Do you use the Mnemonics or opt for rote memorization?

Yes, sometimes it work (maybe like for that example), but oftentimes you get the same gibberish as WK :slight_smile:

被 cloth + skin = incur. Yay.

But it is also used in “putting hat on”, and then, if you are bald, you are literally clothing your skin :wink: ( lists “cover” as second meaning)

I think in the “real meaning” the skin is not attached anymore :slight_smile:

I’m not against other radical names, but you are still using a story there.

A mix, I guess. I usually use the mnemonics on Wanikani, or my own version using theirs as a starting point, but it it’s a kanji or word I already know from practical usage, I just remember it that way. (Ex. Oh! 滞 is 渋滞のたい! That’s easy!")

I’ve also learned my fair share of words on iKnow or through daily life just through repeated exposure. (So, rote memorization.)

I will say that I prefer mnemonics though, and even my own N2 study notes are full of them. Other times, simply experiencing a word in real-life reading, listening or conversation takes their place. The important thing is to make a connection to something so it’s not just trivia in your head, ready to vanish as soon as the drilling stops.

Oh, yeah. Also this, especially for learning kanji off Wanikani.

I will say that fairly often Wanikani’s mnenomics, especially if they ask you to imagine some sensory element of a weird situation, have helped me remember kanji more quickly than I otherwise might have though.

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Even within the wk radicals though it’s not hard to come up with a story, and my best ones incorporate the meaning and reading together. You’re pregnant (womb) and your belly is round/a circle, so when you come down with a fever from the heat you want traditional remedies so as to not impact the baby. The traditional remedy is fish tails (random but the weirdness makes it more memorable when I visualise it) so you take your fishing nets (ねつ) out to get yourself some fish tails. It takes a while to write/read that but not very much time to think it or visualise it, and it has your core components; the radicals, the meaning and the reading. Its not hard even using wk’s weird radicals imo.

Sometimes the mnemonics are fine and sensible, but other times I write new ones myself if I’m not already familiar with the kanji (learning 歳 all the way in level 46! Why! :P).
Writing your own mnemonics can really help you a lot more if the pre-written mnemonics don’t stick with you.
Sometimes I’ll pick the actual meaning of a base kanji instead of the radical name that they provide.
Other times you can’t really make a good mnemonic and so rote memorization will just have to do.
I’d really recommend at least trying to learn some mnemonics, especially with kanji that look similar. You can’t really plan ahead with everything.
You’ll eventually realize a pattern with some kanji where a reading is taken from the right part (or others) of a kanji in certain arrangements. This doesn’t always hold true, but it makes learning the reading mnemonics not nearly as necessary, especially later on it seems.

Yeah. I mean, eventually you’d probably notice “hmm, what’s up with these 忄 kanji and feelings all the time”. But a hint like that would help things stick earlier.

There’s others that I don’t mind so much - 人 → 亻 “leader”, 行 → 彳 “loiter” - well okay, a little unusual but doesn’t seem to hurt any of the meanings. 辶 “water slide” is a stretching things a bit… the “movement” part is good, but there’s really no “water” involved.

I’m not really sure where the dividing line is between “story” and “random words” is.

For certain, though, radical meanings are just hints to get started. Once I start seeing it in words over and over again, the form starts sticking. Like 宇宙 - neither of those kanji are memorable alone, but if I see either one of them, I can recognize “oh, it’s from that word that I’ve seen a bajillion times in this context”.

Well, this one works better in Chinese. It means cover (e.g. 被單 bed sheet) and is also a grammatical part of speech to express a passive verb - 我被打了 = I hit cover ed = I was overcome by hit = I was hit. Thus, “incur”.

(I never learned how to read or write in Chinese, but I speak it. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to actually learn, and I figured I’d do Japanese at the same time. Turns out I couldn’t keep up both and a full-time job, so I decided to plow through Japanese first, and get back to Chinese in a year or two. So here I am.)

The issue I have with that is it’s random in 千万 different ways. Replace fish tail with anything else and it’s still an equally (il)logical story.

Your above post read like you need zero effort for any kanji, just go with better radical names. I think you must replicate what WK is doing with longer texts. The story is some connection between the radicals.

The WK stories might be too silly for you, but you are just replacing it with a different (maybe shorter) one.

“I already know it” doesn’t apply for everyone :slight_smile:


I dont know why it has to be logical. You use the mnemonic to reinforce the kanji, the radicals will help you remember the story, then eventually the middleman will not be needed… Its not that hard for me to imagine myself as a crazy pregnant lady looking for a natural medicinal treatment for fever and fishtails are just as illogical as any other alternative medicine (imo lol). As long as I can visualise it in short term memory for the first couple of days learning the kanji i don’t need it after that. Who cares if it’s logical? The weirder and more dreamlike it is for me, the better I remember it.

Its the boring stories I cook up that I tend to have a harder time remembering. Big round fire? Sun? Volcano? That’s way too indistinct for me. (I wouldn’t have a problem with this particular word, 熱 is a common ailment for plot contrivance in anime so half the work is done haha)

Edit: I should make it clear that this one is definitely different strokes for different folks. I was arguing initially that mnemonics are very useful for memorization, and not useless as some people claimed. What your mnemonics are and how you need them is totally independent which is also why i was advocating making one’s own. If big round fire makes you think fever, go nuts haha.


That’s about when Japanese people would learn it too, in terms of order. It’s a 7th grade (Kanken Level 4) kanji.

To add to the edit I don’t really disagree with you and I didn’t mean my tone to sound so hostile. I wish English had keigo sometimes.

I dunno. Looking through last level’s kanji, I remembered them as
告 - 口 something; 達 - 友達; 焼 - 火 something, 焼く; 借 - 昔 something; 弓 - 弓道; 脳 - that PvZ song; 喫 - 喫茶店, 等 - 竹 something; 枚; 忘 - 亡 sound; 訓; 種; 報 - 新×服; 句; 許; 可; 祈 - 示 something; 僧; 禁; 静 - 青 sound; 座; 煙 - 火 something; 汽 - 水×气; 験 - 険 sound; 試 - 式 sound; 類; 洗 - 水 something, アライグマは洗う; 禅 - 示×単
so I only really thought about the radical breakdown for half of them, and after getting the vocab unlocked, I just remember them in the context of other words.

I’m not really sure how to explain it. It’s sort of the same as reading English - you see the shape of a written word, and the concept pops up, without decoding the letters in it. Just a lot slower, which just means I need more practice.

Something that does give me a lot of trouble, though, is when I’m unfamiliar with any of the words they’re in. Currently struggling with 閥, 得, 減, 節.

I didn’t even know the character was the same until I looked it up in this thread. (And a funny thing about being a native Chinese speaker is you’re not even aware of the tones - I couldn’t tell you if two words have the same or different tones until I say them next to each other.) But there’s all these online dictionary/etymology resources just a click away. That’s what I often go to, when none of the WK-provided examples are sticking for me.

That’s also how it works for one of my friends who’s also currently studying Japanese, and I don’t understand it. Oh well. I guess that means you get more value out of WK than I do.

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It’s perfect when it works for you. With your background you seem like a special case, though :wink:

As long as you remember the something in for example “借 - 昔 something” as well, or you might get confused when 惜措 comes up.

You might be interested in my scripts to check similar kanji that could cause trouble, or see phonetic components you don’t know yet.

[Userscript] Niai 似合い Visually Similar Kanji
[Userscript] Keisei 形声 Semantic-Phonetic Composition

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so far, unless it’s one of those rare occasions where my brain can distill WK’s longwinded mnemonics and use it, it’s only whenever I have particular difficulty memorizing something that I resort to mnemonics – the rest of the time I rote memorize. obviously this is less efficient, and it’s easier to forget, but it has generally worked for me…

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It’s not quite perfect - I know 借 now because it’s been reinforced by 借家 and 借金, but if there had been multiple 昔-containing kanji on the same level before I was introduced to any 借-containing vocabulary, that may have confused me. Or if there aren’t enough vocab words - when 軽 pops up I have trouble because the only vocab it’s in is 軽い.

I am using both those scripts. Thanks, they help me a lot :slight_smile:
Keisei especially helps to break down into more meaningful components.
Also @normful’s Vocab Beyond because finding vocab is super important for me to remember the kanji.


I take my time to write a short mnemonic for each kanji I learn, usually ignoring the prewritten ones. My review rate for kanji is close to 100% as least as long as it takes to guru. Sometimes I get confused when another kanji I learned later on have similar elements, and then I need to go back and see what the differences are.

The best feeling is when I see a kanji and just know the reading and meaning without remembering the mnemonic that got me there.

For some reason, it often takes me a lot longer to memorize verbs that use kunyomi even though I make mnemonics for those as well.

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you don’t incur scratches if your skin is covered by cloth. or so. maybe not quite as entertaining as the penguin story with the molten skin, but hey, we can only do our best.

Memorisation. Sometimes mnemonics help but I would usually just memorise and get them drilled into my brain

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I use the mnemonics at the begining of learning a kanji, but when the kanji sticks in my head I stop using the mnemonics and they end fading out of my memory.

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