me new mnemonics for Kanji where I already have my own, but I guess I could just ignore these.

I already use Anki and Memrise for vocab so I’ll really only be using WaniKani for Kanji. Do you think it’s still worth it to start with WaniKani now?

I’m so torn reading this; I’d say as kanji aren’t exactly useful without their readings, yes you totally should just jump in and do it anyway.

But you really are so far along you might as well just finish what you’ve been doing.

Or perhaps both? You’ve got a long road ahead of you learning enough vocab to solidify readings for everything. Doing WK at a comfortable pace on the side couldn’t hurt.

If it was 1600 meanings and readings I’d probably say it wouldn’t be a good purchase, but if you haven’t learned the readings yet, then you still have the majority of WK content ahead of you.


It’s up to you, really. There are people who have started after passing N2. You’ll probably pick up some readings you don’t know (or know that well), definitely some vocab (though that isn’t the site’s primary aim), and it never hurts to have regular drilling in general.

If you feel like you’re really at a deficit for readings–I mean, those are hugely important in terms of both testing and real-world comprehension and expression.

Really it just comes down to whether you like the system (having something thoroughly manage review content and timing for you is no joke), and think the time and money would be worth the reading pick-ups and reviews. Might as well stick out the free levels and see how you feel.

It may be a while before you hit huge swathes of brand-new kanji, but if your overall Japanese learning is at a point of preparing for N4, I’d say that’s probably fine in terms of immediate, concrete goals? You won’t need more niche kanji for any testing goals for a while, but you’ll absolutely need all those simpler readings down. (Both for tests and, again, any real-world usage. Ultimately it’s hard to interact with any higher-level material in general if you can’t pair readings to the kanji, too.) Whether WK is ultimately for you, I can’t say, but I can comment that I think it would make learning those readings pretty smooth and hands-off.

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I’m not sure the key to wanikani is it’s content, rather it is just how well it can manage to become part of your learning routine, because it’s fun. I would use the free levels and just find whether you like the pattern and routine it gives you or not.


I was in a similar situation when I started WK, which I did because I wanted to improve my reading ability as fast as possible, and I can fit the WK habit into my daily routine.
I’ve found it very useful. Yes, there’s some repetition of stuff I already know, but I find I blast through that stuff pretty quickly because of the way SRS works, so the vast majority of my time is spent on stuff that I don’t know, or don’t know well.
I find it very helpful, but YMMV. But, it’s a monthly subscription, so if if doesn’t work for you, at least you haven’t lost all that much.


We have a great community here. it will be easier to study with an active community.


Difficult to give a definite recommendation.

If Heisig’s method works for you, have you given RTK2 a look? It claims to teach readings for the Kanji from RTK1, although it seems much less popular online than the first book.

I think a big problem for you will be that WaniKani’s mnemonics are very different, and often the reading mnemonics are derived from the meaning mnemonics.

But maybe give WK a go, first three levels are free, and see how you like it?

Slightly unrelated question here, do you ever use what you learned ?
I tend to get a little worried when i see people mention so much drilling that i wonder if they ever have time to read a book and actually solidify their knowledge in context.

But back on topic.
As others said, if you dont know readings, knowing the meanings of kanji wont do you much good.
In that case WK is a good tool to get some of that, there might be more effective ways, but WK has done all the setting up and planning work for you.
And you may be able to go at near max speed through it with the prior knowledge you have.

If you can already identify 1600 kanji + some readings. You will mostly be using Wanikani for the kanji readings + the 6000 words that are taught to make said readings stick in your head.

I can imagine a few reasons why WK might not be the best in your case.

  • Different radicals (no benefit relearning those if you can already identify 1600 kanji)
  • You already have your own mnemonics. Wanikani uses separate mnemonics for the meanings and for the readings but they are connected. Not sure how it will work out if you use your own mnemonics.
  • It will feel slow, relearning 一、中 and other easy kanji and vocabs.

Your Wanikani experience might be a bit awkward and you will probably have to alter things a lot by adding synonyms for most radicals and kanji as well as you own RTK mnemonics.
You should be able to do Wanikani at a speed higher than the average but I’m not sure whether you will learn as much as you would if you spent the same time working with ressources that fit your situation.

Try the free levels, it won’t take long and if you like it keep at it but I would also try finding an other way like RTK2, anki core 10k, JLPT vocab books etc.

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Regarding your worries about the mnemonics: as for radicals you are able to give them your own mnemonics (I do it when a) idk the English word well/can’t remember it well or b) when I see a radical and a different mnemonic comes into my mind immediately)
I think you can do it with the option “add synonyms”

Ideally you’d have to make up your own stories for Kanji as well, as they are based on the radicals (option “add note”)

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There are a few issues you can consider:

  1. WaniKani pace is limited by how fast you can level. The way the SRS intervals are set up, if you were to time them just right you could level in about 7-8 days (minus the fast levels where that’s 4-5 days, but these are few). To get to 1600 kanji in WaniKani you’d have to reach around level 50, which could take you the better part of 1 year, or slightly faster, depending on your speed & accuracy, etc. If you’re coming from Anki and used to have complete control on your workload, WK will seem slow to you at first (before you get enough items in the SRS to have a significant workload).
  2. Another problem might be that WK uses a completely different radicals (heisig equivalent of primitives? I think), that you have to also learn and will be quizzed on in order to progress. The names will be different and you’ll probably have to relearn most of them (or cheat by adding user synonyms). However, you can’t skip them. In order to unlock kanji lessons you must first progress the radicals to the Guru SRS level. This system might seem tedious to you and you might end up resenting it (we have a lot of people complaining about it already, they’re a vocal minority). Even if you relearn the radicals, or cheat by adding a synonym, the fact remains that you have to review and progress them to unlock kanji.
  3. There might be overlap on the kanji you already know, but in some cases you may find the WK system uses a different meaning than what’s taught in Heisig. In either case, the most value for you to get out of WK is you will, by the end of the program, if you do all lessons, learn around 6k words to reinforce the kanji. You can of course get a 6k, 10k, or whatever, deck for Anki and do that instead, and you’re probably end up in the same place eventually. The advantage to WK is that it’s planned so that you maximize the efficiency of what you’re presented. Every new lesson builds upon previous knowledge and reinforces it at the same time, it’s very organic in that way.

Just for the kanji, I’m not sure in your situation I’d go for WK. If I already knew 1600 characters, I’d probably just dive straight into a vocab deck and reinforce what I’ve learned by using that. But, if you can get over relearning material, I think that the way WK teaches kanji is better, in that it helps you associate not only a meaning, but also a reading as well. Sure, you can pick up patterns by learning a lot of vocab, but the advantage to learning a reading beforehand is that when you come across an unknown word, you can guess its reading and it’s easier to search for it in a dictionary like

You also get the benefit of learning some vocab to reinforce kanji as you learn them (instead of who knows when if you’re using a random deck), and some rare kanji for words that are typically written only in kana. Examples would include また (“again”) which is normally taught in kana, but you learn the kanji for it early on, 又, or なる (to become), 成る. Not sure exactly if it’s a useful use of your time, but I like that.

My suggestion is to give the first free levels a go (they take you pretty far tbh) and see what you think about the system in a few weeks’ time. That’d be way more useful than any info I can provide.


I 100% second this answer.

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Not knowing the readings is kind of a problem… I’d done quite a bit of RTK and similar methods before starting WK. I find that I’m hitting nearly 100% on meanings and usually know the meaning for “new” characters already. But, out there in the “real” world, knowing the meaning of a character in isolation isn’t as helpful as you might think.

First, without the readings, I find I’m still thinking in English, which makes it hard to tie things I read to things I hear. Reading should be a way to build Japanese vocabulary, not to practice decoding random symbols into English words. And second, I’ve found the WK vocabulary really helps cement the “logic” of how Japanese uses characters to build words.

Now, with that said, I didn’t get as far into RTK as you are. So I’d definitely recommend taking advantage of the free levels to see how helpful WK is for you.


I don’t think it’s ever too late to start WaniKani. We have some members who have reset and are doing their 3rd or 4th pass through the whole program just to keep the readings and meanings solid in their memory, as well as to practice pronunciation (particularly with pitch accent, and there are some great plug-ins for WK you can install, such as one that maps the pitch accents, very helpful if you’re a visual learner).

To me, the real question is, is it worth it for your budget? Even at a breakneck speed you can only finish WK in somewhere around a year-ish (most people take far longer than this). You can pay monthly or buy a lifetime subscription. They always have really good sales at New Year’s, so unfortunately it’ll be a while before those come around again. If you can afford WK, I recommend it. WK is not ordered by simplicity of concept, but by simplicity of the kanji visually, so you might learn some new things even from earlier levels, as some kanji with more “abstract” meanings (that might be taught later in Japanese schools or other learning programs) are more simple visually and will be presented sooner.

I second the notion that it’s nice to learn kanji for words that are usually written in kana alone but DO have a kanji. It seems helpful to me, and it’s not like there are a ton of those words so I don’t feel they really slow down the learning.

First 3 levels are free, so in any case, finish those before you subscribe and use the time til then to decide, or you’re just wasting money. Those levels are mostly numbers and really simple kanji you’ll easily recognize, so you might as well get them out of the way.

EDIT: I also HIGHLY recommend setting a 12-hr schedule daily to do WaniKani, as it will speed up the process and let you review items 3 times on the first day you learn them, which really helps retention in the following days. E.g. learn your new lessons for the day at 9AM, the reviews come 4 hours later so come back at 1PM to do those, then they will come back in 8 hours, so come back at 9PM to do those reviews. There are more in-depth posts about this method here on the forums, with tips about which items you should be doing to best use this method, but it will make things go along at a muuuuuch better pace than if you simply check back twice a day or at random times. What times you pick daily is totally up to you as long as the first and last are 12 hours apart, with the middle session 4hrs after the first, but sticking with the same times every day will help you get the later reviews done consistently too as they come back on 12/24/48 hour (etc) intervals and will always be there to do when you come back to your schedule.

Learning this method drastically improved my WK experience.

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I’d advise reading this post :slight_smile:


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