Building Basic vocab

Quick questions:

Are you looking specifically for N5 (i.e. to match the test), or common vocab?

Are you using any textbook?

For pre-built decks I’d probably recommend either the Core 1000 (from the Core 1000 vocab series here: Japanese Core 1000 - iKnow!) for common vocab, or one of the various decks that match Genki, etc., if you are using a textbook. I don’t have any experience with decks specifically for the N5.

If you’re interested in trying a new platform for SRS instead of Anki, maybe also check out kitsun, or the new site the kitsun creators launched, MaruMori, now in open beta: - [NEW: - Now in open beta!] (note: Kitsun is a subscription and MaruMori will be as well).

For the question of whether you should use a pre-built deck or dive into books and make your own, I’d say that depends on how much you want to read books vs. how frustrated you will get by having to read slowly and look up lots of words.

As @Lizziemanan said, words you learn in context and create the flashcard yourself for with the original context sentence are likely to stick better than anything you learn only from a pre-made flashcard list, so it does have that benefit. However, I know my learning personally suffered early on from trying to read books I wasn’t ready for (vocab knowledge wise) and getting really discouraged and giving up, instead of just working from textbooks a while longer.

A possible middle ground would be to pick a book or manga from on of the WK Master List of Book Clubs that has a vocab list already made by people participating in the bookclub (saving you from having to look up quite as much, and making it easier to quickly create flashcards for review) or using a site like or a pre-built vocab list for Anki to pre-learn some vocab for the book you want to read.