Do the radical names or mnemonics work for you?

They just feel so off, and I’m just at level 2. Heisigs names/mnemonics felt way better to me.

Yes. WK mnemonics have worked very well for me, I’ve changed the name of only one so far. I find it easy to break down new kanji by using them. This is why WKs first three levels are free. If you find this not clicking with you now, maybe its not the right system for you and that’s ok.

Heisig only has like 200 radicals (the exact number I don’t remember). WaniKani expands on that so you have a name for 1000’s of different unique shapes. The plus side is that it makes mnemonics easier. The downside is that if you are coming from a standard system like Heisig… you will have to do a touch of unlearning. (or create synonyms)


Some of the radical names are helpful but I feel like they make it a little too complicated while trying to simplify things. Too many radicals have different names than the kanji they have, also I don’t understand why we can’t learn a kanji if we know all of the radicals some kanji are like level 30+ but made up of one or two simple radicals I’ve already learned at leavel 6…

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Maybe because of missing kanjis to build compound words?

Very, very few of the radicals or mnemonics work for me these days. I stopped learning most radicals past lvl 10 because honestly it didn’t make sense to me. They were useful at first, but as they grew more complex, rarer, and their meanings weirder I just said “drop it.” I still have a sense of what most radicals mean in WK, but I rarely ever think about kanji as those things.

As for mnemonics, some work and some don’t. Often I don’t even look at them, instead trying to remember kanji meanings by whatever it is my mind tells me as I see the kanji, or at times simply remembering the kanji itself without the mnemonic. As with radicals, mnemonics grow weirder and weirder as you advance and at some points you’ll have more trouble remembering the mnemonics than just learning the kanji itself - and this is particularly true for simpler kanji. For example, I can recall that 江 means “inlet”, but don’t ask me the mnemonic for it. I have no clue, I just saw and remembered. Same for 鳥, 有, 死, 勇 and a multitude more: I recall and can read the kanji, I have no clue what mnemonic works for them.

Then again, that’s sort of how it’s meant to be. For some (most?) of these kanji I did use a mnemonic, either from WK or of my own making, to remember the kanji and its reading. Then once I learned them I dropped the mnemonic, keeping only the important part.

I’ll note that for reading mnemonics it also helps that kanji that look alike or share components, particularly the right side, tend to be read the same. So for example, when I got to 臓 last week, which means “internal organ” and is read “ぞう” I immediately remembered it because I had learned 蔵 the week prior, which is also read ぞう even though it means something completely different. So reading mnemonics grow unnecessary as you learn to recognize patterns that might tip you of a kanji’s reading.

This is not to say WK is bad at all, tho. Before starting WK I could barely remember perhaps 50 kanji, 80 on a good day. Today I can constantly remember the meaning of hundreds of them (I estimate the count of kanji I can regularly recognize is nearing 1,000), something I wouldn’t have managed without this platform. I’m just pointing out the whole weird, misnamed radical system (most “radicals” WK uses are actually components, and some Japanese teachers will frown if you talk of them as radicals) and at times absurd mnemonics isn’t for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you find it unnecessary or cumbersome. What matters in the end is if you’re learning kanji with WK or not, and in my case I most definitely am.


Yes, this helps out a lot, but sadly they don’t seem to point it out in the mnemonic (at least as far as I’ve come). Like 相 and 想, for example, which both read そう, but they end up making up completely different mnemonics for each one. I don’t think it would be so hard to just say “hey, look at that part on the top! You can read that, right?”, but I guess that’s what the notes are for. I just think it would be worth mentioning because people might not notice it by themselves sometimes.


But about the topic: yes, the mnemonics in general work for me. There’s quite a few that don’t, and the reason most of the time is that it’s about stuff I never heard of before. But there are also the ones that create such an elaborate story that it becomes hard to remember. For those, I usually memorize the old fashioned way or make up a mnemonic of my own.

I especially like the mnemonics for こう, ちょう, し, though. It makes the reading obvious if you can just remember it’s related to Koichi, ms Chou or Charlie Sheen.

Yep, though some stick better than others, but whenever I’ve had an encounter with a kanji in the “wild” that I couldn’t immediately remember, either its meaning or reading, I could reassemble the mnemonic by looking at the kanji’s radicals and thus remembered it again. Takes a few seconds and there are times when I just can’t figure it out for the life of me because the mnemonic has been long forgotten, but yeah.

I was also sceptical of mnemonics first and wondered “how the heck am I going to remember all these weird stories PLUS the kanji??” but it took me a while until I realized that eventually the mnemonic just falls away and you’re left with the meaning/reading only without having to rely on a crutch anymore.

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They work very well for me but I never got far with other systems (they didn’t work as well for me whereas WK just felt right immediately) so I don’t have any problems with conflicting meanings.

The only thing I do is add synonyms for radicals that are identical with kanji because I find it confusing when “soil” suddenly has to be “grave”.

I know that people sometimes complain that the radicals are weird and the mnemonics cringey or too convoluted but for me this is exactly why it works so well. The longer and weirder the story and the more I try to imagine it, the easier it is to remember. For the Kanji where the default mnemonic won’t work for me, I create my own. I’d say that is something like 10 - 20% so far. For the radicals I didn’t need any custom mnemonic at all so far.

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I don’t really make sure to learn 100% of all the radicals like I do with other stuff. If I get a radical review wrong, I’ll overwrite it (cancel my wrong answer) and move on. This doesn’t mean that radicals are not important to me. When I’m confusing 2 Kanji because of their similarity, radicals help me divide the Kanji into smaller pieces and identify the differences. This is the only reason that radicals exist. It’s about the shape, not the name.


I found the mnemonics useful when I first started WaniKani, when I just started with Japanese. The concept of radicals was new to me too, so learning dumb names for them helped immensely in learning kanji. I had tried learning kanji from books for years and made very little progress. So WaniKani’s weird method effectively taught me HOW to study kanji, and I thought the stories and names of radicals were funny.

Nowadays I’m so familiar with most kanji now from living in Japan that I just speed through lessons on here, ignore the mnemonics, and just remember it by seeing it and seeing the reading. However, when it comes to really similar kanji, I will look at the mnemonic to make it easier to differentiate. Or if I don’t like the mnemonic I’ll make my own.

I don’t use most of the radical names from here, but some of them I do.

I started learning kanji without WK long time ago and now decided to use it. It is really good for memorizing kanji. And I find radicals learning actually as an extra work which I don’t want. Why the heck would you call the kanji for “mother” as radical “drawer”? Do you know if there is a way to disable radicals learning at all?

I think a lot of the mnemonics are good, but there are plenty of bad ones, too. Forcing yourself to use a mnemonic you don’t like can get really frustrating.

Brute-forcing it is one option, but if one doesn’t click with me, I’ve found that coming up with a mnemonic of my own and writing it in the Notes section is really effective.

If I brute-force memorize a kanji it’s really likely I’ll miss the first review, but when I write my own mnemonic I’ll almost certainly get the first review, even more likely than if I had just used WK’s mnemonic.

I think the reason for this is that when you write your own mnemonic, you can’t avoid imagining the scene as you come up with it, whereas when you read through a mnemonic you may or may not really put effort into imagining it. I think eventually the Heisig method asks you to start coming up with mnemonics on your own for this reason. It’s the imagination of a scene and action that is most effective, so the effort you put into imagining the better.

As for the radicals, they work pretty well for me. Sometimes I’ll add the kanji meaning to the radical if they don’t match.

I suppose if you wanted to totally avoid the radicals @andreyzayn you could add “a” as a synonym for every radical. Then just answer “a” whenever a radical review comes up. But I think using the radicals to form stories is more effective than brute force memorization, so I’d recommend adding meaningful synonyms instead, but of course you know what works best for you.

I learn the radical names, but lately I only read the mnemonics for kanji I’m struggling with. I found the radicals and mnemonics invaluable when I started writing kanji though. Recognising kanji is easy, but building them yourself isn’t…

@Zenguro as you get further along WK, the radical problem gets less and less– the first five levels have the most radicals compared to the rest of WK, and level 2 has the most radicals by far. By level 10, you’ll never learn more than 15 radicals in a level (less than half of what you have now), and after level 20 you never learn than more than 8. Plus, once you get past the radicals in the first 5 levels, almost all new “radicals” are full kanji you learned in a previous level, so you rarely have to learn a new mnemonic– in my current level, one of my five radicals is 員 (member), which not coincidentally is also kanji which means “member,” so there’s little to no lift there.

I find it’s helpful for particularly visually similar kanji, and kanji that just don’t seem to stick in my brain, but otherwise, the radical mnemonics fade pretty quick once I learn the kanji and related vocab.

Some kanji are visually distinctive and thus easy to remember, especially in the lower levels. You don’t really need radicals and mnemonics for 人、水、日、火. Even further on, some kanji such as 寒、夢、飛、忙、無、岡 et cetera are distinctive enough that you can memorise them just by their general shape. However, some radicals show up in a huge number of kanji, often with totally unrelated meanings. If you look up all the kanji made up by the thread (糸) radical, you might see how radicals will come in handy eventually.

Guess I just have to pull through. After some research I don’t see a real manageable way learning kanji AND vocab other than Wanikani. Having a full time job, I don’t have time for books like KLC and properly setup Anki.

This is more a general problem of people who started learning something by one method and then switching to another method. You can also find people who started learning music with cipher notation (do = 1, re = 2) and then having problems with the staff notation (:musical_note:).