Are you a Visual Learner? Should WaniKani Adapt to Better Help You?

Hi, I am a level-60 WaniKani graduate. I am looking for your vote, thumbs up or thumbs down on whether Wani should evolve to a more visual approach.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what Wani has done for me. Thanks in large part to Wani (and a healthy amount of well-placed furigana) I can now read Japanese books. Nothing too elaborate like medical journals or anything, but not children’s book either. I recently read the Japanese versions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I am in the middle reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Granted young adult level, but not children’s. I tried Jane Eyre but I’m not quite there yet. I will be.

The rapidity of Wani’s review and testing was awesome but I must admit I stopped using Wani’s mnemonics pages around level-20. Too many words for me. I am a visual learner. So, I developed my own visual-based mnemonic system instead. I worked for me. Please vote thumbs up or down if you think it might help you too.

Below is a link to a Google Slide presentation of 20 various kanji and radicals. The left side contains a visual system that I call Hyakkan’e. The right side contains Wani’s mnemonics for the same kanji or radical. Compare the two. Note: publishing Google Slides on the Web creates an automatic three-second pause between animation changes. If that goes too fast, please press the back, forward, or enter buttons to take over manual control of slide show speed.

Thanks, I hope you enjoy the show.


Well, I’m getting deja vu, here. Haven’t we had this conversation already?

Well… that’s not up to us. That’s up to the people who’d actually be doing all the work.

You’re free to make your own script that includes these mnemonics (actually, I’m pretty sure there’s already one out there with someone’s custom mnemonic drawings), but I don’t think it’s fair to run in and go “hey, here’s a great idea! Do it.”

Bit of a tangent, but I reckon it’s about time we stamped out that American version of the title and all went back to “Philosopher”.

You and a lot of other people. Sometimes the best mnemonics are the ones you come up with yourself anyway. It doesn’t mean WaniKani has to particularly overhaul everything, though.


These are great and I can see that a lot of work was put into them. I imagine the effort would be immense with >2000 kanji. The mnemonics work very well for me but I could see benefit from a mixed approach. I feel like the mnemonics I remember best are the one’s that I can clearly picture in my mind so in some ways I’m already using this approach.


You’re asking for vote, but prepare no poll? 0:


Vamos a la POLL thread


Whoa, this is WaniKani, not CaimánCangrejo!

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Regardless of the existence of learning types it might be worth thinking about employing new/different techniques/material to support learning. This could be something for WK to look into but I don’t regard it as absolutely vital. While I liked your google slides and I can see how people could benefit from this style of learning it might be too different from WK’s current approach to be incorporated into WK. But maybe you could set up your own project implementing your ideas based on WK’s SRS and content/level structure :slight_smile:

The way it’s supposed to work, though, is not that you remember the words, but you’re supposed to picture them in your head to make a story or a scene out of them. Nothing is more powerful or memorable than your own imagination. This is why RTK stops giving you examples and has you come up with your own. WK doesn’t do that and keeps giving you examples/mnemonic hints throughout, but at the end of the day, it’s still your own imagination that’s supposed to do the brunt of the work.


Hi Redglare,

I am a 66 year-old man and very old-fashioned. My wife showed me a picture on Facebook about five years ago. That’s been my only involvement with Facebook. I’ve heard of them but I’ve never been on Twitter, Instagram, Ticktock, or any other social media applications. I don’t even own a watch or a cell phone. I do however occasionally ask my wife to Venmo people monies. WaniKani is also my first and only open forum involvement.

You’re right. I should absolutely prepare a poll since I am asking for yea or nays. I didn’t know that was an option. Can you give me a quick rundown on what I need to do to set one up? I just taught myself Google Slides and learned to publish it on the Web. Other than that all I know to do is to type and press the [Reply] button.

Many, many thanks!

btw, do you think WaniKani should evolve to a more visual-based learning app?


You’re English level seems quite good. I bet you could tackle Jane Eyre in English.

Well to be fair, the video makes a point that having a more multi-media approach to learning is better. So, having images as well would probably make learning more efficient.

But kanji are images already. I don’t see how adding more images would help.

Hi omk3,

Images, intuition, art and feelings are generally associated with the right brain hemisphere whereas thinking in words, facts and math are left hemisphere. Roger W. Sperry won (shared) a Nobel Prize for this discovery. Each side functions differently. Until they become intuitive to a student (like the word cat, umbrella, or ocean is intuitive to an English speaker) Japanese kanji is just meaningless art and is therefore generally held on the right side and is ‘wordless.’

For super fast recall speed Hyakkan’e with its images stays on the same hemisphere as the wordless kanji thus avoiding boundary crossover. The few associated with the illustration will eventually get to where words go after many repetitions. The true value of image-to-image learning is in the review process. Once the meaningless kanji is associated to a meaningful illustration (derived pareidolia) the re-association can take mere seconds. That can’t be done well while crossing brain boundaries. I can review 50 kanji in under three minutes (3 to 4 seconds each) with the Hyakkan’e method. Not even close if I have a lot of words to muddle through.

That’s why image-to-image helps. It’s meaningless images (kanji) to meaningful (but simple) images (storied illustrations). It is a psychological recall trick.

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So first off, I think your pictures are really high quality and this is a cool thing that you’ve clearly poured serious effort into… but do you have any real plans beyond this? Someone’s already pointed this out, but as for the question “should Wanikani adopt this?” – the answer is no. I mean, Wanikani has in total several thousand written mnemonics and they are a significant part of what the website is. They aren’t going to re-orient their entire teaching method, and if you seriously wanted to discuss adding something like this, you should more directly contact them (though you’d likely have to be prepared to provide every single piece of art and even then, I doubt they want to do something different). What you are doing is entirely its own thing, related to Wanikani only in that you have posted this topic on these specific forums so… do you want to make your own teaching method with this? If so, more power to you, but that’s a whole other topic. I don’t mean to be overly harsh, but in truth I don’t think bringing a sort of proof of concept to then suggest they run with it to the extraordinary degree required is realistic.

All of this strikes me as really large claims, the kind that would require dedicated research or heavy citation, and for the sake of argument I’m just going to take you at your word on it, but even after doing that, I think this is an exaggeration. Your method’s end goal is still to turn the kanji into words. You go image (kanji) → image (mnemonic) → word (meaning). That’s still “crossing over” by the time you get to the meaning, so I don’t see how that’s faster at that stage, even if we accept that such a thing is both true and meaningful.

This part sounds true, but I’m not convinced I want to do that? Rapidly reviewing lists over and over is a very traditional learning method most of us are trying to avoid. I mean, most people on the forums talk about moving away from the mnemonics as soon as they can get the kanji lodged well enough that they don’t need them, and in the majority of accounts, that happens really early. In my experience, after putting in some time letting the SRS do its thing for a bit on Wanikani (first built on their mnemonics), my mistakes are occasional either during the SRS or in real reading, and when they occur, I usually only need a brief glance at the real meaning to refresh my memory. If I really can’t recall seeing it at all (pretty rare) I return to the mnemonic, but that’s on a single item basis when it happens. Thus, I’m not reviewing the WK mnemonics when I have to review; I’m reviewing the single word meaning.

Perhaps all of that together just gets at my feeling that you’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, from my perspective. But learning kanji is hard, so more methods are certainly appreciated. Just, in my opinion, if you’re serious about this, there is a lot to be done, and almost definitely none of it will involve Wanikani (unless you, as someone suggested, want to go the charitable route of creating a user script).


Multi-modal learning would be great, and I’m glad the original poster is expressing the interest and taking the time to demonstrate how it might work. I do agree with the general consensus, though, that it would be a ton of work. Some kanji would be easy to make visual mnemonics for, but I suspect a lot of them would be quite challenging, especially as the kanji get more visually complex and semantically abstract.

But hey, you can’t run a business without work, and hard work is often what makes the difference between good and great products. So, I’m not inclined to dismiss an idea only because it’s difficult.

The main factor, though, is that Koichi’s philosophy is to focus on the things that will make the biggest impact on learning. In the 80/20 principal, the idea is to find the 20% of ideas that would result in 80% of your improvement, and to focus on that 20% first so you can make the best use of your resources.

My personal preference would be to focus on integrating a grammar component into Wanikani. I know, I know… that’s been on everyone’s wish list for a very long time. But I know it’s still a big part of Tofugu’s vision, and they haven’t given up even if we aren’t being told what’s going on behind the scenes. I think I can say with certainty, making a great grammar resource is not an easy task, otherwise there would be dozens of them. There are a lot of pretty good ones, but of the ones I’ve seen so far, I wouldn’t call any of them great yet. So, while I am impatient to see what Tofugu comes up with, I’m glad Koichi isn’t just throwing another mediocre #MeToo product out there. “Do it well, or don’t do it!”


A full sensory approach, whatever is most immersive and complete, will help you best. Check out this YouTube lesson and try studying along with it. Getting context along with sound and sight will make the kanji a more real part of your experience.