Do you need to learn the mnemonics?

Hi, I just joined and am excited to begin learning Japanese…

My question is, do we need to memorize the mnemonics for each kanji and radical? It seems like a massive amount of real estate in my brain that would be devoted to that… as silly as it sounds, will you eventually forget the mnemonic, and just remember the kanji? That would make me far less wary of using it. But if I’m still going through the mnemonic ten years from now when I see the kanji, that’s not good… I don’t know if this makes any sense…


You don’t have to, but you’ll probably find it a lot harder to remember a lot of kanji if you don’t use some memory device, whether Wanikani’s mnemonic, your own mnemonic or something else.

And yeah, the mnemonic is just a way for you to get to the meaning/reading earlier on. It eventually falls a way. I’m not sure I could even recall the mnemonic for most kanji or vocab after 5-10 levels, even if I spent time trying.


Yes the mnemonics will eventually fade away :slightly_smiling_face: they’re just a (very effective) way of helping you learn all these new meanings and readings, but over time you’ll just know the items for what they are

I… don’t think I remember a single mnemonic anymore now that I think about it :thinking::laughing: and I’m at the end of WK :crazy_face:


え!? how could you forget Mrs. Chou!?!


Yep, the mnemonics are really just there to build the original bridge between the symbol and its meaning and reading. I restarted back to level 1 recently from level 14 and for pretty much every lesson/review I’ve done the second time around I’ve not even needed the mnemonic anymore because the meanings and readings just come to me immediately. But that’s only because using the mnemonics the first time around helped those things cement in my brain.



Haha I do remember characters and all that, but I don’t think I can clearly recall any of the stories they were involved in :hushed: hmmm… something about こういち and a construction hard hat… :thinking:


This is kind of exactly the point. The mnemonics are just a way of getting you to learn it initially. Eventually you’ll get to a point where you’ll see a kanji/vocab and instead of trying to recall the mnemonic that ultimately gets you to the meaning, you’ll just recall the meaning. It’s kind of like the way some people learn to tie their shoes. They learn this story about two bunny ears, and looping, swooping, and pulling, etc. But eventually you just know how to tie your shoe and don’t have to go through the silly bunny ear story.

If that’s not the perfect analogy then I don’t even…


Is it normal to still tie them like bunny ears? I’ve been told it’s not :laughing:


Well that’s because you, sir, are not normal…



Personally I just read the mnemonic word WaniKani uses for remembering the reading, then create my own mnemonic with that word.

For example if the word is 丁, WaniKani uses “Mrs. Chou” for remembering the reading "ちょう”, so I use “Mrs. Chou” and quickly make my own mnemonic instead of using the one WaniKani gives you. I find the words stick MUCH better if you make your own mnemonics.

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I will forever remember “evening toe” 外。
Go outside and dip your toes into the evening, or something.


Just to follow what everyone else said…

An excerpt from the Great WK Guide:

What do Guru, Master, Enlightened, and Burned mean?
Guru: You know an item fairly well. Any available, associated items will unlock and appear in your Lessons queue.

Master: You should be able to recall these items without using the mnemonics, usually.

Enlightened: You should be able to recall these items without the mnemonic, fairly quickly. The answer should appear without much effort.

Burned: This item is “fluent” in your brain. The answer comes with little-to-no effort. You will remember this item for a long, long time. Even if you don’t use it and “forget” it sometime in the future, it should come back to you quickly after recalling it. Items that are “burned” no longer show up in reviews. You can unburn an item on an item’s individual page, which returns the item to Apprentice.


As everyone’s pretty much said, it’s not necessary but it makes it easier. While it might seem like learning all the mnemonics takes up more “hard drive” space, straight memorization uses more of your brain’s “processing power” (to torture the analogy). In other words, it’s actually takes more mental effort because you’re bludgeoning your brain over and over until there’s a kanji-shaped indent there.

That said, if you find it easier to skip the mnemonics, go right ahead! Just be aware that we’re going to be talking about them a lot throughout WaniKani. :wink:


Yeah, and even outside of WaniKani. I remember this one time, me and Cyrus were at a party together, you know, like best friends do. And I took a bite of this delightful looking sun-dried tomato flatbread that he prepared himself the day before, and I started choking. Instead of helping me, he took this moment for a joke. "Hey Gsai… it looks like you’re choking… Like, SUPER -king. Are you SUPER chou-king Gsai, or just ちょっと?

… he really drilled that one in, but now I’ll never forget the reading for 超.

I realize that the ちょ part doesn’t work because it’s not the right pronunciation but just let me make my joke ok?


I’ve always had a pretty hard time remember new kanji without using some kind of mnemonic. And you can always write your own in the notes at the bottom of the flashcard. You won’t remember it forever, but you don’t need to. It’s just a tool to help it lodge itself into your long term memory when you’ll eventually just recognize it right away.

Or the number of things that I gave to the shougun?

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It’s at least always worth it to read the mnemonics, sometimes I think they suck but somehow remember them fairly easily later on. I wouldn’t spend much time trying to remember them, but they can’t hurt.

IMO, the mnemonics that are always useful are those that pinpoint the differences between two or more Kanji. 矢 vs 失, 待 vs 持, 午 vs 牛, etc. It’s pretty hard to distinguish them otherwise, and your mnemonic is used for more than one item, so yay efficiency :slightly_smiling_face: .

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Wait… how else would one tie them? I feel like I’m missing something here…