Are the specific mnemonic stories crucial?

Hi, I’m a total newbie and I have a question that I thought I’d better get clarity on before I get much further.

Is it important to remember the exact stories that are provided? Like, for ‘man’, I can easily remember だん as it rhymes and in my accent sounds exactly like it would in Japanese. But the mnemonic says a different story.

For ‘number’ (ごう) it says I should remember the character “Grandpa Koichi” but that doesn’t help me at all, and I have my own memory cue for that that seems to work.

My worry is that these stories are then built on down the line and so I will fine it difficult if I don’t remember them now. Is this the case? Or is each story unique to the kanji/vocab/radical?

Thank you!

~ Elle


Don’t worry; there’s no need to remember the exact stories of the mnemonics. Feel free to create your own or just learn the kanji without them if that’s what helps you remember. Because after all the mnemonics are just a tool to make the readings and meanings stick, and even if you do use them, they should eventually fade away.
Having said that, there is indeed a kind of structure to them, in that each reading is usually associated with the same mnemonic person/animal/scenario to make things easier. E.g. the reading こう is associated with Kouichi, the creator of WaniKani.
But this doesn’t work out 100% I think, so it’s just a tool on a larger scale.
Anyways, bottomline: Use the mnemonics if they make sense to you, replace them if something better comes to mind, and ultimately let them go :slight_smile:


I’m only on level 5, but so far I only look to the mnemonics as a hint if I can’t think of a way to remember it myself. Come up with your own, if you like, there’s a notes section if you wanna record it for posterity. The hardest part is remembering the readings given for the kanji before they introduce vocab with that kanji. After that, it’s easier because you are seeing it used in context.


in particular with common readings it can help if you always use the same character or thing for your mnemonic. that way you can build a bit of a story around that character, which creates a bit more context for future mnemonics with that reading. and that ought to make all the mnemonics with that reading more effective

that’s why we’ve got Koichi, and granpa Koichi, and Mrs Chou, and Jourm the farmhand… but in particular early on you don’t have that context, so granpa Koichi seems very random.

so you use your own mnemonics, and that’s okay. often those are stronger, because you figured them out yourself, which helps to reinforce them.

either is fine, with any luck you won’t be needing that mnemonic anymore within a few days anyway ^^


There aren’t vey many sounds which are frequently used in Japanese, especially within just on’yomi. You’ll encounter the same readings over and over, shared by many Kanji, meaning you’ll see mnemonics using the same words over and over. There are SO many car mnemonics. This makes it easier to process the mnemonics later on when you’re really familiar with remembering the same few dozen words. For a few really common sounds it uses recurring characters. I think it’s actually just こう、ちょう、and じょう。I find that they help a lot, but the mnemonics will remind you about them… a lot actually, so it’s not really something to worry about.

I use Ryu and his brother, my original OC pls do not steal, “Ryo” for custom mnemonics. For example in the case of the Kanji which means “captive” (りょ、ろ) Ryo and Seth Rogan are my captives. Easy to remember when I think about how pissed Ryu would be.
It’s just a tool to make things easier. The key is to not overthink it. That goes for radicals too. They’re made up WK mnemonic tools. (It’s confusing because there are “real” things called radicals which are different.) If you have trouble with any radicals it’s best to just add a user synonym “rad” and move on because you only need to know them for mnemonics, and just like Koichi, WaniKani will remind you about them when the time comes.


As long as your cues are consistent you’ll be fine. I mostly used the WK ones but I replaced a few with my own and just changed the mnemonic story when those came around.

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There’s a lot of ways to work with the mnemonics. WK’s is just a suggestion that works for a lot of people, but you don’t have to use it. There are some flaws with it. Whether they’re a problem or not, though, is up to you.

You already mentioned accent. Non-US English speakers often have to adapt the mnemonics based upon their pronunciations frequently.

Another thing which you’ve probably not quite hit yet (but soon, within the first 10 levels) is WK sometimes uses the same mnemonic device for different sounds at different times. It can be quite frustrating if you’re not prepared for it.

Some people (like myself) use our own systems. You can see a thread on the system I’ve been using here. That links to a few other discussions on the topic. Also do a search for “Consistent Mnemonics”. You’ll find a lot of different approaches that different people have come up with over the years. You might have to experiment a bit to find the one that works best for you.

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Thanks everyone! That really helps. I’ll continue to use their mnemonics when they work for me and use my own when I feel I’ll remember them better!

Also didn’t realise that about the radicals @RushianAgent so thanks for that tip!

@sporadic I’ll def check out that thread, thank you!


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As was said before. If you don’t find the mnemonics useful, you can just ignore them. And if you see an item pop up too much because you keep getting it wrong after ignoring the wk mnemonic, you can always give it a chance. A lot of them seem stupid, but some of them are actually stupid enough to work. :slight_smile:

That is the case, though, there is really no need to overthink it I feel. You can use your custom mnemonic or other memory trick for “gou” if you feel that’s better - also again down the line. Same for the others.

I personally feel it’s best to build on knowledge you already have. Be it words or sounds. Something that’s familiar so that the new info has something to stick to.

So, I’ve certainly made my own mnemonics for kanji or readings when I felt I had a different association than the WK one. Having said that, since there are so many words and kanji to learn, yeah, I’ve relied quite a lot on the mnemonics from WK as well. It’s great to have something to fall back on. :slight_smile:

I frequently come up with my own mnemonics. Sometimes I’ve even used the Wanikani mnemonic, but I’ll rephrase it in a way that makes sense to me.

The mnemonics are there as examples to help you remember the kanji, if you have a different way of remembering them then that’s perfectly fine too. It doesn’t matter how you remember them, just that you remember.

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