Long post so TLDR at the bottom
Five years and one week ago (about) I decided to check out a kanji-learning website that Tofugu was advertising in their newsletter email. At the time I had technically been studying Japanese for close to a year and a half, but my studies lacked direction. I was comfortable with N5 grammar and I already knew about 50 kanji after using both Human Japanese and Human Japanese Intermediate (which I highly recommend for N5 grammar). But most of the Japanese I saw completely eluded me. Trying to read Japanese I found online would be a task of trying to pick out the radicals I knew and guessing the meaning. Needless to say, this didn’t go well. I needed to study kanji properly, but I was scared (okay not like where I was having nightmares filled with complex kanji, that’d be weird).
So I was relieved going to wanikani.com for the first time to see a very friendly looking page. Everything was very simple and easy to understand (if you read the FAQ). The first few levels were free, so I might as well try them out. If I gave up, I wouldn’t lose any money (which I desperately needed as a student). I remember having the expectation of giving up on it after a short while. I knew it’s incredibly hard to stick to things, and while I had been casually studying Japanese and Swedish (ja, också svenska) for over a year, trying out new things should always come with an awareness that you may decide to quit it.
I don’t know what it was though, maybe it was the bright colors sending happy juice to my brain, maybe it was some crabby providence, but I kept coming back, day after day, and doing my lessons and reviews. And the forums I discovered at the bottom of the page after the first day or two were also great. I was too afraid to talk at first, but I loved seeing the activity and the community that had been built around this. It was the first platform I had come across full of other Japanese learners. I could relate to the things others were saying about their experiences, and there was a lot of useful resources and advice. Soon enough, I had reached level 3 and finished all my lessons, and as a poor student, I had to wait some time before I was able to afford a subscription.
In my time as a grey level 3 I hung out on the forums a lot, beginning to post and talk with people, getting to know the big posters at the time, a lot of whom have sadly gone inactive. But many of them stuck around even until today, and so did I. Eventually I was able to afford the subscription and I subscribed, continuing onto level 4 and beyond. That is, until I reached level 37.
At this time I had recently graduated from college and I had just started working nights stacking shelves in order to save money. My goal wasn’t out of the ordinary for Japanese learners. I wanted to join the JET program and move to Japan. Well, I had to wait a few months to apply and after that, I had to wait even longer to get to Japan if I was successful, so I worked. But that, combined with severe burn out from pushing myself an unhealthy amount lead to my reviews suffering. And it wasn’t long before they had built up to over a thousand. And after that, over 2000. I didn’t have the time or energy to do them, so I stopped. A few times I tried to get the reviews down, but it never worked out. I didn’t have the energy or time to keep at it. But it was fine, because I was applying to the JET program and I even got an interview. I had been waiting for that day for years, but, I choked the interview due to nerves and got a rejection letter a few weeks later in the mail.
This was perhaps my lowest point. Standing by the door reading the words “we regret to inform you-”. I had dreamt of applying to JET for 3 years at that point. I had done so much research into the application process, my application was as perfect as it could get. I had staked so many months of my life on that and I was back to square one. But, that moment only lasted for a few seconds. Although I had given up on my reviews, I had not given up on WaniKani entirely. I still regularly visited the forums (and I actually was a regular for a while), and I had made quite a few friends from it. And along with that, I had met many people who inspired me, both in studying Japanese, and real life (you heard it, studying Japanese isn’t real). I couldn’t give up everything. I couldn’t do that to myself. I may have not had the energy for the longest time, but I had the ambition. So not an even hour after opening that letter, I applied to another company like JET, and I applied to take the JLPT N4. I needed the motivation to study, and I felt like if I pushed myself, I could manage N4.
I slowly began to study again. Not too much, but enough to actually be something. And I got through the interview stages with the company. I still hadn’t touched my reviews, but that was fine, because I had actually passed N4. And only a few weeks later, I had gotten an email from the company telling me there was a place for me! I had completely turned around my situation in a few months. Okay I know it wasn’t like I had gotten into Harvard with a scholarship coming from rural Burundi, but this was a huge deal to me! My ambitions and my studies in Japanese had finally led to something tangible, and at the core of it was this site, and the friends I had made from it.
After booking flights, organising everything, and waiting a painfully long few months, I arrived in Japan on March 12th 2020. Yeah, I know, what a time to arrive. I’ll skip over my impressions arriving and my experiences living here since it’s not really relevant to the story. Perhaps the one thing that had remained consistent though, funnily enough, was the fact that I was still not doing my reviews. I was no longer level 37 at least though. After putting it off for ages, I had finally decided to reset… 2 levels… Yeah that didn’t help at all. But I had the energy once again, and my motivation was higher than ever, actually needing to improve my abilities for once. So in October, I finally bit the bullet and decided to reset properly… to level 15- okay yes I know 1 may have been better but like that’s a lot time time okay? Also, big props to you for actually reading all this. I know 95% of people are going to see this massive wall of text and nope out to the next sections, so thank you. It really means a lot. Give me a treat in the replies to reward yourself for taking the time to read this.
Restarting my reviews and lessons was a weird experience. It had been so long since I had done them, and I was so used to being ‘the guy stuck on level 37’. I began to make my way through the levels again, reaching my despised level 37 after a few months, and passing it, entering into new material for the first time in over 2 years. I was also taking physical lessons for some time, although I stopped those because they were expensive. And from there I continued into the 40s, albeit losing speed. I was still doing my reviews at least, but the lessons slowed down as I began to experience burnout. This time however, I knew what to do, and I took it easy. Oh yeah, and I also passed N3 around this time. I studied quite hard so I guess that also contributed to the burnout, but you know, N3, nice.
If there’s one thing that could be said about summer last year in regards to WK, would be that I reaaally slowed down. Take a look at my heatmap below and you’ll see exactly what I mean. But, I was productive in other ways, climbing Mt Fuji and working on my photography. I also applied to take the N2. Not to pass it, just to get an idea of what areas I’d have to focus on. And because I didn’t expect to pass and I was pretty burned out and taking it easy, I never did any studying for it. Well, December came around and while I had made some progress in making it to the late 40s, I still hadn’t done any grammar, reading, or listening, outside of the exposure I got from living in Japan. Well, I passed it. Somehow. I’m still in shock to this day to be honest, I had no right passing that, but okay I guess??
The new year comes, and my two main goals for 2022 were to pass N2 (this is before I got my results), and reach level 60. And since my burnout had begun to wear off, I decided to go back into levelling up. Slowly at first, but picking up speed to truly do the fast levels fast. And that brings us to today, when my guru reviews for level 59 came up, doing them to finally make it to level 60. Is this the greatest achievement ever?
Yes No, but I’ve waited for this day for 5 years now. And I have put so much of my time into this site. Both in doing reviews and lessons, and making friends (and polls) on here. This website isn’t my entire life, but I owe so much of who I am today to it and the people on it. From the staff, to the friends I’ve made, to whatever the heck goes on in the POLL thread these days (sometimes I’m afraid to look). From the soko of my shin, thank you everyone.
- The max reviews in a single day is 1136, the bright red square.
- The average review session size is 40.1 reviews.
- The dark blues are around 150-200 reviews. More is more purple, less is lighter blue.
Overall level progress bar (at the time of levelling up)
Statistics site current status
Statistics site accuracy
Statistics site level up graph (doesn’t show levels pre-reset)
Scripts and tools
It’s hard to remember all the scripts and tools I’ve used over the years. It’s not as many as some people though, I tend to be quite minimal. Here’s what I’m currently using:
- Rfindley’s Statistics Site - This has unquestionably been one of the most useful tools I’ve used throughout my time. I couldn’t imagine WK without it.
- Kumirei’s Wanikani Heatmap Script - I have looked at this more than I’ve looked at the back of my own hand. Bless this script.
- Kumirei’s Overall Progress Bar - This was created in response to a request I made, so you bet I’m gonna like it and use it. I may have only had it for like a week, but I can’t imagine going back now.
- Dani2’s Dashboard Leech Tables - Okay I’ll admit I haven’t been the most proactive when it’s come to leech squashing, but this is still very useful when you want to identify those items that you hate more than anything.
- Gth99’s Level-Up Celebrator - I never changed the original image or message. This one is so nice to have just to make your level ups a little more exciting. It’s nice to see every level up, and it’s sad I won’t be getting to see it again (until I reset to level 1, but that won’t be for a while).
- Flaming Durtles App - I do a large portion of my reviews and lessons while commuting, so having a good tool to do those on my phone is invaluable. This is it for me. I can say with certainty, I would not be even level 50 now if not for this app.
That’s all the scripts and tools I’m currently using as far as I know. If any of these are old and have been updated by someone else, please tell me because I didn’t check. Bless every single person that has made a tool/script for WK, you have done so much for this site and its users and I can’t thank you enough.
I’ve already said thank you to you all, but there are so many people in particular I have to thank.
- @Leebo You have not only been invaluable over the years in your knowledge and help, but you have also been a huge inspiration to me and many others. This may be the only part of this post you read, so thank you.
- @Kumirei Your scripts have been invaluable. I’ve always looked up to you since around when I started on here, so thanks for your posts. Och tack for din hjälp med svenska! I swear one day I’ll get back to studying it.
- @jprspereira There was a time when we were around the same level. I remember thinking that I had to race you to level 60. Well, good thing I didn’t, because you beat me by 4 years. It was never about racing though, it was about getting to where we are, and I’m proud of both of us <3.
- @alexbeldan You’ve been inactive for a while, so I don’t know when you’ll see this, but thank you for being one of the people who helped me hang around here when I first joined. The profile picture was always nice to see.
- @Ryouki Thank you, and sorry, for creating the poll thread. Today’s POLLers may not remember us, but we had some great times back in those first few.
- @trunklayer Thanks for all the Nyaaaaaans <3
- @MissMisc Come back, we miss you <3
- @MichaelCharles I’ve only had a single interaction with you, but thank you for recommending freecodecamp. I’ve been using it since you recommended it and I’ve already learnt so much. It’s really helped give me direction and motivation for my future, so thank you.
- @TomatoSalad Thank you.
If your name isn’t here, I still thank you for reading this. And you, as a user of this site, have already done your part.
There were about 3 million things I wanted to say in this post, but I think I’ll cut it off at 2.9 million. I could have made a whole advice section, and I almost did, but you get enough of that from other level 60 posts. If I was to give any advice, it’d be this: Aspire to be like the people you look up to most. But don’t aspire to be them. You are your own person. You have your own abilities and your own limits. And just because you may not have the energy of someone who got to level 60 in under a year, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. I took 5 years. Others have taken longer. The most important thing is to understand what you’re capable of, and that often not being who you aspire to be is completely out of your control. I’ve burnt out many times over the years, and the times I was closest to quitting were when I didn’t understand my limits. I used to blame myself for not studying hard every day. I considered myself a failure if I didn’t work hard and push myself, even when I didn’t have the energy. I tried to be someone I wasn’t, and I paid the price. Don’t be like that. Everyone is incredible, but in order to be the best version of yourself, you need to understand yourself, limits and all. If you haven’t reached level 60 yet, work hard. But work at what hard means to you, not what it means to the 60 in under a years (unless you are one of those nutters).
tldr; Hit level 60, cool.