Better ways to remember こう readings? And ways to keep from getting disheartened?

I’m having some serious issues in level 5.

One of the worst things I’ve been dealing with is the bonkers number of kanji that have こう as a default reading. Nothing against good ol’ こういち, but I feel like there are so many こう kanji that the mnemonics are straight up useless for them, I just can’t keep them all straight because it feels like any kanji could be こう. I feel like こういち is overused as a mnemonic device and perhaps they could have switched it up with stuff like “comb” or “cope” or other words with that sound. Not only is it making kanji with that reading difficult, but it’s messing with others too, because my brain will fill in “oh this must be another こう” and then it isn’t. Is there any way to actually properly learn these other than brute force rote memorization, or am I doomed to just have these float around as Apprentice items for weeks and weeks? Maybe a third-party add-on that might help in some way?

Also, I’m having a hard time dealing with frustration when it comes to random misses for things I thought I knew. I had some stuff in Master that I made dumb mistakes on, and they get knocked all the way back down to Guru 1, and that is an awful feeling. I understand I’m supposed to be learning here, but the thought of having learned something, and then getting badly punished for evidently having not, gets really disheartening, like I’m not really learning anything. Do you have any tips for fighting this feeling off?

Thanks in advance!


If you mean dumb mistakes like fat fingering a reading, you can use the double check script to go back and redo your answer. In the grand scheme of things relapsing a few words back down from a high level to low level hardly means anything though, so don’t worry too much about it.


For some of them, the phono-semantic origins are useful. For example, many 「こう」 kanji have the 工 or 交 radicals for the phonetic component.


Just keep going and it will start to make sense eventually. Some kanji with certain radicals might have some pattern, but overall it will just make sense. In the end it will more or less be second nature how kanji are read. It’s just something one needs to go through. One level at a time.


I regularly use the Note section to make my own mmnemonic when I don’t like WKs. Maybe you could think of one using “comb” or whatever.

But my favorite method to remember kanji readings is through vocabulary. I’ll look up words on jisho that use the kanji I’m learning with the reading I’m learning, and then put them in the notes like “kanji - hiragana reading = literal kanji compound meanings = actual meaning” while -ing the part of the hiragana that’s the reading of the kanji.

It works best with words I already know, not with brand new words, so maybe this is something that only people who already know a fair share of words (like from watching anime) can use.

Learning 公 (public) with reading こう.
Find out that 公園 /こうえん / public park uses this kanji. I know this word from anime. I try to see if I can understand what role 公 plays in this word. 園 means garden/park, so it’s public+park = public park. Easy enough.

Then I write in the notes: 公園 /[こう]えん / public park


I totally understand your frustration with both the number of こう readings and having items go backwards!

For me, the こう readings were a huge problem until I really starting focusing on creating a story around each of the kanji I had problems with. If you haven’t already, I would suggest making up even more fantastical mnemonic stories for the こう kanji and adding them to the meaning and reading notes. Also, let the other こう readings “support” each other. By this, I mean that I found it helpful to build up the image of こういち in my head until it was “obvious” that these kanji had the こう reading.

With items going backward, my advice is to not get too upset with yourself. This is obviously easier said than done, but think of how much you are learning in such a short amount of time! Make sure you aren’t beating yourself up when things go backward but celebrating those items that go up! With the items that you find going backward, take extra time to work on them, and focus on the idea of solidifying them for the future. It’s much better to figure out that you don’t quite have a word down in the Guru or Master levels rather than when they get even higher (for example, right before it was burned!).

You are doing great, so focus on your successes! :grin:


I’ve been on level 5 for a few days, myself. The same thought about こう readings occurred to me as well, to the point that I started doing research on how many kanji have the same reading. Well, there’s a lot. I can’t speak to how this will impact you (or me) going forward, but I found that what helped me was to pair kanji with the same readings in my brain. I drew a mental link between stuff like 交, 光, and 行 so that when I think about one, I think about the others. If I can just remember that one of those is こう, then I’ll remember them all. I used a similar tactic to pair 近 and 斤 (for きん). This works between levels too. I keep an informal list in my head of kanji that use the same readings. 青 got added to my internal list of kanji with せい and しょう readings, for example, like 正 and 生. This is probably only helpful if you obsessively make connections between things like I do.


I also thought at the beginning that the こういち mnemonic would be weak, but surprisingly enough it works pretty well with me now. Every time I see a new kanji with a こう pronunciation, I’m like “oh it’s a こういち Kanji, alright”.

Other characters such as Jourm, Ms Chou, Ken, Ryuu and the Shougun also work great for me.

There are mnemonics where I’m struggling way more than those. Either because they feel to stretched or refers to cultural elements I don’t relate to.
When it happens I usually :

  • Create my own mnemonics
  • Try to see if the Kanji appears in a word I already know, then link both in my brain
  • Try to brute force, sometimes it works :person_shrugging:

There’s no “one fits all” mnemonics since their effectiveness will vary a lot between individuals, that’s a limit of Wanikani. There are times when it won’t work for you but it will with others.

I would love to see a community shared mnemonics built-in the tool. A special section to see alternative mnemonics suggested by users, maybe with an upvoting system to highlight which mnemonics people found most useful. I’m sure it would help with some leeches.

But in the end, mnemonics are useful only at the initial stage of learning a new item. Mostly, by the time they reach enlighten, I don’t remember the mnemonics but still know the pronunciation, which is what I strive for anyway.

You should definitely use the userscript double check if you struggle with frustration. I would have already been driven crazy if not for this ! The first thing I did when I started Wanikani was looking for a way to install this script on my phone to review on the go !


About feeling bad when you miss a word, I know it’s a bit childish but I always remind myself that if you’re not making any error, its most of the time because you’re not learning anything. You’re bound to make lots of error if you’re trying to learn a lot of new stuff. It’s all part of the process. Think of it as a fee to really learning the word. A lot of time when I get word up to master while making no error, I fail at enlightened. If I struggle at guru a few time eventually it become my best kown words.


Making you’re own mnemonics is a must on some kanji. And sometimes it’s good if your native language is not English. You can come up with a different mnemonic easily with some sound in a different language than English. I bet for a lot of people here, Japanese is a third or fourth language.


Not op but this is really helpful, thank you!

This already exists: community mnemonics 2. It is does not have that many mnemonics, but I have definitely seen some useful ones so far.


Yes that’s true, sometimes I make mnemonics in French, German or Spanish !

Of course someone would have already thought about it haha. Thanks, I will give it a go. Even it it helps with one word, it’s worth it ! :slight_smile:

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Thanks everyone for the input! I will definitely have to check out the Community Mnemonics userscript and try some of these other tips for remembering those pesky こう kanji!

For the record, what I’m talking about “dumb mistakes” on my end, it’s not typos that’s the problem (I already have the Double-Check userscript which is a must because I am a notoriously lousy typist). I’m talking about stuff like having known 四 by heart for years and years before even starting WK, then getting it cut down from Master a few months later because I got it confused with 西 that I just learned, and typed せい instead. My rule with Double-Check is that I only use it for typos, not for when I make an actual mistake. But dumb mistakes like that - flubbing simple kanji that I should have known by heart a long time ago - not only make me feel like I’m not learning any of the new stuff, but actually hurting my previous knowledge. I’ve got a few other examples of this and it has been driving me crazy.


You’ve got to stop thinking of a word going down level(s) as punishment. You’re going to knock so many words back down through the whole run of this. I’ve definitely got some words that have gone up to master or enlightened only to come all the way back down more than once. Honestly I have the same issue as you it sounds like, for me it’s almost always that I now know a new kanji that looks similar and I start mixing them up. But that’s why it falling back down is a good thing, it really helps cement both the kanji after that.

The best thing I’m learning for me (or starting to) is that when I knock a kanji down because of a mix-up like that, I need to pause and go into the kanji and look at the pieces and compare it to the one I know I’m mixing it up with, and see if there’s anything I can do to tell them apart. (my dumb mix up with time and wait recently really brought this to light). You can also take advantage of the recent mistakes practice if that’s helpful, but your 四 and 西 mixup isn’t an example of your old knowledge being hurt. You’re going to probably remember both of those so much better in the long run, even if it has to go through your practice levels a few times before it sticks.

Likely if you encountered those in the wild you would have context to tell you which was correct, but if you didn’t you’d make the same mix up then too, so really mixing it up now is just giving you the opportunity to learn it now for real and prevent that later. I’m sure I could slowly muddle through a lot of my frequently confused kanji in context in the wild, but I think using WK is going to lead to me being able to read a lot faster with a lot less mistakes in the long run.


A thought: although this is frustrating at the moment (and this is intensely frustrating, I have been there with my fair share of kanji and vocab), every mistake I have made like this has made that mistake my worst enemy. When it appears again in reviews, my rage ensures I get it right lol.

I remember thinking I knew the difference between 右 and 石 and then getting one wrong when I had them at Master 1. Since then, I have been very focused on noticing their differences, particularly in vocabulary. I guess what I’m trying to say is that these mistakes end up being helpful in the long-run because I will probably always know the difference between 右 and 石, so I try to think of my “dumb mistakes” as true learning, if that makes any sense.


You took the words right out of my mouth (or typing fingers, I guess?)! This is so well-articulated, and the part about reading comprehension definitely resonated with me! :grin:

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To be honest I definitely fall back on typing kou when I can’t remember the answer. :wink:
What’s killing me is remembering when it’s kou and when it’s just ko (or shou vs sho, etc.). I can’t hear it at all, it’s plain memorization for me.

And I totally empathize with screwing up kanji you’ve known forever. You’re not hurting your previous knowledge in the long term, though; as you keep practicing, the ones you confused will become clear as your brain figures out how to mark and recall the differences. (You’re building a new neural representation and it takes a while! :smiley: ) It’s maddening as you go through it, though.

Actually for exactly this circumstance of kou vs ko, shou vs sho and especially shuu vs shu, i really like the way wanikani uses the same mnemonic sound most of the time so you know about the shute vs shoe, shougun vs show etc

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